1. In Mandarin the pronunciation of “sun” is “ritou” (the man says “yitou”). “Rock” is “shitou” (the man says “xitou”). The Chinese title for the film, as in the series, begins with “Nanbei” and it means “North and South.”
2. Dato Loke Wan Tho (1915-1964) founded the Cathay Organization in Singapore in 1947. In 1956, Cathay established MP&GI (Motion Picture & General Investment) as its Chinese-language production branch in Hong Kong. In 1965, after Loke’s death, MP&GI was reorganized into Cathay (Hong Kong). Cathay (HK) closed down its production units in 1971, and only dealt with film distribution and release since. For an institutional history of the film organization, see the essays by Stephanie Chung Po-yin, Yu Mo-wan, Poshek Fu in Sam Ho and Ain-ling Wong (eds.), The Cathay Story (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Film Archive, 2002), 36-51, 52-9, 60-75. In this article, I will use Cathay and MP&GI interchangeably wherever it is appropriate.
5. The coexistence and mutual development of the Mandarin and Cantonese cinemas in postwar Hong Kong are themselves complex issues in need of a systematic study. For a brief review, see Stephen Teo, Hong Kong Cinema: the Extra Dimensions (London: BFI, 1997), 3-60.
8. The law to forbid Cantonese films was ineffective because of the strong resistance of the southern filmmakers and the Sino-Japanese war that disrupted its implementation. Also significant was the fact that the British regime in Hong Kong made it practically difficult for the Chinese government to execute its policy. For the censorship on Cantonese film in the 1930s, see Lee Pui-tak, “To Ban and Counter Ban: Cantonese Cinema Caught between Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1930s,” in Wong, The Hong Kong-Guangdong Film Connection, 30-49; Stephanie Chung Po-yin, “A tale of Two Cinemas: Prewar Tug-of-War between North and South,” 50-67.
9. The counter arguments made by the Cantonese film workers were documented in a Nationalist émigré magazine, Yilin [Art Land], in the issues between 1937 and 39. See, for example, Ji Chen [Jackson], “On the Ban on Cantonese Films” [Guanyu jinying yueyupian zhi mianmianguan], Art Land, no. 3 (Apr. 1, 1937).
10. See Zhiwei Xiao, “Constructing a New National Culture: Film Censorship and the Issues of Cantonese Dialect, Superstition, and Sex in the Nanjing Decade,” in Yingjin Zhang (ed.), Cinema and Urban Culture in Shanghai, 1922-1943 (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999), 183-99.
12. As far as linguistic colonization is concerned, Hong Kong differs from the once British-colonized places in Africa, India, and the Caribbean in that it does not have a tradition of literary writing in English. See William Tay, “Colonialism, the Cold War Era, and Marginal Space: The Existential Condition of Five Decades of Hong Kong Literature,” in Pang-yuan Chi and David Der-wei Wang (eds.), Chinese Literature in the Second Half of a Modern Century (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 2000), 31-38.
13. Hong Kong Chinese Language Committee, The First Report of the Chinese Language Committee (Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1971), 4. According to the Report of the Census, 1961, Cantonese was the usual language of 79% of the Hong Kong population and it was understood by 95% of the population.
15. One of the films was Shaws’ production, When the Poles Meet [Nanbei yinyuan], made soon after The Greatest Civil War on Earth in the same year. Directed by Chow See-luk, When the Poles Meet had a similar theme as its MP&GI counterpart, and a cast evenly split between Mandarin and Cantonese speakers. In Taiwan, there was a film titled Two of a Kind [Liang xiang hao] (Li Xing [Lee Hsing], 1962) with a similar dramatic plot of linguistic and ethnic conflicts. The story is about two doctors, one of Western medicine, one Chinese medicine (in this case, the clash is between the Taiwanese dialect and Mandarin, Taiwan vs. the mainland). I am indebted to Robert Chi for this Taiwanese source.
21. James Hayes, Friends and Teachers: Hong Kong and its People, 1953-87 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong UP, 1996), 58, quoted from Thomas W.P. Wong, “Colonial Governance and the Hong Kong Story,” in Pun Ngai and Yee Lai-man (eds.), Narrating Hong Kong Culture and Identity (Hong Kong: Oxford UP, 2003), 231. For the housing problem and corruption in Hong Kong during the 1950s and 60s, see Elliot Elsie, Colonial Hong Kong in the Eyes of Elsie Tu (Hong Kong: Hong Kong UP, 2003), 43-56.
24. Maxim Gorky’s original play, The Lower Depths [Na dne], was adapted on the stage (Ke Ling and Shi Tuo, 1946) and on the screen (Huang Zuolin, 1948) in Shanghai, entitled Ye dian [Night Inn] in Chinese. See Paul G. Pickowicz, “Sinifying and Popularizing Foreign Culture: From Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths to Huang Zuolin’s Ye dian,” Modern Chinese Literature 7.2 (Fall 1993): 7-31.
25. There are two extant Cantonese film versions of The House of 72 Tenants, one directed by Wang Weiyi in 1963 as a co-production by the Zhujiang and Hongtu studios. The later one was directed by Chu Yuan [Chor Yuen] in 1973 and produced by Shaw Brothers. Chu Yuan’s film was so popular that it broke even Bruce Lee's box office records upon its release in 1973, and helped to revive the Cantonese movie industry in Hong Kong.
For a detailed account of the multiple stage and film adaptations of The House of 72 Tenants, see Yang Huiyi, “The House of 72 Tenants and the Translations between Texts” [Dianying “Qishierjia fangke” yu qita banben de fanyixing guanxi], in Lo Kwai-cheung and Wen Jiehua (eds.), Age of Hybridity: Cultural identity, Gender, Everyday Life Practice and Hong Kong Cinema of the 1970s [Zama shidai: wenhua shenfen, xingbie, richang shenghuo shijian yu Xianggang dianying 1970s] (Hong Kong: Oxford UP, 2005), 149-60; Robert Chi, “The House of Seventy-Two Transformations,” unpublished paper, Symposium on “Cultural Studies: Exploring Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives,” The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, May 8-9, 2006.
27. According to Wang Tianlin, there was initially a scene of mixed singings that they could not achieve in shooting (however, Wang did not clearly specific whether it was in The Greatest Civil War on Earth or The Greatest Wedding on Earth). Leung Sing-bo and Pak Lo-ming [Bai Luming] (who plays Leung’s daughters in both films) would sing the song together with mixed dialects, half sung in Cantonese and the other half in Mandarin. See “Interview with Wang Tianlin,” in Transcending the Times, 160-1.
31. See International Screen, no. 3 (Dec. 1955): 6. Before she left for the U.S. in the fall of 1955 after a temporary stay in Hong Kong, Zhang agreed to join the script committee of the film company in 1955, with other Shanghai-originated members like Yao Xinnong (Yao Ke), Sun Jinsan, and Stephen Soong (Song Qi).
33. The Tender Trap had a movie version (Charles Walters, 1955), co-written by Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith. Charley’s Aunt had been adapted for the screen (Archie Mayo, 1941), co-written by Brandon Thomas and George Seaton. I am not sure whether Zhang’s script models were based on the films or the original plays in the two adaptations. Charley’s Aunt is a satirical play about upper-class English society. Two college students wish to entertain their lady friends. They browbeat their male classmate into posing as a rich widowed aunt from Brazil so that the girls will have a proper chaperone to go for their invited gathering. In The Greatest Love Affair on Earth, two poor young teachers are in love with two girls who are cousins. Liu Enjia, who plays a stubborn northerner and guardian of the girls, opposes their love affairs. The plot obviously involves the theme of class antagonism because both the Cantonese- and Mandarin-speaking suitors are rejected. Leung Sing-bo performs in drag and impersonates the rich aunt of the Cantonese teacher in order to deceive the supercilious guardian.
34. To the best of my knowledge, there is no extant film copy of The Greatest Love Affair on Earth. Since I have not seen The Greatest Love Affair on Earth, I will not have detailed analysis of it in this article. Zhang Ailing’s original film script, though, has just been published. See Ink 2.1 (Sep. 2005): 156-90.
36. Names and colloquial expressions are constantly teased by the opposite party and the jokes are based on their suble tonal differences in pronounciation. For example, in The Greatest Civil War on Earth, the Cantonese tailor’s name is pronounced in Mandarin as “shen jiingbing” (which sounds like “insanity”). The northerner’s name (“Li Shipu”) in Cantonese sounds like “lei sai po” (meaning “nonsense”). In a scene, the two have a row over their business. The Cantonese tailor accuses his rival for underselling and calls him “daai fa tung” (literally referring to an “overadorned vessel,” meaning a “good-for-wasting” in Cantonese). The Mandarin speaker mistakes it for “da fan tong” (literally referring to a “big rice barrel,” meaning a “good-for-nothing” in both dialects).
40. Thomas Schatz, Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System (New York: Random House, 1981), pp. 150-85; Zheng Shusen, Film Genre and Genre Film [Dianying leixing yu leixing dianying] (Taipei: Hongfan, 2005), 168-89.