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date: 25 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that the development of the Chinese film industry is inseparable from the success of D. W. Griffith and Lillian Gish in early 1920s China. Touched by the magnificent cinematography of The Birth of a Nation and Lillian Gish’s tragic performance in Way Down East, critics came to recognize cinema as a complex art as well as a powerful medium for mass education and therefore urgently called for the birth of national film. An investigation of advertisements and commentaries in newspapers and popular magazines reveals how issues of race and gender in Griffith’s work were translated into formal terms mediated by local politics and cultural tradition. The cinematic narration of “imagined communities” is enhanced by interactive responses between movie theaters, films, newspapers, and magazines, ramified with cosmopolitan, nationalist, and metropolitan perception and discourses. Moreover, the sensational reception of Lillian Gish in China is characterized by deep layers of sentimental ethos, articulating women’s social mobility of the time.

Keywords: D. W. Griffith, Lillian Gish, Way Down East, Difficult Couple, An Orphan Rescues his Grandfather

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