December 12, 2011 — Gifts from the Blogosphere Part II

Besides the beau­ti­ful KUKAN lob­by card, blog­ger Duri­an Dave also sent this evoca­tive pho­to of Li Ling-Ai. 

Li Ling-Ai arrives in LA for KUKAN pub­lic­i­ty tour, 1941

She is caught debark­ing a Unit­ed Air­lines plane in Los Ange­les, arriv­ing from New York where she had moved in 1939 or 1940.  She was in town for the Los Ange­les pre­miere of KUKAN at the Esquire The­ater on Fair­fax. 

KUKAN pre­miered at the Esquire The­ater in Los Ange­les on August 15, 1941

Sad­ly, the Esquire The­ater was pur­chased In 1953 Can­ter’s Deli pur­chased the the­ater.  The won­der­ful mar­quee is miss­ing, but sup­pos­ed­ly you can still see rem­nants of the old the­ater in the inte­ri­or while eat­ing your sand­which (an activ­i­ty I have yet to do).   The cap­tion on the back of the pho­to quotes Li Ling-Ai as say­ing “No mat­ter how long nor how hard the strug­gle, Chi­na will win its unde­clared war with Japan. It is grave­ly con­cerned at the threat to the Bur­ma Road con­tained in Japan­ese occu­pa­tion of Indo-Chi­na, but nonethe­less con­fi­dent.”

It is great proof of the part that Li Ling-Ai played in help­ing to pub­li­cize the film KUKAN and keep the gen­er­al pub­lic aware of what was going on in Chi­na at the time. 

Ling-Ai’s ear­ly affin­i­ty for air­plane trav­el and her desire to learn to fly a plane was one of the first things that impressed me about her.  Pri­or to find­ing KUKAN I had­n’t heard of any Chi­nese women tak­ing to the skies ala Amelia Earhardt.  While research­ing the era, how­ev­er, I’ve dis­cov­ered that there were sev­er­al Chi­nese women who were not­ed pilots in the 30’s — Lee Ya Ching, Mag­gie Gee and Hazel Ying Lee to name a few. 

Thanks to Duri­an Dav­e’s blog– I’ve dis­cov­ered anoth­er Chi­nese Amer­i­can woman who by the looks of this pho­to was not only an ear­ly fly­er but an ear­ly movie direc­tor as well. 

Actress Olive Young behind the cam­era (cour­tesy Soft Film and Duri­an Dave)

Olive Young is bet­ter known as an actress who left her birth­place of Mis­souri to become a film star in Chi­na.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly she seems to have had a trag­ic end and lit­tle is known about her fim­mak­ing career.

Still I can’t help but be inspired by the pho­tographs of these ear­ly Chi­nese ground­break­ing women.  And I won­der what was in the air at the time that caused them to jump in cock­pits and take up cam­eras and attempt count­less oth­er dar­ing feats that had nev­er been attempt­ed by women before?  Thanks to the blo­gos­phere for mak­ing it eas­i­er to explore that time peri­od and find oth­er time-trav­el­ing souls.

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