Tag Archives: Lee Ya Ching

September 8, 2012 — Fashion Photos Discovered

Late tonight I am putting off writ­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion for upcom­ing Octo­ber events and brows­ing the won­der­ful pho­tos of Li Ling-Ai that Soft­film blog­ger Duri­an Dave dis­cov­ered in the LIFE pho­to archives.  These are all of a Unit­ed Chi­na Relief Fash­ion show in May 1941 and tak­en by Alfred Eisen­stadt (note KUKAN would pre­miere the fol­low­ing month in NYC — it must have been a heady time for Li Ling-Ai).

Photo of Li Ling-Ai at May 1941 fashion show for United China Relief

Li LIng-Ai mod­els tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese robe at May 1941 fash­ion show for Unit­ed Chi­na Relief.

 

Li Ling-Ai models Chinese gown for United China Relief fundraiser in 1941

Li Ling-Ai was one of the few Chi­nese mod­els at the fash­ion show.

 

Crowd view of the May 1941 fashion show for United China Relief

Crowd view of the fash­ion show helps pin­point the loca­tion.

I love see­ing this crowd shot of all the NYC socialites wear­ing their hats.  While view­ing these pho­tos, a bell rang in my head and I remem­bered some of my research at the Colum­bia Rare Book and Man­u­script Library.  A fash­ion show had been held at the Hotel Pierre.  Sure enough, I com­pared a cur­rent pho­to of the pent­house ball­room and the arch­ways are the same.  I got chills remem­ber­ing that I had been to a wed­ding at that same spot back in the 90’s.

Penthouse ballroom at the Hotel Pierre

The 3,500 square-foot dou­ble height ball­room today, pho­to from NYTimes online

 

I had no idea that Li Ling-Ai par­tic­i­pat­ed in the fash­ion show when I took those notes at Colum­bia a cou­ple of years ago.

Publicity photo of Li Ling-Ai, with K.T. Stevens, James Blaine, Lee Ya Ching, and unidentified Chinese woman

Li Ling-Ai, with actress K.T. Stevens, James Blaine, Lee Ya Ching, and uniden­ti­fied Chi­nese woman

Li LIng-Ai is seen here pos­ing with James Blaine, nation­al chair­man of Unit­ed Chi­na Relief and the pres­i­dent of Marine Mid­land Trust.  He was just one of the NYC CEOs that Hen­ry Luce recruit­ed to lead the huge fundrais­ing effort to aid Chi­na pri­or to WWII.

Li Ling-Ai posing for publicity photo at United China Relief fundraiser

Li Ling-Ai pos­ing for pub­lic­i­ty pho­to at Unit­ed Chi­na Relief fundrais­er

These pho­tos  bring this 1941 event to life for me in a whole new way.  How­ev­er, LIFE pho­tographs are noto­ri­ous­ly expen­sive to license.  So if I’m going to use them in the doc­u­men­tary, I’m going to have to have a fundrais­er myself.  Speak­ing of which… Be on the look­out for our Kick­starter launch in Octo­ber, and if you’re in Hon­olu­lu on Octo­ber 28, come to our “Night in Old Shang­hai” cock­tail par­ty ben­e­fit where we will pay homage to the efforts of these 1941 fash­ion­ista fundrais­ers.

Chinese inspired fashion in 1941

Chi­nese inspired fash­ion in 1941

Chinese inspired fashion in 1941

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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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