An American Tragedy in Hong Kong : Transcultural Adaptation and Hong Kong Cinema of the 1950s and 1960s

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Abstract

Adapting foreign literature into films was a common practice in Hong Kong cinema during the 1950s and 1960s, yet the study of transcultural adaptation has been greatly neglected by researchers of Hong Kong culture. In the post-war era, many directors and scriptwriters were avid readers, and even writers, of literature. Furthermore, the Hong Kong film industry, with an annual production of around 200 films, was in great need of good stories which would help to guarantee box office success. Famous foreign stories hence became an important source for Hong Kong cinema in these decades.

In 1955, Hong Kong director Tit Lee adapted Theodore Dreiser’s novel Sister Carrie (1900) into a Cantonese film called Eternal Love, produced by one of the most important film companies of the decade, the Zhonglian Film Company. Four years later, Wu Ng, another film director from Zhonglian, adapted Dreiser’s An American Tragedy (1925) into The Cruel Husband (1959), another Cantonese film.

The paper addresses the following questions: (i) What was the mode of transcultural adaptation of Hong Kong cinema of the 1950s and 1960s? (ii) In what ways did the film recontextualize the original text?; and (iii) How did transcultural adaptation help to form a cultural identity that was unique to this colonial city in the Cold War era?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2015
EventAssociation for Asian Studies, 2015 Annual Conference - Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Chicago, United States
Duration: 26 Mar 201529 Mar 2015

Conference

ConferenceAssociation for Asian Studies, 2015 Annual Conference
CountryUnited States
CityChicago
Period26/03/1529/03/15
OtherAssociation for Asian Studies

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