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Yoshiko Yamaguchi

Discussion in 'WWII Era Obituaries (non-military service)' started by GRW, Sep 22, 2014.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "Filmic evidence has often been produced in war trials, but Li Xianglan, who has died aged 94, had the distinction, in 1945, of being prosecuted for treason in China for the fictional roles she had played. Having depicted on screen Chinese females falling for members of the Japanese occupation forces, she read in the newspapers that she was to be publicly executed at Shanghai's horse track. Then, as if in the plot of a baroque opera – a genre that would have suited her vocally – her family register was smuggled in, within the head of a doll.
    The document proved that Li had been born Yamaguchi Yoshiko, the daughter of Japanese parents in Manchuria, a colony of Japan before the second world war. Yamaguchi became one of millions to be repatriated to the main Japanese islands. But her singing talent, fame, and ability with languages was to propel her through careers in journalism and politics.
    When their daughter was born, Yamaguchi's parents had befriended two influential Chinese men; the girl became their goddaughter and so also acquired the Chinese name Li Xianglan. Her musical talent was developed by lessons with professional singers, often Russian. From the age of 13 and using another Chinese name bestowed upon her, Pan Shuhua, she attended high school in Beijing. Here she added to her proficiency in Mandarin – unusual enough among Japanese settlers – by acquiring all the mannerisms of Chinese females.
    In 1934, recruited by a radio station to sing Chinese tunes, she used her adopted name of Li Xianglan, which she retained as her career developed. By the age of 18, she had been recruited by Manchuria Film Productions, or Man'ei, the rapidly expanding movie studio in Harbin, Manchuria. The initial idea had been for her to sing, but Man'ei rapidly realised that it could develop her acting and personality to further its transnational aims.
    The problem for the commercially minded propagandists at Man'ei was that its early films had little success in China, with films such as China Nights (1940) faring much better in Japan. The three Chinese characters of her stage name rendered into Japanese as Ri Koran, the performer always appeared in a Chinese qipao dress, and her recordings launched a craze for "continental" songs and films. Back in China, the film, where it was not boycotted entirely, caused particular offence by showing the star taking a violent slap from her Japanese admirer as a proof of affection, resulting in marriage in short order.
    It was films such as this that were produced as evidence for the prosecution in Shanghai. In reality, virtually no one had seen them, even after the considerable Chinese success of her later film Eternity (1942), from which came her hit song STOP SMOKING[​IMG], about opium.
    Up to the end of the war, Shanghai periodicals doted on the persona of Li Xianglan. Li's Japanese origin was never entirely obscured, even though the star continued to represent China's young women. Taking daily English and Russian lessons in Shanghai, Li was better equipped than most to deal with the defeat of her native Japan, but being put on trial for her roles seems to have come as a genuine shock."
    Teamanme likes this.

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