China’s first heartthrob in sex and politics
At the height of his popularity in the 1930s Jin Yan was crowned China’s “˜Emperor of Film.’
He was the highest-paid male movie star in the country and his dashing good looks and dancing prowess drew comparisons with Hollywood sex symbol Rudolph Valentino.
The actor was part of a left-wing progressive movement of Shanghai-based filmmakers which sought to expose the inequalities of society. These films earned Jin a place on the KMT’s blacklist, but he was never arrested, due to his fame and popularity.
It was Jin who influenced actress Ruan Lingyu ““ one of the great sirens of the silent film era and the subject of Meyer’s 2005 book The Goddess of Shanghai ““ to make films portraying social problems while evading the censors with melodramatic soap opera formats.