Sunday, November 11, 2012

Li Ling-Ai: Gun Powder Isn't
All the Chinese Invented

If you haven't contributed yet to Robin Lung's FINDING KUKAN Kickstarter campaign, don't wait until it's too late. There are only six days left, and she still needs $3,000 in pledges to meet her all-or-nothing $16,000 goal. If you like the work that I do here on Soft Film about the unsung heroes of Chinese American entertainment, then please consider making a donation to help Robin tell the fascinating story of Li Ling-Ai. Here's a little something that shows what a character she was. Was her striptease for the press a clever "illusion" to attract publicity for her film? With Li Ling-Ai there is much more than meets the eye. I'm looking forward to seeing what Robin has uncovered about her life and about the making of Kukan, the Academy Award-winning documentary for which even today Li Ling-Ai still remains unacknowledged (see the IMDB and the Academy's new webpage about lost Oscar-winning films). The following article was syndicated nationwide, the version here comes from the Jefferson City Post-Tribune (August 8, 1941); the accompanying photo comes from the Twin Falls News (August 29, 1941).

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STRIP TEASE ART LIES IN ILLUSION
Gunpowder Isn't All the Chinese Invented

HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 18 (AP) — The Chinese have invented just about everything, including the strip tease, says the Pekinese film star, Li Ling Ai.

Li Ling Ai, a visitor here, said in an interview that just as the Chinese invented gunpowder, but used it for firecrackers instead of weapons, they invented the strip tease — "but as an art instead of vulgar entertainment."

Since her arrival, the Chinese actress has struck up a friendship with Valerie Parks, an occidental who disrobes nightly before audiences at a burlesque house. Miss Ai [sic] said Miss Parks exhibited almost as much finesse as some of her sloe-eyed rivals.

"The essence of Chinese art is illusion," said Li Ling, who speaks voluby but dresses in native garb.

"The Chinese strip dancer combines suggestion with extreme delicacy. She removes her clothing layer by layer, intriguingly, but never reaches the final shock of complete nudity. She ends her dance — artistically — in black lace underwear.

Miss Ai made it plain she was not herself a strip dancer. A film writer, producer and director, as well as actress, she was the program director of the Chinese pavilion at the New York World's Fair.

For four years she has been devoting much of her time to the colored film study of China, "Kukan", which cameraman Rey Scott of St. Louis recently completed. She is in this country now arranging for its distribution.

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Please shed a few bucks for FINDING KUKAN, the untold story of Li Ling-Ai and the Oscar-winning documentary she produced to inform Americans about China's heroic struggle against the Japanese army during World War II.

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