Two Stage Sisters (1964) - full transcript

Chronicles the fortunes of two actresses in pre-revolutionary China, who are separated by money and politics.


Screenplay: Lin Gu, Xu Jin, Xie Jin

Director: Xie Jin

Cinematography: Zhou Daming, Chen Zhenxiang

Starring: Xie Fang as Chunhua
Cao Yingdi as Yuehong

Green waters wind...

around the mountains.

There's opera singing...

on stages everywhere.

On stage, both tragic...

and happy figures are seen.

Who knows what's beyond the stage...

can understand the stage.

The Year 1935

Catch her!

I saw her running south!

Here. Hurry! Chase her!

What are you doing?

She ran this way!

What's the matter?

Probably the child bride again.
Don't pay any attention.

Why search for the child-bride here?

We're not a charity;
we can't help you.

Go back to your mother-in-law.

No! I won't!

Let me stay with you.

I'm willing to do anything.

Boss, look...

Master Xing, you are a local.

How can we keep her?

Don't we want to return here to perform?

Go! I'll take you home.

Go home!
- Hold on!

You're too soft-hearted.

Calm down. Listen to me!

Look at her. This child is smart enough
to leave the mountains.

Look, her eyes can talk.

Her figure's not bad.
She's excellent material!


Ah Xin's soft-hearted.

Let me be clear.

Master Xing, will you be responsible
for her?

Yes. I will.

This is my daughter Yuehong.

OK? What's your name?

Zhu Chunhua.

Come. Sign here.

Pay attention. The contract is very clear.

We aren't responsible for
your health or funeral.

Three years of apprenticeship,

four years of singing. Understand?

Hurry. Or we won't perform tonight!

Made up like this,
no one will recognize you.

- She's Miss Ding.
- I sing Little Painted Face

At the study door,
a branch of plum blossoms.

In the trees,
hundreds of birds fight.

Happy magpies fill the trees singing.

They come and go...

on the branches.

In front of the door,
pairs of happy magpies.

Announce that good fortune has arrived.

The happy magpies announce
good fortune is here.

And wish for your...

safe journey home.

Let us dock.

You sing beautifully.

I found some good business!

Third Master Ni wants you
to sing at his house.

Chunhua, Yuehong, quick,
put on your makeup.

Come on, hurry!

I see him... wearing

a gold and purple cap.

In his left ear he wears a small gold earring.

I see she is a beauty...

from a humble home,

clever and quick.

Though skilled with a brush,

it's hard to paint her face.

On his chest hangs a dragon
and phoenix lock.

In his right hand he holds a gold
kingfisher fan.

Third Master Ni says you must be tired,
and to return home.

Yuehong stays behind to get paid.

Come on, the sedan chair awaits the lady.

Please thank Third Master Ni,
but Xing Yuehong must refuse.

We share everything.

I can't get you out of this.

Don't go! Master Xing.

Every actress has to deal with this.

What kind of man are you?

Fine. Fine.

Get the one playing the male role.


What is it?
Let's go inside.

Go away!

Say something!

Our boss only wants Xing Yuehong.

Let go!

The police are grabbing people.

Sister Chun!

Little Xiang, help the Master on board.

Yuehong, go quick!

Don't worry, captain.

I'll bring her to you later.

Arrest her!

In compliance with the gentry request,
female actors are banned...

to maintain public morality.

The actress Zhu Chunhua
has violated the law...

and has disturbed the peace...

attacking and injuring a policeman.

Justice will be served.

In the judgment of the court
the penalty is...

three days public punishment
for Zhu Chunhua.

This all the money my daughter
and I have.

OK. I'll go apologize...

and smooth things over for you.

Hurry up! We're leaving.

Will you be back?

This is your home.

It's my mother-in-law's home.

What's your name?

My name is Chunhua.

Chunhua! The boat is leaving!

Year after year is hard...

year after year they sing.

Homeless everywhere...

everywhere is home

As long as the river waters...

forever flow.

Traveling the world...

following the flowing waters

"The Queen of Shaoxing Opera, Shang Shuihua,
to Perform in Shanghai"

You must lead pure and stainless lives.

You must be serious actresses.

So many...

"Funeral expenses payable within
three years"

Uncle Ah Xin,

how do we repay the money?

Don't worry. At worst,
you'll sell your bodies

to pay for your father's burial.

But you won't have to.

The money I lent you

is your salary for the next three years.

It's really a rare opportunity!

You are to perform in Shanghai.

Are we going to Shanghai?

You also want to go?

Shanghai is a dazzling place.

Its avenues are paved with gold.

But the manager of the Shanghai Opera

is only looking for one male player
and one female player.

What will they do
if we leave them?

Let's stay in the country to perform.

We've come to see you off.
Please eat some sweet dumplings.

Sorrows and joys, partings

and meetings are to be shared.

A journey of thousands of

miles in all directions.

Sisters through thick and thin...

make an offering together.

The bitter melon and the bitter leaf...

have the same root.

The Year 1941

I'm looking for Manager Tang.

You are the female role

and you are the male role.
Am I right?

Manager Tang,
you have sharp eyes!

OK, I'll try them out.

I'll see how the audience reacts.

Come thank Manager Tang.

"Due to illness, Miss Shang Shuihua
will not perform tonight"

"We appreciate your patience
and understanding"

"Newcomers Zhu Chunhua
and Xing Yuehong will perform tonight"

Chunhua, get on stage.

I gave my heart to the bright moon.

But who knew the bright moon...

was but a reflection in the gutter?

My tears are like the
waters of the Xiang River,

flowing without end.

Yan Laizhen! I curse your beauty!

Why are you cursing me?

What is real reason?

I'm cursing your seductiveness.

You are a descendant of my enemy.

You yourself can see I am handsome...

Where did you find these two money trees?

Please give them your patronage.

I'll give you a divorce
and send you home.

How offensive.

How offensive!

Hearing this talk angers me.

The world has such heartless men.

I, Yan Lanzen, have not mistreated you.

You should not divorce me.

I am loving,
the others are unrighteous.

A man does not harm a tiger,
a tiger harms a man.

What do you plan to do with me?

Because of them?
Be a little sensible.

You are really cruel.
Don't push me too far.

You've done well by me.

You are loving.
I am righteous.

I made you Queen of the Shaoxing Opera.

I owe you nothing now.

Congratulations! You sang beautifully.

"Xing Yuehong
Zhu Chunhua"


This is the most coveted mirror
of them all.

It's a gift from the nephew
of the Shanghai mayor.

The audience will love this new play.

"The Inn of Widow Ma"
- It's a good play.

- Manager Tang.
- What is it?

I saw Miss Shang perform this play.

I don't like it much.

But the audience will love it.

It's the way to make you more popular.

You must give them what they want.

You must give them something new.

Don't you agree?

Tickets sell out when
there are favorable conditions.

This isn't my kind of play.

Miss Zhu is out of touch with current
trends. What do you think?

She's out of touch.

Sister Chunhua doesn't want to sing it,
so let's drop it.

Fine. Let's talk about it
another time.

Today is your first payday.

Count it. I might have overpaid you.

Congratulations! You've been paid.

Uncle Ah Xin, here's the money you lent us.

We've sung for three years without salary.

This is our first paycheck.

Your paycheck isn't big enough.

Take mine. You can pay me back later.

No. This is your first paycheck.

What happened with the money
you borrowed?

Haven't I paid the interest
in the last few days?

It's New Year's. Can't you pay the principal
together with the interest?

Chunhua, this is a old friend.

He'd like to invite you two
to sing at his home.

It's almost New Year's.

We had a tough year
and want to enjoy ourselves.

This is a small trifle. Some extra income.

You know I don't sing at parties.

Don't you know I'm Ah Bing from Shaoxing?

I never take no for an answer.

We perform twice a day.

In between we do radio broadcasts,
and we're to do parties now?

We're not beasts of burden!

I'm telling you.
I'm Ah Bing from Shaoxing.

Matron Shen is here,
let's go.

Matron Shen has come especially
to see you.

Please sit down.

Fine. I've made up my mind.

Matron Shen would like to be your patroness.

These costumes are a gift to commemorate
your first meeting.

Come, thank the Matron.

I will thank her on behalf of
Sister Chunhua. Matron.

Good. Matron Shen. Please come
watch the opera.

You fool. It's not right to take these.

Give them to me to return.

We must have a patroness in Shanghai.

"Xing Yuehong
Zhu Chunhua"

Zhu Chunhua"

Miss Zhu, here's an article I wrote
about you.

Yuehong, the character is
a poor scholar.

Why change costumes for each act?

The audience likes it.
You make such a fuss.

The wind doesn't blow,
the water doesn't move.

It's our performance that matters.

Costumes must be changed regularly.

Look at you, for an entire year

wearing a few costumes
over and over again.

That's ridiculous.

It's really this way.

No wonder you despise me.

On stage I want many costumes.

Off stage I have lots of clothes.
I also have lots of friends.

It's because we sing in a big theatre.

It's so people don't look down on us.
What's wrong with that?

As for the billboard,
I asked for twin billings.

The current billing...

was Manager Tang's idea.
I'm not to blame.

You're jealous of me.

"Opera Facing Crisis"

Miss Xing will be a little late tonight.

Shang Shuihua, the manager phoned.

He asked you to open
with a solo.

Get made up.

Another price increase!
One month's income...

isn't enough to buy cosmetics!

Come! Manager Tang's treat!

Miss Xing, can I have your autograph?

Have you been drinking?

Yuehong, be honest with me.

Who have you been drinking with?

What have you been doing these days?

You need not ask.

I'm not going to sing anymore.

You're really drunk.

No. I'm sober.

I've decided to marry him.

Marry him?

Who will take care of us
when we're old?

That's why I've decided to marry
Manager Tang.

Yuehong, do you know his reputation?

He promised to marry me officially.

I'll finally have a real home.

You cannot do it!

Did you forget Master's last words?

Sister Chunhua, a horse
cannot die at the mill.

A person cannot die at the theatre.
We're helpless.

We're only actresses.

Chunhua... Yuehong...

Some people from the country
are here to see you.

We've finally found you sisters!

Our life in the countryside
has become unbearable.

- The Japanese army.
- Also the Nationalist army.

The terrible situation is getting worse.
The countryside now...

has become a living hell.

Don't talk like that.

Hurry and get ready!

Miss Xing, you're not made up yet?


Come... sit down here.

I forgot to congratulate you.

You've weathered adversity
as husband and wife.

You're faithful and true.

Prepare for the program to begin.

Sit and wait for me here.

Isn't that Miss Shang Shuihua,
the former Shaoxing Opera queen?

You really want to marry Xing Yuehong?

Yes, I want to reform.

This I have to see.

You won't let her sing anymore?

I mean what I say.

You're slick. You are never honest with me.

If you don't let Yuehong sing...

Chunhua will make all the money.
There will be no teamwork.

Aren't you deliberately cutting off
Chunhua from the stage?

But it will get her off her high horse,
and that's good.

On stage we have the same fate as
Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai.

But off stage we must part company.

Little Xiang, you said we are sisters.

Can I let us grow apart?

What are you saying?

Master, I haven't taken good care
of Yuehong.

What's the matter with Yuehong?

Yuehong, do you really love Manager Tang?

Why are you asking?

I'm already his.

Miss Chunhua, Shuihua has hanged

herself behind the stage! She's dead!

Look, Shuihua's suicide note.

"I slaved to make Tang
rich. He's a monster!"

"He deserves to die"

You can't use this note
to blame me.

Chunhua, even an upright official
finds it hard to settle a family quarrel.

You cannot blame Manager Tang for this.

She wanted to die.

I didn't mistreat her.

You didn't mistreat her!

Sister Shuihua earned lots of money for you.

You drank her blood,
exploited her body.

She sought death because of you.

He drove Sister Shuihua to her death.

For a short while, Shuihua took
things to heart...

and took the road to ruin.

I am also deeply grieved by her death.

You shouldn't hold me responsible
and make groundless accusations.

I must protect the living...

and avenge the dead.

I should do it all!

Return Shuihua's life to me!

Shuihua's is a tragic death.

What woman wouldn't be upset over this?

But a person can't be restored to life.

OK. Let me suggest something.

Manager Tang must arrange a good funeral.

She's right. A good funeral is important.

The dead must be buried properly.

She must be buried in a cedar coffin.

A cedar coffin!

I don't know if I could afford one
when I die.

Manager Tang, evil deeds
are hard to understand...

and good words are hard to find.

Although Shuihua killed herself,

she was a member of your theatre.

I will of course pay for her funeral.

He won't admit it.

Let's first bury the dead...

and settle our disputes later.

Good. I'll take care of the funeral

Come. Everyone pay attention.

The dead person must have five dresses
and three pairs of pants.

They must all be embroidered.

Sister Shuihua's soul must be released.

We can't do without cosmetics.

Let's go. Her body is still
at the undertaker's.

Come help me arrange the funeral.

Are you after the inside story?

Miss Zhu, what can our newspaper

write about this kind of situation?

I'd like to hear your feelings.

I have a lot of things I want to say.

I feel that a cedar coffin

cannot bury the truth

This isn't the time to talk.

I hope we'll have some time soon
to sit down and discuss this.

"A Tragic Life and a Lavish Funeral"

I never stood up for Sister Shuihua.

I was fooled by that villain Tang.

I was taken in.

Sister Chunhua, I know you feel terrible.

You're angry. Cry, or talk about it.

I don't understand why she died.

There are people who take pleasure
in others' misfortune.

They wrote about her in the newspapers

but they distorted the facts.

An actress like my sister...

is now leading a depraved life.

Everyone envies and congratulates her.

Miss Zhu, I may not be right...

but this is what I think.

In your eyes, she leads a depraved life.

but others may think it's the path

to success for an Opera Queen.

Before Shang Shuihua died...

she understood she was
a willing beast of burden...

that she was a money
tree. Perhaps most people

don't understand that.

They may even want to be deluded.

The other day you said you'll protect
the living...

and avenge the dead.

I think this is of utter importance.

Our sisters must understand what is right
and what is wrong.

If the majority people are of one mind...

have one standard of truth...

then the people oppressing us

will be crushed by us,
no matter who they are.

The door to her heart is opening wide...

ready to be washed clean by torrential rain.

She wants to sing new songs...

she wants to start a new life.

The Year 1946

Teacher Wang, I've seen the films
and plays you told me about.

We sisters would like to follow
their example.

"Eyebrows raised, coolly
I face a thousand pointing fingers"

"New Year's Sacrifice:
Xiang Lin's Widow"

This is a character from one
of Lu Xun's stories.

He portrays the suffering
of Chinese women

under the old feudal system.

She was widowed twice,
so people thought she brought bad luck.

I read this short story.

The plays opens next week.

There are so many people.
Can we get tickets?

I got tickets!

I waited for three hours!

Commissioner Pan is not pleased you're
producing "New Year's Sacrifice"

He wants you to think of a way

to close it down.

Commissioner Pan will make sure

the Japanese deal is yours.
It looks good for you.

Aren't you bored
staying at home?

I've decided to give you
a theatre company...

so you can sing again.

What do you think?

I don't want to sing.

I'm out of practice.

You'll never change. You'll always be
a country girl.

Starting from tomorrow

you'll be training.

Are you listening?

Attention everyone, Manager Tang's wife

will return to the stage.

You must let her have the theatre
to sing in.

Let her? Who says so?

Who? Manager Tang said so.

Are you joking? Our contract
hasn't expired yet.

The theatre belongs to everyone.

The boss wants to stop this weird play

you're putting on.
Did you know?

"New Year's Sacrifice,
adapted from the story by Lu Xun"

Who is this guy Lu?

He's sent by the Communists!


I said you must leave the theatre.

I won't leave. Our sisters theatre troupe
wants to perform.

No one will bully us.

Didn't you already accept Mrs. Tang's money?

And you're performing with them?

Yuehong still has no theatre.

You're playing both sides.
I'll break your legs!

You dare to bully her?

Your letter.

Let's not perform this new play.

You're not afraid of this letter?

It's just one frightening letter.

We've had many encouraging letters
about our new play.

This entire drawer is full.

Let me keep it.

You're not afraid to put on the play,
but what about the theatre?

We're threatened with bullets.

Even our own sister, Yuehong,
is forcing us out.

- I'm waiting for two tickets.
- Got them. Let's go inside.

- Are there still tickets?
- No.

I have one ticket.

- What row?
- Fifth row.

I lift my head to ask the blue sky.

Are there really spirits and ghosts?

Oh, blue sky...

there's no rejoicing...

Zhu Chunhua worked hard on this opera.

The plan is to stop the play.

It's up to you.

Is there a hell?

Man does not speak...

man does not speak.

Half believing, half doubting...

it's difficult to understand.

Like dreaming, like waking...

leaving the world of men.

Sister Chunhua, your performance
was really good.

Did you see the gestures
I used to grab Xiang Lin's wife?

Look at the gestures I used
to play the old woman.

Like this, I grabbed. Like that, I pushed.

Then she got on the sedan chair.

She parades her wealth,
washing her face in a gold basin...

but Yuehong's no better than us.

Xiao Xiang!

Who wants it? You've sold yourself
to the foreign countries.

And you help that Tang
undermine the sisters.

Sister Chun.

From now on we go our own separate ways.


Whether water or mud, or lake or pit,

I must take that road.

Manager Tang, I'd like to
have a little talk with you.

Our contract hasn't expired yet.

True, but your permit has.

The play has been banned.

Yuehong hasn't been on stage for a year.

Now she's staging a comeback.
You're sisters.

Why not work together?

These are fine words.

It mustn't be this way.

If you don't sing in this garbage play...

I'll ask her for a favor...

so you two sisters can perform
together in the theatre.

A favor! One must distinguish between
good and evil as a person and as an actress.

If one cannot separate good from evil,
what favor can they do?

How ungrateful!

Fine. What a waste of time!

Bah! Actresses!

If we only had a theatre of our own!

Why is the play banned?

What are you looking at?

Totally unreasonable!

"Contract for the Shanghai
Co-operative Opera Troupe"

When we sisters sang opera in the past...

we had to endure a lot of difficulties.

Since you explained the hows
and whys to us...

so many sisters have come out
of the darkness into the light.

Now that progress is possible in this era,

the era asks us sisters to participate.

We two must participate.

Today I have some news to report.

We Shanghai Opera sisters

are going to hold joint performance.

We'll build our own theatre
with the ticket profits.

This is a co-operative initiative.

That was quick!

Now we sisters are really united.

We can accomplish anything!

We discussed the program...

and we want you to adapt...

this book opposing government brutality.

When we have our own theatre one day...

we can raise our heads high
performing on stage...

and off stage we will be
be bold and confident people.

We'll never again serve
people like Manager Tang.

The Xinhu Theatre is a small stage...

society is a large stage.

Behind Tang's boss is yet a bigger boss...

and behind that big boss are the Americans.

They control this large stage.

If the world is not changed and
the big bosses aren't defeated,

we cannot have our own true stage.

The big bosses who control us

will not willingly leave the great stage.

The current revolutionary situation is
developing rapidly.

If we are to be successful,

we must kill the enemy.

They will certainly fight desperately...

using their man-eating system...

to keep us from joyfully playing our part.

Our combat forces already have organized.

But to defeat the enemy
we still need a strategy.

We can discuss it.

Commissioner Pan wants to see me?

What nerve! These actresses!

Now they are absolutely lawless.

What are you going to do
about this situation?

I can deal with Zhu Chunhua's troupe.

But the entire Shanghai Opera
is also involved.

I can't get to these nervy actors.

You should understand this is political.

In these chaotic times, they dare to
parade around together...

and and gather in groups.
This is no small matter!

Are these people, these matters...

connected to you?

The Shaoxing Opera is easy to deal with.

If you want to get the gang,
catch the leader.

You have a way!

Commissioner Pan,
if I have backing from above...

it can be done.

Yes. But you must be responsible.

"The Shanghai Co-operative Opera Troupe
Lead Actresses"

"What Crime Did the Actress Commit?"

"Let a Good Person Live!"

Zhu Chunhua Fights Back!"

"Protect Our People and Theatre
From Thugs such as Ah Xin"

Blaming Ah Xin might not work.

This kind of person
isn't dependable.

What if he turns and blames us?

I'll take care of him.

Now that little group
is getting more powerful.

And discussion is rather fierce.

We two can talk frankly.

The war at the front
is not going well.

We must keep the peace in Shanghai.

We can't afford any more unrest.

We simply can't have it.

I was following your orders.

This time we are together in this.

The bosses can't get rid of us both.

There's already a directive.

Your wife is to appear and say there
was a sisterly grudge.

This way politics will be kept out of it.

Furthermore, it will destroy
the sisters' relationship.

This is killing two birds
with one stone.

My finances are limited.
She's my only capital.

It's easy then. Use your capital
to make a profit.

"Court Hearing Today"

"Assailant Ah Xin in Custody"

The judge has been notified.

It looks bad for Zhu Chunhua.

Come what may, Yuehong will appear in court.

I have my ways.

Don't be soft-hearted.

It's incredible!

An extraordinary performance!

According to the inspector's report,

is it true she provoked you?

Don't be afraid.

This court asks you again.

Why did Xing Yuehong wish to
secretly harm Zhu Chunhua?

It began when...

the sisters snatched the theatre...

and fought over billing and profits.
I was confused.

I coveted the money,
and she took advantage of this.

You are speaking the truth?

If I told even a single lie...

may Heaven strike me down!

Take Ah Xin away.

Call the witness Xing Yuehong.

Calling Xing Yuehong.

If you don't go, I'll kill you.

Are you Xing Yuehong?

Your place of birth... name... occupation.

Is it true that you hired the assailant?

Did you make him throw the package
of quicklime?

Yuehong, did you secretly harm
Zhu Chunhua?

Did you?

Why don't you answer?


I'll speak for her.

Xing Yuehong isn't the instigator.

She definitely is not.

She's possessed.

She's not human.

She has fallen...

but she'd never harm

her sister who has stuck
with her through thick and thin.

We are asking Xing Yuehong...

we are asking the witness...

I understand.

People want to come between me
and my sister...

put the blame on someone else
and let the real assailant escape.

Such talk is not permitted!

You want to make Xing Yuehong
a scapegoat...

make it known to the public.

Xing Yuehong is a scapegoat.

The real assailant will not escape!

Bring out the real assailant!

The sparrows are upset in the flock.
The crows caw in the court.

The black hand can't hide...

from the bright sun and moon.

Living in the bitter water,
in wind and rain...

Why can't you tell the difference
between men and ghosts?

I want to wash my eyes...

in the clear spring.

In the distance I see the future...

with flowers like brocade

The Year 1950

I heard Yuehong lives here.


Where is she?

Yuehong! Yuehong!

We haven't seen each other
for over 10 years!

Your play is wonderful!

You all performed well.

White Haired Girl! Do you remember me?

Little Chunhua! So unexpected!

You sang beautifully.

You sang what was in my heart.

Xiao Xiang, do you remember her?

Chunhua. Just now I saw Yuehong.

She came to see the play.

You sit and wait here.


Sister Chun. I'm ashamed.

I'm full of regret.