As it became clear that the Chinese Communists would gain control of the mainland in 1949, many members of Shanghai’s film industry relocated to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong already had a thriving film industry, much of which was produced in Cantonese. Nonetheless, with the arrival of people from the Shanghai film industry, even more films started to be produced, including increasing numbers of films in Mandarin.
However, with the mainland cut off from Hong Kong, there was not a big enough market in Hong Kong to support such a large film industry. Therefore, in the 1950s the producers of Hong Kong films started to seek to attract viewers from the Chinese population in Southeast Asia.
They did this in part by making movies about Chinese in Southeast Asia, and by also making movies in Southeast Asia.
One of the earliest such films was a Cantonese movie that was released in 1953 called “The Belle of Penang” (檳城艷).
The following video goes into more detail about this movie and its place at that time in the efforts of Hong Kong film producers to gain viewers among the Chinese in Southeast Asia.
This video contains clips from the movie, “The Belle of Penang,” as well as from the following videos: “Singapore – The Lion City, 1957,” “Old Hong Kong Sheung Wan, Opium Smoking, 1952” and “Old Singapore 1951, Cathay/Oriental Theatres.”
The music is “The Belle of Penang” (檳城艷) by Fong Yim-Fen/Fong Yim-Fun (芳艷芬), the actress who played the role of “the Belle of Penang.”