Education of Love
I always find it interesting to compare the Cathay
and the Shaw Brothers films as these two Mandarin production houses jousted
with one another for supremacy of that market from the late 1950’s to the
mid-60’s. Education of Love made in 1961 by Cathay is fairly representative
of their films at the time – low key, black and white, family oriented
and containing social messaging. In the same year Shaw was turning out
glitzy entertainment pieces like “Les Belles” or colorful Huangmei’s such
as “The Dream of the Red Chamber”. Shaw was clearly attempting to go for
a different style of film and a different audience with these big budget
films – while Cathay never really seemed comfortable in going for pure
big budget entertainment as if this was below them. Even their biggest
budgeted film – “Sun, Moon and Star” - that was made in the same year in
an effort to compete against the Shaws was replete with serious themes.
In the end of course Cathay’s inability to fully adapt to the changing
taste of their audience doomed their existence.
This is overall a fairly stodgy film – well meaning
and heartfelt but much too preachy and earnest to go down very well. Even
so it does occasionally tug on your heartstrings due to the fine performances
and tender chemistry between Jeanette Lin and Wang Yin as a daughter and
father. Cathay seemed to have two main actors to play fathers – the jovial
Liu Enjia who was often the beleaguered dad in comedies – and Wang Yin
who often played the patient and understanding father in dramatic fare
such as this film, “Her Tender Heart” and “Father Takes a Bride”. Of interest
to many may be the appearance of a child actor who plays one of the students
– though much smaller and thinner he has the unmistakable visage of Sammo
Hung and he has a nice sized part here - just don’t expect any kung fu!
Jingyi (Jeanette Lin) reluctantly takes over the
classes of her schoolteacher father (Wang Yin) when he comes down with
an illness (cough cough). She would rather be anywhere else as she doesn’t
think much of this profession and her first unruly day doesn’t change her
opinion. This isn’t exactly Blackboard Jungle though – her ten-year-old
boys get into trouble by laughing inappropriately and shooting spitballs!
She wants to go to school to study music, but when her father remains ill
(cough cough) she has to stay on. She gets involved in the lives of her
students – the main one being Sammo who’s father is a drunkard and wants
his son to quit school. Sammo is actually the brainiac in the class and
Jingyi persuades his father not only to let him continue classes but also
to give up drinking!
It all turns into Mrs. Chips territory as she
comes to realize that it is “they who educated me” and that teaching is
a noble if underpaid profession. So underpaid and lacking in status in
fact that her mother (played by Wang Lai of course) deserted her husband
and daughter years before to marry a rich man. By the end she too has learned
the error of her way and realizes that teaching is something to cherish.
Appearing also is the always near dormant Kelly Lai-chin as Jingyi’s boyfriend
and one of the bigger child stars of the time, Peter S.Y. Dunn, as another
one of the kids. It would be interesting to know if any of the other children
came from the famous opera schools of the time as Sammo did.
This is not one of Jeanette’s more energetic films,
but she is nevertheless pleasing in a girl next-door type – a near extinct
character in current films. These were generally the types of characters
she excelled in and came to be nicknamed “The Student Darling” for her
sweet and spritely charm. Off the sets though her life didn’t exactly match
her screen persona as a few scandals racked her life later on. She married
director Qin Jan in 1959 but she had an affair with Jimmy Wang Yu and her
husband divorced her - and then later committed suicide. In 1969 she married
Wang Yu (and retired from the film business at the same time), but this
union also fell apart under a cloud of charges of wife beating and lesbianism.
In 1976, shortly after her divorce with Wang Yu, she both wrote and directed
a movie called Divorce Hong-Kong Style that seems to have an autobiographical
aspect to it. Their daughter is the singer Linda Wong. Jeanette died in
1995. Her brother is Kenneth Tsang.
My rating for this film: 5.5