Filmed in the Mandarin language, Sable Cicada was one of the few Chinese films of the 1930s to gain American distribution. Based on an episode in the classic historical saga "San Kuo," the film tells the complex story of Sable Cicada (Violet Koo), daughter of provincial governor Wang Yuen (Y. L. Wei). Relying on her beauty and charm to survive in a patriarchal society, the heroine becomes a concubine in the household of Lu Pu (King San), a politician maneuver to overthrow her father's regime. She also intends to seize control of the situation by becoming the bride of Lu Pu's son, which she accomplishes by turning father and son against each other. Dispensing with the highly stylized acting seen in earlier Chinese films, Sable Cicada is told in a surprisingly naturalistic fashion, though the characters uphold theatrical tradition by breaking into song whenever overcome by emotions. Produced in war-torn Shanghai, the film was released in the U.S. as a fundraiser on behalf of the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China.
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