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November 26, 2013

Sister Long Legs

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Chang tui jie jie
Tang Huang - 1960
Panorama Region 3 DVD

I decided I needed to see something on the light side. I also happen to like movies movies that make a point of featuring the legs of female star, be it the traveling shot of Betty Grable's legs in A Yank in the R.A.F or the introductory shot of Angie Dickinson in China Gate. I don't know how tall Julie Yeh is, but she towers over almost everyone else in Sister Long Legs with the exception of Cathay Studios' matinee idol Roy Chiao. The opening shot, seen above is of those titular legs.

Yeh plays the part of a young teacher, Tingting, unmarried at age 24 to the chagrin of her parents. The other sister, Binbin, is a bit tomboyish with her short hair and her aggressive manner. Much of the film's humor as well as plot are dependent on appearances, be they physical, several fat jokes here, or of financial status. In some ways, the plot and the execution are a reminder of screwball comedies from the Thirties, where the son or daughter of a plutocrat learns about life and love from a boy or girl with a more humble existence.

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There are several shots of legs, not only Julie Yeh's but that of the teen sister played by Jeanette Lin (in real life, a year older than Feh). A scene at a dance party shows off the two actresses gams underneath the layers of petticoats, while the young people jitterbug to a jazzed up version of "Get Happy". There is also a terrific shot, seen below, of Lin's legs framing Tien Ching, the latter as a hapless, would-be suitor. Lin almost steals the film from Yeh with her comic mugging as well as vigorous dance which ends with her flipping one young man over her shoulder.

That same dance scene also has Yeh with a dance partner much too short. Some of the leg shots are of Yeh keeping her feet from being stepped on. Getting twirled around by a short guy also is a problem. There is a bit of humor that touches on culture, popular or otherwise, of the time. Learning that Tingting is a teacher, a young demonstrates his literary ignorance in name dropping Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde. When Bingin eagerly talks about movies she loves, her favorite non-Chinese actress is Audrey Hepburn, while her favorite Chinese actress is Jeanette Lin. Maybe not quite as funny as the moment in His Girl Friday when Cary Grant mentions Archibald Leach, but worthy of a chuckle.

I seem to have been a little late in "discovering" Julie Yeh. Almost all of her Cathay Studios films on DVD are out of print. At some point, I will have to check to see what there is from her time at the Shaw Brothers. Cathay Studios films were never quite as polished as the Shaw Brothers releases, but I find an undeniable sense of energy that makes these films from this era fun to watch.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 26, 2013 08:27 AM