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璇宮艷史(上集) (1957)
Romance of Jade Hall (Part 1)


Reviewed by: Stephe
Date: 01/27/2011

I knew that My Kingdom for a Husband was a Cantonese opera
set in the modern era, so I half-expected to be bored, but the
novelty of seeing a film with Cantonese opera instead of Huangmei
(Yellow Plum) Opera was intriguing. So, too, were the lead actors,
Cheung Ying, who played the sparkle-eyed lothario in The Splendor
of Youth, and Leung Sing-Bo, who played the Cantonese tailor in
The Greatest Civil War on Earth and the Cantonese restaurateur in
The Greatest Wedding on Earth. The two men are paired almost like
a Hollywood Golden Age comedy duo, with Cheung Ying as the straight
man and Leung Sing-Bo as a broadly delineated vaudevillian type.
The former seems almost like Dean Martin, with the latter somewhat
akin to Oliver Hardy or Red Skelton.

It's ironic that I should have viewed this film directly after
having seen the Cathay film Darling, Stay at Home, because that
title describes this film, too, in many ways. While Darling dealt
with a housewife whose husband endeavors to keep her at home rather
than let her work, My Kingdom has a queen whose husband The Prince
Consort comes to resent having no autonomy once married. Although
the film is overly leisurely at first and is slow slogging for the
first hour, the second half picks up significantly once most of the
plot comes together, and the developments in the last half hour are
riveting.

After his relatively one-note role in The Splendor of Youth, it was
surprising to see Cheung Ying display such an emotional range in this
film. Trivia: Cheung Ying appeared in over 300 films from 1937 to 1988,
and he directed the 1969 Shaw Brothers film The Swordmates, as well as
co-directed the 1949 film Wind and Storm Over Alishan with Chang Cheh
(Wind is the first film that Chang Cheh ever co-directed; the first
films he ever directed on his own were Tiger Boy and The Magnificent
Trio, both in 1966).

My Kingdom for a Husband is worth it if you've got the patience for
the first half. Leung Sing-Bo is particularly good in this.

Reviewer Score: 7