The Films
Mad Fire Mad Love
director: Esther Eng
year: 1949
countries: Hawaii, USA
A restless Chinese sea captain making a stopover in "the Hawaii of long ago" (though "Hawaii of the recent past" may be more accurate). While ashore, the captain befriends a Hawaiian-Chinese family and, at the mother's request,
teaches Chinese to her children.He falls in love with the daughter (Siu Fei Fei) although he must soon depart with his ship. Eventually he returns, "rescuing her from the natives," and takes her back to China. This mish mash of citations probably concerns the tug of motherland China on a Chinese-Hawaiian many generations removed from her Chinese roots - the inference is that she returns to participate in the development of modern China - story date is imprecise.
Frank Bren, 23.02.2010
"First Chinese colour" feature shot in Hawaii - possibly here in 16mm. Esther Eng's Cantonese name was Ng Kam-ha. This stars Siu Fei-fei or Fe Fe Lee in her third "Esther Eng film" as the daughter who ultimately returns to China.
Frank Bren, 23.02.2010
Source notes
Frank Bren, 23.02.2010
Related Documents
This film played in Singapore (and elsewhere in "Nanyang"?). Mad Fire Mad Love was filmed entirely in and around Hawaii. Yet it too has "gone missing" from history, even in Robert Schmitt's gem, Hawaii in the Movies 1898-1959, published
by the Hawaiian Historical Society in 1988. My efforts to elicit interest in Eng from that and local Hawaiian historical centres has so far yielded no information even though this rare colour feature involved considerable local resources in Honolulu and elsewhere in Hawaii - as likely a place as any for rediscovering this film.
Esther Eng (1914-1970) was one of Chinese cinema's greatest female directors - oddly, an American too. This is one of her ten lost films (nine of them as director). For a long time, I've been developing a project on Esther Eng's life and would love to hear of anything new on her films via . See also on this only known American woman directing commercial movies between the Hollywood careers of Dorothy Arzner and Ida Lupino. Also a famous New York restaurateur, hers is one of the strangest disappearing acts in film history. Central/South America offers reasonable hope for rediscovering movies that she distributed there (maybe her own too) in the 1940s, including to Havana, Cuba. Detailed portraits of her appear in "China Daily" (HK English edition) of 23/24 January 2010 and "Women of China" (Beijing, June 2006, English edition). See
Frank Bren, 23.02.2010
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