Two Stage Sisters- -
In pre-communist China, two sisters lead very different lives. One is a famous performer while the other is a political activist. In 1935 a runaway tongyangxi, Zhu Chunhua, takes refuge at an itinerant Yue Opera troupe performing at a Shaoxing village. The head of the troupe, A’Xin, intends to send the girl away, but Yue Opera teacher Xing, seeing her potential, takes Chunhua in as a disciple and trains her. Chunhua signs a deal with the troupe and becomes the performing partner (in a dan role) to the teacher’s daughter Yuehong, the latter performing as a xiaosheng. A rich provincial landlord Ni invites Chunhua and Yuehong to sing at his house privately after the troupe reaches his province. He takes an interest in Yuehong; however, Yuehong and her father spurn his interest and as a result, Kuomintang cops forcibly seize Yuehong one day during a performance. Chunhua is also arrested and tied to a pillar for days as “public humiliation”. The two are released after Xing and A’Xin send bribes to the KMT cops. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Yuehong, Chunhua and the troupe go through hard times. In 1941, Teacher Xing dies of an illness, and troupe master A’Xin sells his two best performers to Tang, a Shanghai opera theater manager, on a three-year contract. Yuehong and Chunhua, now sworn sisters, rapidly become Tang’s biggest stars, causing Tang to forsake his aging star and former lover, Shang Shuihua. Three years elapse. Yuehong and Chunhua are renowned in the city. Chunhua remains down-to-earth but Yuehong grows steadily more materialistic. Sick of having to sing opera for life, Yuehong rashly agrees to Tang's proposal, but Chunhua distrusts Tang and refuses to support Yuehong’s marriage plans. Unbeknownst to Yuehong, Tang already has a wife, and is keeping her as a mistress. One day faded ex-star Shang commits suicide by hanging herself backstage. Chunhua is incensed that Tang, her former lover, attempts to shirk his responsibilities by claiming he has nothing to do with her death. Through this episode, Chunhua gets to know a "radical" lady journalist Jiang, who advises her to become "progressive" to teach other Chinese to distinguish between truth and falsehood. She starts performing “progressive” operas like an adaptation of Lu Xun’s ‘’The New Year Sacrifice’’. Chunhua’s works alert the KMT regime who gives Tang the task to ruin Chunhua's reputation. They get A’Xin to file a lawsuit against Chunhua and Manager Tang coerces Yuehong to testify against Chunhua, but at the crucial moment in the courtroom, Yuehong faints. The film ends in 1950, one year after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Chunhua prepares to perform The White-Haired Girl for country folks at Zhejiang. Tang has run off to Taiwan with the KMT cohort and Yuehong is quietly abandoned at Shaoxing province. Although Yuehong witnesses Chunhua’s drama, she is too ashamed to face her sworn sister again. Near a quay later the day, however, the sisters manage a tearful reunion. On the boat the following day, Yuehong vows to learn her lesson and walk the "correct" path while Chunhua dedicates her entire life to performing revolutionary operas.
Two Stage Sisters, also called Stage Sisters, is a 1964 Chinese drama film produced by Shanghai Tianma Film Studio and directed by Xie Jin, starring Xie Fang and Cao Yindi. Made just before the Cultural Revolution, it tells the story of two female Yue (Shaoxing) Opera practitioners from the same troupe who end up taking very different paths in their lives. The film begins in 1935 and ends in 1950, just after the founding of New China.
Unlike most Chinese films of its period, which were adaptations of accepted and well-known dramatic and literary works, it was made from an original screenplay.