A Dream Half-Fulfilled

Filmmaker Joseph Sunn Jue dreamt big. In 1933, he built a movie director's paradise in Kowloon, China -- a warehouse-size studio on 7,000 square feet of property, landscaped with trees, gardens, and goldfish ponds. There, Jue hoped to establish himself and the Grandview Motion Picture Co.

"He liked to do things the Hollywood way," Jue's son, Frank, explains. "Only not in Hollywood, of course."

Director, producer, screenwriter, set designer, and editor, Jue did everything but act in his movies. The self-taught moviemaker would often use aliases in a film's credits, so his name would not appear repeatedly. Through the 1930s, Jue made more than 90 films, which were distributed in Hong Kong, Macao, and Canton, and in the United States Jue's audiences began to grow.

But World War II interrupted Jue's grand cinematic plans. In 1939, he packed up his films and returned with his wife and four children to San Francisco, where he set up a makeshift studio in the basement of 17 Old Chinatown Lane, and opened the Grandview Theater. But the filmmaker always dreamt of reviving his big studio days of the 1930s.

Alas, he never made his grand comeback. In 1948, he went to Hong Kong and made Eastman color movies through the 1950s. But as the Hong Kong movie production companies grew bigger and better-financed, Jue decided it would be more profitable to lease out the studio. He made his last film in Hong Kong and returned to S.F. and the Grandview Theater in 1959.

Jue had a stroke in 1974, and sold the Grandview Theater the following year. He died in 1987, at age 83.

As for his films, none are known to have survived. After Jue sold the Grandview, the new owner took all his films -- more than 100 of the first Chinese color movies ever made -- and dumped them in the trash.


My Voice Nation Help
Sort: Newest | Oldest
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.