Education of Love

I always find it interesting to compare the Cathay and the Shaw Brothers films as these two Mandarin production houses jousted with one another for supremacy of that market from the late 1950’s to the mid-60’s. Education of Love made in 1961 by Cathay is fairly representative of their films at the time – low key, black and white, family oriented and containing social messaging. In the same year Shaw was turning out glitzy entertainment pieces like “Les Belles” or colorful Huangmei’s such as “The Dream of the Red Chamber”. Shaw was clearly attempting to go for a different style of film and a different audience with these big budget films – while Cathay never really seemed comfortable in going for pure big budget entertainment as if this was below them. Even their biggest budgeted film – “Sun, Moon and Star” - that was made in the same year in an effort to compete against the Shaws was replete with serious themes. In the end of course Cathay’s inability to fully adapt to the changing taste of their audience doomed their existence.
This is overall a fairly stodgy film – well meaning and heartfelt but much too preachy and earnest to go down very well. Even so it does occasionally tug on your heartstrings due to the fine performances and tender chemistry between Jeanette Lin and Wang Yin as a daughter and father. Cathay seemed to have two main actors to play fathers – the jovial Liu Enjia who was often the beleaguered dad in comedies – and Wang Yin who often played the patient and understanding father in dramatic fare such as this film, “Her Tender Heart” and “Father Takes a Bride”. Of interest to many may be the appearance of a child actor who plays one of the students – though much smaller and thinner he has the unmistakable visage of Sammo Hung and he has a nice sized part here - just don’t expect any kung fu!
Jingyi (Jeanette Lin) reluctantly takes over the classes of her schoolteacher father (Wang Yin) when he comes down with an illness (cough cough). She would rather be anywhere else as she doesn’t think much of this profession and her first unruly day doesn’t change her opinion. This isn’t exactly Blackboard Jungle though – her ten-year-old boys get into trouble by laughing inappropriately and shooting spitballs! She wants to go to school to study music, but when her father remains ill (cough cough) she has to stay on. She gets involved in the lives of her students – the main one being Sammo who’s father is a drunkard and wants his son to quit school. Sammo is actually the brainiac in the class and Jingyi persuades his father not only to let him continue classes but also to give up drinking!
It all turns into Mrs. Chips territory as she comes to realize that it is “they who educated me” and that teaching is a noble if underpaid profession. So underpaid and lacking in status in fact that her mother (played by Wang Lai of course) deserted her husband and daughter years before to marry a rich man. By the end she too has learned the error of her way and realizes that teaching is something to cherish. Appearing also is the always near dormant Kelly Lai-chin as Jingyi’s boyfriend and one of the bigger child stars of the time, Peter S.Y. Dunn, as another one of the kids. It would be interesting to know if any of the other children came from the famous opera schools of the time as Sammo did.
This is not one of Jeanette’s more energetic films, but she is nevertheless pleasing in a girl next-door type – a near extinct character in current films. These were generally the types of characters she excelled in and came to be nicknamed “The Student Darling” for her sweet and spritely charm. Off the sets though her life didn’t exactly match her screen persona as a few scandals racked her life later on. She married director Qin Jan in 1959 but she had an affair with Jimmy Wang Yu and her husband divorced her - and then later committed suicide. In 1969 she married Wang Yu (and retired from the film business at the same time), but this union also fell apart under a cloud of charges of wife beating and lesbianism. In 1976, shortly after her divorce with Wang Yu, she both wrote and directed a movie called Divorce Hong-Kong Style that seems to have an autobiographical aspect to it. Their daughter is the singer Linda Wong. Jeanette died in 1995. Her brother is Kenneth Tsang.

My rating for this film: 5.5