Benjamin Brodsky (1877-1960): The Trans-Pacific American Film Entrepreneur – Part One, Making A Trip Thru China

In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
Author: Ramona Curry
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Abstract

Authoritative statements have long credited the elusive American immigrant entrepreneur Benjamin Brodsky (1877-1960) with founding film production companies in Shanghai and Hong Kong as early as 1909 and initiating filmmaking collaborations with local Chinese. Yet those histories prove on close examination to consist mostly of sketchy assertions offered without clear evidence. This essay draws on original archival research and recent work of scholars in Hong Kong, Europe, and Japan to reframe the historical narrative, dating most developments a few years later while revealing fresh aspects of Brodsky's trans-Pacific operations and high-level Chinese involvement. The new findings have intriguing implications for our understanding of early twentieth-century trans-Pacific cultural associations as well as Chinese cinema. Part One of this article reconstructs Brodsky's early career and reveals new evidence of his interactions with Chinese returned students and government officials, with a focus on the production in China of Brodsky's feature-length travel documentary A Trip Thru China (1916).

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