A Western missionary once said of Shanghai in the 1920s, “If God allows Shanghai to prevail, then he owes an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah.” In the 1920s, Shanghai was considered the most opulent city in Asia, eclipsing both Hong Kong and Tokyo. It was the most industrialized city in China and a center for intellectual activity. Yet Shanghai was also Asia’s capital of vice, with entire sections of the city honeycombed with brothels and opium dens.
Shanghai was a treaty port, a spoil of the Opium War that had been divided into municipalities ruled by foreign governments, each with its own police force, laws, idiosyncrasies and vice industry. The French Concession, known as Frenchtown, and the British-administered International Settlement were two of the more notable examples. Without a central government, vice ran rampant in the city, particularly in the walled Chinese city and Frenchtown.
Adding to the chaotic climate, businessmen from all over Europe descended upon Shanghai to make their fortunes, exploiting the abundance of cheap labor. Many refugees from the Russian revolution and the growing anti-Semitism in Germany sought refuge in Shanghai in the 1920s. Shanghai did not require passports for entry and it attracted rogue elements and adventurers from around the world.
“It’s not being rich that makes one happy, it’s becoming rich.”
— Claude Gillette
Stories of the illicit drugs and prostitutes that could be had as room service began to circulate among elite travelers. Thousands came annually to indulge in pleasures they were not permitted at home. Shanghai became a standard port of call for pleasure cruises, bringing the 1920s jet set into the mix.
As in all decadent, pleasure-based societies, the amusement of the few was created with the sweat of the many—the “many” in this case being the Chinese, who, in Shanghai, were considered second-class citizens in their own country.
The foreign settlers, known as Shanghailanders, were the ones who ruled the city, not the Chinese. The Shanghailanders lived a life of opulence and ease, sheltered by money and status, oblivious to the dire living and working conditions of their Chinese counterparts.
While American, British and French playboys danced the Charleston in late-night parties on the banks of the Whangpoo River, Chiang Kai-shek and his army were marching through China toward the prize of Shanghai, the potential jewel in their crown (right in time for the Season 1 finale).
Shanghai Shanghai is a character driven series. Its strength lies in bringing familiar content to an audience in an exotic context. This is achieved by using characters which the audience can live through vicariously.
The good guys are not all good; the bad guys are not all bad. They are human, they have flaws as well as compassion, they laugh and cry, they win and lose, the common thread uniting them is exotic setting of 1920s Shanghai.
With the mix of vice industries, including opium dens, prostitution and gambling, and a climate of political and military tension and uncertainty, Shanghai Shanghai is seething with dramatic potential.
For further inforamtion contact:
New York - Mick Lexington +1 917 684 5435 firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2015 Shanghai TV Series LLC