Maggie Cheung’s Timeless Majesty in Center Stage (1991)

In 1991, Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung starred in Center Stage, a film chronicling the tragic life of Chinese silent film star Ruan Lingyu.

Born in 1910, Ruan rose to fame at age 16 and committed suicide at 24. Ruan’s exceptional talent earned her the nickname China’s Garbo,” a reference to prominent Swedish-American actress  Greta Garbo.

Ruan’s most memorable works include Love and Duty (1931) and The Goddess (1934).

Center Stage weaved together interviews with people who knew Ruan, recreations of scenes from her life, and clips from Ruan’s films.

Cheung won Best Actress at the 1992 Berlin International Film Festival for her delicate depiction of Ruan’s life, making her the first Chinese performer to ever do so.

She went on to star in The Heroic Trio (1992), In the Mood for Love (2000), and Clean (2004), among others. One reviewer called Cheung’s role in Center Stage the “best performance of her life.”

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