I wouldn't said your first impression is improper, as her greatest achievement is still with movies, not to mention the best actress award, which she has won them for four times.
Of course, for me, the film festival and movie award at that era was just a tool of star vehicles, manipulated by two Chinese film moguls, The Shaw Brothers and The Cathay.
When comes to acting quality, I never really agreed that Linda deserve such honors (from the very first time I watched The Kingdom and The Beauty (1958) in year 1995), though I must admit that she has the publicly appealling beauty and charismatic bewitching big eyes, which made her the top box office draw of that era.
However, what made me impressed and admired is her voice, most of them are songs from her films in Yung Hwa Studio era.
Discovered and stage named by Great Wall Studio manager Yuan yang'an, Lin Dai actually became "The moviestar on the magazine "only, as there's no film project for her by this pro mainland PRC studio, reportedly due to political concern (Lin Dai's father was the important political figure for Kuomintang China at that time, though ironically he settled in Mainland China at last and become the official of PRC central committee since 1965).
In year 1951, when Great Wall was about to kick off the project for "Father Marries again" (1952), Lin dai was actually offered a role, billed under Hsia Moon and Shek Hwei, which she eventually declined the role, and attempted suicide for the first time. Since then, with Yan Jun's assistance (Lin Dai's lovers at that time, later husband of Li Li Hua), both of them left Great Wall and joined Yung Hwa, still a major mandarin film studio but declining at that time due to mismanagement, and have her debut "Cui Cui" (1952) a.k.a "Singing under the moon" filmed, it was truly a massive hit and emerge to be one of the most unforgetable film in Hong Kong cinema (Again, no release in home video yet~~~)
Unlike what we seen in Lin Dai's late 50-60's Shaw's era movies, where she was modeled to excude ultimate glamour and elagance into greatest extent , she was actually famed for her potrayal as innocent village girl, with two big knoted ponytail, simple yet captivating, during all her movies filmed in Yung Hwa Studio.
To me, Lin Dai's in Shaws and MP&GI period's glamor and queenie-ness was undisputable, but when it come to personal preferences, I sincerely think that Yung Hwa period image suited her nicely, which it resonated her inner self and characteristic as well.
Seems I have gone to far from topic~~ Let;s back to Lin Dai's songs...
Most of the Hong Kong classic moviegoers or Chinese oldies fans will surely knew that Lin Dai has sung lots of songs, which some of them have been reissued by EMI Pathe in CDs. Of course, I have to say that when comes to singing skill and sophistication, she was neither Grace Chang, Gong Qiu Xia, nor Shi Hui (Shek Hwei), not even Helen Li Mei or Julie Yeh. I even feel hesistate to categorize her as a singer, simply she was just too raw and almost skillless. However, what spellbound me is a distinct quality from her voice while singing, there is a genuine sincerity, the ultimate innocence, not even a slight deliberate of pretentious or skill added, which was so adorable and yet profundly heartbreaking , reminded me of the DVD cover poster of Vittorio De Sica's "The Children are Watching Us" released by Criterion Collection.
You just find it hard to relate the later day Miss Linda Lin Dai in MP& GI and Shaws Bros Studio, after you heard her voice, or watched her Yong Hwa period movies~~
In 1964, the third publicly known suicide attempt, has finally brought Lin Dai away from the mortal world. Maybe, she shouldn't fated to be discovered by Yuan, cause showbiz is just to complicated for an innocently naive girl like her, maybe she shouldn't had filmed "Cui Cui", that rocketed her to the stardom, or maybe, she shouldn't married to Mr Long......too many maybe prehaps, but they all comes to the same conclusion, Lin Dai suicided, and the innocent Fifties of Hong Kong Cinema has never resumed...
Put aside all of her Shaw's films, try to get some of her early movies, and listen to her songs, particularly soundtrack in "Cui Cui" (1952) ,"The Fishermen song " (1956) and " The Result of Vanity "(1956), only and only if, you eager to know and understand more about Cheng Yue Ru, the true Lin Dai..
Note: all the pictures of Lin Dai featured in this article are from her Pre MP&GI and Shaw era.