A Virtual Tour of the Paramount Ballroom, 1930s Shanghai's Finest Dance Palace

In 2004 I made these short films discussing the history of the Paramount Ballroom, Shanghai’s finest ballroom in the 1930s.  Since the 1950s the ballroom has undergone many renovations and been retooled for many different uses (movie theater, karaoke parlor, etc.) but now once again operates a ballroom for ballroom dancing, though the main dance floor since 2006 has operated as an ultra-modern disco.  You can visit the Paramount today at its original location.  The original structure is largely intact, and people come from all over Asia to get a glimpse of this fabulous, semi-mythological space (only to be disappointed by its Christmas-cakey exterior and rococo interior—though I’ve gotta admit the disco is pretty nice for what it is).  The only evidence of its original beautiful Art Deco design-work are the photos that I present in these films, taken from a period architectural journal.  I also discuss who went to the ballroom and what happened to it over the decades.  

In honor of the upcoming film Shanghai starring John Cusack and Gong Li, I have relaunched these films on Youtube.  Word has it that the Paramount Ballroom makes an appearance in their film.  Viewers may watch my films and compare the original ballroom to that designed by the filmmakers on a set stage in London (or Bangkok?).  Certainly there would be no way to incorporate the Paramount of today into their film, as it looks nothing like it did back then.  Let’s hope they do better than the people who renovated the real Paramount in the early 2000s.  By the way, don’t forget that in 1941 the Paramount Ballroom operated as a taxi-dance hall!  Gong Li will be familiar with this type of establishment, since she starred in Zhang Yimou’s film Shanghai Triad (1995) as a cabaret singer in a 1930s Shanghai dance hall.  Now, once again, we will get to see her as a Shanghai gangster’s paramour.  Let’s hope she still fits into that tight qipao : )