Drowsy Emperor Blogs
From Constantinople to Shanghai: The Original Drowsy Emperor

As we are launching the new website and many of you are, no doubt, unfamiliar with our little studio. I thought today I would share with you some of its history.

These days I am typically described as the founder and CEO of Drowsy Emperor and that, technically, is true; for this version of Drowsy Emperor anyway. But decades before this current iteration the original Drowsy Emperor came into being above a goldsmith’s shop back on a dusty Shanghai side street. My grandfather Selwyn Schrodinger founded that first Drowsy Emperor studio.

He was a photographer and early adopter of that new technology for moving pictures who left Constantinople with his family in 1928 to try his luck in booming Shanghai which, back then,  was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.

With the money taken from the sale of the family’s Constantinople photography studio and art gallery Selwyn Schrodinger plunged into Shanghai’s burgeoning film industry teaming with local Chinese entrepreneurs and talent. Success came quickly. After a series of “exotic China” travelogue shorts sold well in overseas theatre markets the first Drowsy Emperor decided to move beyond mere documentary footage and trained its sights on telling local stories geared to markets closer to home. 

The studio’s first major success outside the travelogue genre was a serial inspired by local hero Constable MeeMee Khang of the Shanghai Chinese Police or Shanghai Public Security Bureau as it was formally known.


The Khang series which continued in some form from 1931 to 1936 established DE as a major player in the Asian and Oceania markets and served as the trigger for some initial small co-production deals with major US and European studios.  Interestingly, because of his unique appearance, a deal was struck with the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, who recognized the public relations benefits of the relationship, whereby Khang played himself in the serials thus sparing the studio the difficulty of finding a look alike to play the constable.

On the basis of the success of the serials both in Shanghai and most of Asia and even some strong positive reactions to limited screenings in North America significant funding was raised for a major feature presentation showcasing the Constable Khang character but 3 months into production the Japanese invasion of 1937 and resulting complications led to the dissolution of the studio and mysterious disappearance of not only Selwyn Schrodinger and key Chinese business partners but even the man referred to these days as “The Original Khang”.

 But enough of the past. Next time -- back to the future.