Choi Eun-hee was already one of the biggest stars of the fifties and sixties before she made the first of her three films, Daughter-In-Law, in 1965. Her husband, Shin Sang-ok, already a major film director and producer, was just about to establish Korea’s largest studio, Shin Films. It may be hard to judge what degree of creativity Choi herself brought to the rather conventional and melodramatic story; the script was based on a popular radio series. While even her acting skills may not persuade us that Jeomsun really is a twenty-something, the relationship which develops between Choi/Jeomsun and the little master conveys a real sense of warmth and affection. The film was a success.

Jeomsun’s widowed mother has reluctantly sent her precious daughter off to serve as nanny/big sister to the young scion of a wealthy yangban (ruling class) family. Jeomsun will eventually become the brat’s wife and, it is hoped, produce male heirs for an otherwise childless household. The mother-in-law is a classic: bossy, often cruel. Yet a bond of real affection develops between the boy and young woman. It will be put to the test when Jeomsun is about to be driven out of her adopted home. Already a much-loved diva, Choi seems to have taken some persuading to step behind the camera for this melodrama lightened with humour, the first of three films she would direct. She could draw upon resources other women directors might only dream of: a whole film studio and its troupe of established character actors. Almost forty, she carried off the role of ingenue Jeomsun with style, winning a major award for best actress.

Watch here from 14 May: Youtube