Based on a novel by a Polish expatriate, S. Rosen-hoa ("Ho Ro-se"), who had married a Chinese engineer, Love and Duty became one of the first films produced by the leftist Lianhua Film Company.
The film was very popular for its day, in no small part due to the pairing of Ruan, who was already a darling of the Shanghai film industry, and Jin Yan, a Korean-born actor who was one of the major leading men in early Chinese cinema.
The film tells the story of Yang Naifan (Ruan Lingyu) who runs from her arranged marriage to be with her true love, Li Zuyi (Jin Yan). The film details the poverty she must endure for breaking with tradition.
For many years the film was believed lost, until a complete print was discovered in Uruguay in the 1990s. The rediscovered print was shipped over to Taiwan in 1993 and is now housed at the Taipei Film Archive. Since its rediscovery, the film has made its rounds in film festivals and Chinese cinema retrospectives around the world. In 2014, Love and Duty underwent a 2K digital restoration under Italy's L'Immagine Ritrovata, after which it was screened at the Shanghai Film Festival that same year.
Love and Duty has been remade twice, in 1938 and 1955. The first was from the wartime Shanghai "Orphan Island" studio Xinhua Film Company, again directed by Bu Wancang, with Jin Yan reprising his earlier role and Yuan Meiyun in the role originally created by Ruan Lingyu. The second remake was by the Hong Kong Shaw Brothers Studio. Both remakes were Mandarin dialect sound films.