Avenue of Stars – A Guide For The HK-Film Ignoramus Part 2
Back by popular demand (ha!) – and you thought I’d forgotten about it…
Alas no, here is part two of my idiot’s guide – part 1 found here – (photos courtesy of Thomas Podvin’s excellent HKCinemagic site unless otherwise stated) but in the meantime let’s get moving on with…
26. Chun Kim (1926 – 1969)
Chun started off as an Assistant Director in the 1940′s and is the first of our ‘stars’ (one of many it seems) to have ended his career by topping himself. Perhaps his greatest contribution was in his founding of the Kong Ngee Company which went on to introduce a plethora of famous names into the local industry. He was a writer of many films including “The Guiding Light” starring a young Bruce Lee, as well as many of the stars already mentioned previously (Wong Man-lei, Cheung Wood-yau, Ng Cho-fan etc). He was also a member of Shaws for the last few years before his death and had several famous hits there.
Another actress who someone feels is deserving of a much greater bio courtesy of wikipedia. To cut a long story short she was born in Beijing and her father was a famous Peking opera teacher called Yu Jim Yuen. This name may not mean much to you but if I mention that he was the man responsible for the “7 Little Fortunes” then it might just click into place. Yes, Yu So Chow’s father is the man that gave us Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biu, Yuen Wah, Cory Yuen etc.
Anyway, back to his daughter. She was at her peak of popularity in the mid-60′s when in true HK-style she was making upwards of 50 films a year. 170 of those were of the Wuxia (swordplay) genre. She is still alive and kicking at age 80.
Another prolific actor whose rotund appearance meant he played a lot of clownish characters. He was the first HK actor to be given an MBE (in 1976). His last film was made in 1978 and he died 3 years later in 1981.
According to other sites I’ve searched, Tang started his career in radio during the forties before moving to HK in 1950 (obviously another one who didn’t want to stick around and see how the Commies would fair). In HK he joined Rediffusion, which later became ATV, and hosted his own show whilst simultaneously making a start in the movies. I’ll be honest, I’ve been through his whole filmography and don’t recognise a single film he was in which should show aficionados just how ignorant I truly am. But having said that, once I saw his photo I did recognise him from somewhere, just can’t remember where. He retired to Canada in 1975 and made the odd return trip for work before finally passing away in the US in 1991.
Aka Tang Pik Wan, another vastly prolific star from the 50′s and 60′s who just churned out film after film over a period of two decades.One of the reasons for this, like many other similar actors, is that she was an opera performer who starred in a plethora of quick-to-shoot films versions of existing operas and comedies. In other words there was no need to spend time rehearsing stuff she had already spent years performing on stage.
She took a sabbatical in the 70′s and returned to the silver screen in a film I saw many years ago when Channel 4 was hosting a HK season back in the late 80s’: “Esprit D’Amour” starring Alan “purple hair” Tam. Tang played Alan’s mum.
Another star who started training in Cantonese Opera. I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of Cantonese opera (or any Chinese opera) – I find it utterly, utterly tedious and ear-bleedingly hard to listen to – but it seems that the early years of the HK film industry consisted largely of famous opera stars (like Tang Bik-wan above) making a transition to film by virtue of acting in filmed versions of the operas they performed on stage. The difference with Fong is that she seems to be the only one who was still alive for the inauguration of the “Avenue of Stars” and managed to leave her hand prints. I can’t find any reference to her passing so I can only assume she is still around.
32. Miranda Yang (1932 – )
More commonly known as Ha Meng, Miranda Yang was born in Shanghai but moved to HK at the age of 15 where she attended the Mary Knoll Convent School in Kowloon Tong (a school which is still around and has an interesting history of its own). In 1950 she visited the studio of the Great Wall company and was talent-spotted by the crew. She was invited to join the studio and thus became a professional actor at the age of 17.
Seems as though Miranda was a bit of a Leftie and a favorite on the mainland, but after witnessing the chaos caused by the Cultural Revolution she decided to distance herself from the scene. This involved leaving HK for a few years and when returning she instead opted to go into the garment industry. She did eventually return to film-making but behind the scenes as a producer. One of her productions was the acclaimed “Boat People” directed by Ann Hui and starring a young Andy Lau (Christ! that guy is in almost everything these days).
Linda Ching is actually known more by her stage name Lin Dai. In one of those almost incestuous links you find a lot in the HK film, she was the godmother of Fung Bo Bo (see # 47 below). She was totally and completely hot stuff during the 60′s but is perhaps more famous now for her suicide aged 30 at the peak of her fame. In fact, I believe her grave is in one of the cemeteries in Happy Valley, so at some point I may be able to visit and get a snap of the grave for those who are interested.
A native of Guangxi, she moved to HK in 1948 (aged 14) and ended up joining Great Wall (same place as # 32 Miranda Yang) for a year before leaving and joining Yung Hwa. I seem to remember reading somewhere that she committed suicide whilst working for Shaws leaving behind two uncompleted films. Seems as though, like many iconic stars who died young, her immortality is assured.
Also known by the English name of Bowie, here is a face I do recognise even if the name evokes no memories – actually, don’t say anything but he looks a lot like one of my neighbours (although my neighbour is called Peter and owns 3 Chinese restaurants in Bolton, so I’m pretty sure it’s not really him).
Like so many of his peers, Woo Fung’s career started in HK in the early 50′s and continues to this day. I say today because I was flicking through one of the mother-in-law’s free local papers the other day (as you do, looking at the pictures) and lo-and-behold there was Mr Woo starring in a Manning’s advert – though not on the website I hasten to add (argh, I just can’t resist it any longer…cue George Formby strumming his ukelele singing “oh Mr. Woo, what shall I do I’m feeling kind of Limehouse Chinese laundry blue…“).
Anyway, I digress (as usual). He was honoured in 2003 with a Golden Bauhinia Lifetime achievement award.
To be honest, this was one I was expecting to be a bloke and it turned out to be a woman – *sigh* – am I beyond help? Also going under the various names of Yau-man, Yau-mun and various alternatives, but opting for the English name of Lucilla. She was the daughter of a famous Cantonese opera star (obviously famous to anyone who knows anything about Cantonese opera at least).
Once again, she started her movie career in the early 50′s, but her career was relatively short-lived and she retired in 1964 after getting married (happens a lot, who can forget the exit of Michelle Yeoh from the scene in 1988 when she married ‘Harvey Nichols’ boss Dickson Poon – thankfully for us she kicked his arse out the door and returned to film-making a few years later).
She started her career in Shaws but then defected to MP&GI (Cathay) who were Shaw’s main rivals before going out of business in the late 60′s. Perhaps her best-known achievement was to be the first ever best actress at the inaugural Golden Horse awards in 1962.
Perhaps better known these days (to the younger generation at least) for being the father of Nicholas Tse (husband of Cecilia Cheung) – the same generation that would perhaps better know him as the coach of the Evil Team in 2001′s “Shaolin Soccer”. Anyway, Tse has been active in the local film industry from the early 1950′s. A good example of the typical work-rate of actors during that period is that Tse starred in 72 films between 1955 and 1968 – all for one company. It was definitely for love and not money in the early days of HK Cinema.
Even today he pops up on the odd show with his trademark slickback hair (and a very natty ponytail that reminds me of an episode of “Only Fools and Horses“) and sunglasses.
It’s funny but looking back on all these actors, the HK film industry is almost like a microcosm of the wider society – most of the early players were Mainland Chinese who had come to HK to escape whatever restrictions they found back in the homeland. Li was no different. Hailing from Liaoning he came to HK in 1948 and embarked on his fledgling career in the fledgling movie industry. It wasn’t long before he was directing his own pictures and moved to Shaw’s.
Li was a restless soul it seems and spent time contributing to the film industries of not only HK but also Taiwan (where he helped found Grand Studios) before moving back to HK and then back to the Mainland in the early 80′s.
Loke’s is a name that everyone should know because he was the founder of the Cathay Organisation in Malaysia. Cathay of course were huge in the film industry where they operated under the name MP&GI. Cathay eventually lost the ‘battle of the studios’ to Shaw’s and went out of the production business – paving the way for their former studios in Hammer Hill to be taken over by Messrs Chow and Ho for Golden Harvest (as mentioned in this post not so long ago). Loke was lucky enough to have won the parent lottery because his father was none other than the (Chinese born) Malaysian rubber plantation tycoon, Loke Yew. When his illustrious forebear kicked the bucket, Wan Tho took over at the helm until his own unfortunate death in a plane crash in 1964.
I have to admit that Roy Chiao is one of my favourite actors, probably because he was in most of the films I watched as I was growing up – Righting Wrongs, Bloodsport, Enter the Dragon, Dragons Forever, The Protector and even Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which actually used a street in Macau as it’s Shanghai-setting at the start of the film – more about that in a later post).
I already knew Roy was a qualified pilot (from Paul Heller’s informative but often factually incorrect “Enter the Dragon” commentary) but I had no idea he spoke fluent Japanese and Korean as well as English and a whole bunch of different Chinese languages .
40. Patricia Lam Fung (1939 – 1976)
Another one who died relatively young at the age of 37 (young for me cause I hit my fifth decade this year) at her own hands. At the time she was a superstar having starred in over a hundred movies (about 30 of which were as a standard contract actress at Shaws before going freelance). She had her own film company and fashion house as well as a singing career – multi-talented – and gave it all up at the even younger age of 26 to settle down for marriage and family.
Actually, her death is contentious. She died from a sleeping pill overdose but it seems to have never been confirmed whether it was intentional or not. Regardless, she blazed a trail through the early years of the HK film industry and stills has many fans. Durian Dave has a great collection of blog posts with “Teen Fashion” postcards of Lam Fung on them, check them out here.
A name that should be familiar to all fans of 1960′s/70′s kungfu films simply because this man was responsible for directing most of them. Chance are if you are a fan of the genre you will have seen more than a few of his films he made whilst working for Shaws: The Five Venoms, Golden Swallow, One -armed Boxer, Men from the Monastery (and even an AD role on the Hammer/Shaws co-production “Legend of the 7 golden Vampires”). The list is too large to put here but suffice to say his influence and contribution to the development of the HK film industry is without question.
A name I recognised but not being able to put a face to it. However, once I saw a snap I immediately recognised Yuen as the drug boss from JC’s “Police Story” (the one who gets totally punched and kicked into a shopping trolley in the finale – filmed at Wing On Plaza on Mody Rd).
Yun (or more commonly Yuen – damn this non-standardised Cantonese romanisation shit) was born in Guangzhou the son of a famous actor called Zhang Huo-you. He started off as a scriptwriter but in a career progression that encompasses almost all aspects of film making he found success as an actor and director. In this latter role one of his most famous films was “The House of 72 Tenants” – a who’s who of early 70′s HK actors that was recently remade by Eric Tsang under the name of “72 Tenants of Prosperity”. The original was the top grossing film of 1973.
Update: A snippet of info from the ever reliable Thomas: Chor Yuen is in fact the son of #11 Cheung Wood Yau (Zhang Huo-you). Here is a snap of him again – can you spot a family resemblance? I think so.
At last, a name I recognise even if not the face. I remember first reading about Kung Hu in Bey Logan’s “HK Action Cinema” book in the mid-90′s and not long after “A Touch of Zen” was shown on UK television (can’t remember when though). It made a big impression at the 1975 Cannes film festival and won the Technique Award.
Hu, a native of Beijing, moved to HK in 1949 and started off in set design before venturing into acting and then finally directing. It was his latter role that he made most impact on the industry and was responsible for several seminal films including the aforementioned “A Touch of Zen” as well as “Dragon Gate Inn” and “Come Drink With Me”.
Ling Po was born in Shantou, but also lived in Xiamen (called Amoy at the time) before moving to Hong Kong. Information on her early life is contradictory but it seems as though the move to HK occurred in 1950 and a year later, at the age of 12, she appeared in her first film.
She was seemingly ‘discovered’ by Li Han Hsiang (#37) during a dubbing session for Shaws and was went on to be cast in what seems to be a seminal Chinese movie – The Love Eterne – directed by Li and assisted by King Hu (see #43 above).
What’s interesting about Ivy’s early career is that she starred in a whole bunch of Hokkien movies. For those who don’t know, Hokkien is a Chinese language that originates in Fujian Province (one of several languages in the area). It has a very large spread thanks to mass migration, often by boat, of Fujianese into places such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan (in fact one of my good Chinese friends back in London is of Hokkien stock) – so it’s understandable that there would be a demand for films made in this language. In HK, most of the so-called boat people whom lived in various places around the territory were Fujianese, but here they tend to be known as Hoklo (or in Cantonese Fuk-Lo). There actually used to be a very large Hoklo community here in Tai Po who lived around Yuen Chau Tsai but were moved into the Kwong Fuk housing estate when the area was reclaimed. The Tai Wong Yeh temple is still the main place of worship for them.
Well, there you go again, a bit of a digression but I hope it was an informative one. Ivy retired to Canada in the late 80′s but made a return to the screen in 2005 when she acted in “Rice Rhapsody” made by her son, Kenneth Bi.
45. Connie Chan (1946 – )
A native of Guangzhou who was adopted at an early age because her parents couldn’t afford to raise her – a common occurrence in Chinese society as I have mentioned on other posts (my mother-in-law had similar experiences as a child). However, Chan’s experience was fortuitous because her adoptive parents just happened to be very successful and well-known Cantonese opera performers: Chan Fei-nung and Kung Fan-hung. As a result Connie was given training in the arts which put her in good stead to enter the film industry later on (as you will have seen from many of the personalities on the Avenue of Stars, a great many had formal training in opera and still participated in it as well as having parallel film and TV careers).
Connie Chan starred in quite a few films opposite another famous femme Josephine Siao (see #46 below) and her godfather was the late god of gamblers Tso Tat-wah (see #7 in part 1)
Incidentally, I just noticed that Yvonne at Webs of Significance has a nice post that includes Connie.
Siao moved to HK from China at the early age of two and it wasn’t long before she was acting in films mainly because her mum was skint and needed the money she would earn. As a mature actor she was absolutely huge in HK and is famous for her many Jane Bond style movies for Shaw Bros in the 1960′s.
Despite a hearing problem in her right ear from an early age, she also made quite a hit as a singer and thanks to the reliable and informative DurianDave you can sample a taster on his previously mentioned (and totally excellent – please Dave, don’t stop!) Soft Film website. Oops!, and before I forget here is his Connie Chan stuff.
Her work rate during her 60′s heyday was phenomenal with over 200 films completed in that decade alone. Not surprising she tried to retire from the limelight during her twenties and went to the USA for a short sojourn before being tempted back into the film world. She was made an M.B.E in 1996.
Fung Bo Bo is one of those people with links all over the film industry. Jackie Chan fans will know of both her father and brother because they co-starred in many of his earlier films. Her father Fung Fung was the elderly actor with the paralyzed face who starred next to JC in “Dragon Lord” and Young Master (in the latter you will remember he gets a complete trouncing from Whang In Sik before making JC drink all the water in his opium pipe). Her brother Fung Hak-On is a very familiar also from multiple roles with JC – usually as a baddy. He was also the weird Tefal-headed Praying Mantis bad guy in “Warriors Two” and, more recently, the Mantis master in Donnie Yen’s “Ip Man 2″.
Anyway, related trivia aside, the daughter of the Fung Clan was a regular player from 1960 when she had her first role as a small 6 year old. She went on to make over 100 movies throughout that first decade before heading off to the UK for study.
She returned to the film and TV industry after her studios and continued until her retirement to Malaysia in the late 1990′s.
Another bit of trivia that I heard from Spanish Bruce Lee author Marcos Ocaña is that one of the Fung sisters (sorry, can’t remember which one – either Bo-bo or Su-bo) own the rights to the colour version of Bruce Lee’s last childhood film “The Orphan”. It’s a rare print you can watch at the HKFA but so far no one has thought to give it a general release.
More commonly known as just Wang Yu, Jimmy was Chinese born and spent his school years in Shanghai before making the move to HK in 1960. He was a huge star in the 60′s and 70′s but I first knew of him when I watched “One Armed Boxer” – just one of the many classic Shaw’s films for which he became famous. His private life made him equally famous basically because he was a bit of a brawler and alleged…well, let’s just say that his private life was no more full of controversy than people like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, although a murder charge in Taiwan (albeit the case was dropped for lack of evidence) may just put him down there in a class of his own.
49. Tommy Ti Lung (1946 – )
I think it was a Ti Lung vehicle that was partially responsible, along with Enter the Dragon and The Man with the Golden Gun, for my early childhood fascination with all things Hong Kong. I have no idea when or where but I do have a vague recollection of seeing Ti Lung in “Shatter” with Stuart Whitman and being drawn in by the HK scenery and the semi-Bruce-like aura that Ti Lung emitted.
A Wing Chun man by training, Lung was picked up by Shaw’s and starred in a whole host of productions throughout the 70′s and 80′s. He suffered a run of the doldrums when he left Shaw’s but was launched back into the limelight when he co-starred with Chow Yun Fat in John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow”.
Another name who you can still see on HK TV sometimes doing TV adverts for oldies (joint remedies and the like). There is a great interview with him on Alan Whicker’s excellent Shaw Doc (on Youtube) but I think the first time I saw Mr Chiang properly was as one of the local protagonists in the Hammer/Shaw’s co-production “The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires“. I seem to remember it being shown as part of a Hammer season during the mid-80′s. I was used to watching Bruce and Jackie at the time so the action was way below par for me back then but I look at these older films in a different light now and see other aspects that I missed previously.
Anyway, Chiang was one of THE Shaw’s stalwarts during the 70′s and appeared in a whole plethora of kungfu and Wuxia films for the studios.
So there you go, that’s part 2. As you can see a common thread that pops out (for me at least) is that many of the stars here came to the industry in the early 50′s – I guess largely in part because of the political shenanigans going on over the border. The one good thing is that a large portion of the people above were/are alive to provide their real hand-prints for the “Sad Boulevard of Post-SARS Desperation to Kick Start Tourism “. Actually, that’s quite a catchy name and I may continue to use it. Part 3 coming soon (I bet you just can’t wait can you?).