Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Avenue of Stars: A Guide For The HK Film Ignoramus Part 2

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). I should quickly point out that some of the "stars" who were living when I first did this post back in March 2011 (wow! three years has gone quickly hasn't it?)
may have passed away in the intervening time. Still being an ignoramus (sadly the enlightenment achieved by this post was short-lived) I may have left out a few bucket-kickings without realising so please feel free to let me know otherwise. So let's carry on where we left off at number 26.

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. An additional note from Yvonne again was that many of his films were directed for the Union film company (this is the company that occupied the Hammer Hill site before Cathay took it over, followed by Golden Harvest). There was a Union film retrospective during 2011's HK International Film Festival.

27. Yu So Chow (1930 – )

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+.

28. Leung Sing Po (1908 – 1981)

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. Before he made the move to the silver screen he was an accomplished Cantonese Opera performer.

29. Tang Kei Chen (1912 – 1991)

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, a great example of how truly ignorant I am. He retired to Canada in 1975 and made the odd return trip for work before finally passing away in the US in 1991.

30. Tang Bik Wan (1924 – 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.

31. Fong Yim Fun (1926 – )

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.

Courtesy: HKMDB

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.

It 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.

33. Linda Ching (1934 – 1964)

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 (the same place as 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. It seems as though, like many iconic stars who died young, her immortality is assured.

34. Woo Fung (1932 – )

Also known by the English name of 'Bowie', here is a face I do recognise courtesy of the fact that he mugs it up for the cameras in a whole bunch of annoying adverts on local TV and newpapers. He must have done something of better quality because he was honoured, in 2003, with a Golden Bauhinia Lifetime achievement award. Or perhaps his lifetime achievement was to be annoying? If so, mission accomplished and an award well-earned.

35. You Min (1935 – 1996)

She acted under the names of Yau-man, Yau-mun and various alternatives, but opted for the English name of Lucilla. She was the daughter of a famous Cantonese opera star whose name escapes me.

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 to them all: Angela Mao Ying, Michelle Yeoh to name a couple).

Starting her career in Shaws, she defected to rival studio MP&GI (Cathay). Perhaps her best-known achievement was to be the first ever best actress at the inaugural Golden Horse awards in 1962.

36. Patrick Tse Yin (1936 – )

Perhaps better known these days (to the younger generation at least) for being the father of Nicholas Tse (ex-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. I was catching up on some old school Golden Harvest flicks not so long ago and saw him swashing his large buckle in The Blade Fears None with Nora Miao and James Tien. He was a fairly athletic actor in his younger years (as most HK film stars have to be).

These days he just looks a bit too cheesy with his greased back pony tail and big cigars but still seems to be going strong despite the recent publicly revealed shenanigans of his former daughter-in-law.

37. Li Han Hsiang (1926 – 1996)

Hailing from Liaoning he came to HK in 1948 and embarked on his fledgling career in the also 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.

38. Loke Wan Tho (1915 – 1964)

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 and at the time were the main rivals to Shaws. It was a rivalry that eventually saw Shaws come out on top due to the unfortunate early demise of this man, and several of the company's senior staff, in a plane crash in 1964. Their former studios on Hammer Hill Road were eventually taken over by Golden Harvest in a deal that saw GH guarantee exclusivity to Cathay for the South East Asian distribution rights of GH's films. Loke was the son of the (Chinese born) Malaysian rubber plantation tycoon, Loke Yew.

39. Roy Chiao (1927 – 1999)

I have to admit that Roy Chiao is one of my favourite actors, probably because he seemed to be the most recognisable Chinese guy 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. But I've since been able to watch him in some more local films such as The Fate of Lee Khan where he was also able t show his impressive physical abilities as well.

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. I've had the pleasure of speaking to Chaplin Chang, one of Roy's former friends, who says that Roy was a truly great human being and an absolute gentleman.

Courtesy of Warner Bros

40. Patricia Lam Fung (1939 – 1976)

Another one who died relatively young at the age of 37 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.

41. Chang Cheh (1923 – 2002)

A name that should be familiar to all fans of 1960′s/70′s kung fu 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 he even had 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.

42. Chor Yuen (1934 – )

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).

Yuen was born in Guangzhou the son of a famous actor Cheung Wood-yau (see #11). 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. It was the top grossing film of 1973, beating Bruce Lee's Way of the Dragon. He was quite prevalent in the local soft-porn scene as well and has a few dubious titles under his to speak.

43. King Hu (1931 – 1997)

At last, a name I recognise, 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. He set up his production house in Yau Yat Chuen in Kowloon in the early 70's and was one of the first directors to obtain funding from Golden Harvest to make titles such as The Valiant Ones and The Fate of Lee Khan in a model of film production that would define GH's business going forward.

44. Ivy Ling Po (1939 – )

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). The Hokkien film industry was big in the late 50's and 60's due to huge overseas demand from large Fujianese populations in Singapore, Malaysia, The Philippines and Taiwan amongst others.

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. 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)

Incidentally, I just noticed that Yvonne at Webs of Significance has a nice post that includes Connie, and here is a link to Chan related stuff over at Soft Film.

46. Josephine Siao Fong Fong (1947 – )

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 could 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 you can sample a taster, again,  over at Durian Dave's Soft Film website.

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. She is also the founder of the End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation:

47. Fung Bo Bo (1954 – )

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 The 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 throughout the 70's and 80's – usually as a baddy. Most notably in my memory was his portrayal and the weird Tefal-headed Praying Mantis bad guy in Warriors Two and, more recently, portrayed the Mantis master in Ip Man 2, fighting Donnie Yen on a restaurant tabletop.

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 studies and continued until her retirement to Malaysia in the late 1990′s.

48. Jimmy Wong Yue (1944 – )

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 big star in the 70′s and I recently reacquainted myself with perhaps his most famous role as the One Armed Boxer. Quite a brutal film, but his on screen fighting lacks the finesse we see in Bruce Lee films which is why he got a bit miffed when Bruce came back to HK. It's widely known in the film industry that he deliberately fermented a bit of discontent between Lee and Lo Wei. His private life made him equally famous as a bit of a brawler and he was implicated in a murder case in Taiwan although the charges against him were later dropped due to lack of evidence.

49. Ti Lung (1946 – )

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. He still lives in HK in a village house near to the old Movietown studios in Clearwater Bay.

50. David Chiang (1947 – )

Sometimes called David, sometimes called John but Chiang's face is a familiar one to anybody who has watched a Shaws kung fu film. He was from a well-known cinematic family (his mother was the actress Hung Mei and his father was Yim Fa and he is the brother of Paul Chin-pei, Derek Yee and Law Wai-chu) and thus had an early start in film as a child actor before joining Shaws as a stuntman and extra. Personally, he always looked a bit feeble in his fight scenes because he was so small and skinny, but the audiences loved him. Although he emigrated to Vancouver many years ago, he still crops up on local TV in adverts and those long running TV series that Hong Konger's seem to love. He's also still active in film making both in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Well, almost halfway down the Avenue now, part 3 coming soon...

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