This year, the 20th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) dedicates its 'Hong Kong Cinema Retrospective' section to 'The Restless Breed: Cantonese Stars of the Sixties', or more precisely, to the new stars emerged from Cantonese movies in the Sixties.
The Sixties were the most productive years in the history of Hong Kong cinema, with a total output of over 2,200 feature films, of which 1,552 were in Cantonese. That is to say, the Cantonese film industry alone put out an annual average of some 150 films during this decade; it peaked at 211 films in 1961 which was the single most productive year ever.
More films naturally means more actors and actresses. In consequence, the Sixties were also fertile in movie stars.
As in the previous years, this year's 'Hong Kong Cinema Retrospective' section of the HKIFF cannot but cover only a limited quantity of films (less than 40), and thereby also only a limited number of Cantonese movie stars of the Sixties.
Therefore, the Hong Kong Film Archive has decided to organize an exhibition at the City Hall Exhibition Hall, entitled 'Superstars of Cantonese Movies of the Sixties' during this year's HKIFF and as a complement to it, so as to provide the public with more extensive and detailed information about the most popular movie stars in Hong Kong three decades ago.
Why 'superstars' and not 'new stars'? The reason is simply that the new stars spawn by Cantonese cinema in the Sixties were too numerous to be encompassed by the present exhibition and catalogue. We can, therefore, only include the most popular ones among them.
But what is a 'superstar'? It designates generally someone - in this case, a movie actor or actress - who is a household name familiar to almost everybody in the society.
Now, if every superstar had to be a 'new star' before attaining the status of 'super', not every new star can eventually become a superstar.
How did the selection of 'superstars' presented in this exhibition come about? Those who emerged and rose to super-stardom in the Sixties, such as Miu Kam-fung, Pak Yan, Lui Kei and Alan Tang Kwong-wing, fall naturally into the category.
But there were also a number of stars who had made their début on the screen in the Fifties or even Forties before gaining household popularity in the Sixties. Should we include them in our list? That was the first question we had to answer during the preparation of the present exhibition.
In order to solve this problem, we began by compiling a chronological filmography of each of the stars shortlisted for consideration, whereby to compare quantitatively as well as popularity-wise the successive periods of their respective cinematographic careers.
The results show, contrary to what we had earlier thought, the Patrick Tse Yin, Wu Fung, Lam Kar-sing, Lam Fung, Ka Ling, Nam Hung were superstars of the Sixties, for not only the majority of their films, but also their most critically acclaimed and box-office-wise successful ones, were made in this period.
Once we had thus determined who were and who were not 'Superstars of the Sixties', a second question arose: how many stars could we present in the present exhibition and catalogue?
After careful studies and calculations, we came to the conclusion that 27 would be the optimum number. As there were more than 27 superstars in the Sixties, we had to go through a long and painful procedure of selection, comparison and elimination, before arriving at our final choice. It comprises 11 male stars (namely Patrick Tse Yin, Wu Fung, Cheung Ying-tsoi, Chow Tsung, Kong Hon, Lung Kong, Chu Kong, Lui Kei, Tsang Kong, Tam Bing-man and Alan Tang Kwong-wing), 12 female stars (namely Lam Fung, Nam Hung, Ka Ling, Kong Suet, Ha Ping, Ting Ying, Pak Yan, Miu Kam-fung, Suet Nei, Connie Chan Po-chu, Josephine Siao Fong-fong and Sit Kar-yin), two opera stars (Lam Kar-sing and Ng Kwun-lai) and two child stars (Bobo Fung and Wong Oi-ming). Obviously, by limiting thus our choice to these 27 stars only, we had to, to our great regret, exclude many others.
Once our choice made, we needed then to decide on the presentation. We were quick to realize that, given the limited space of the exhibition, the presentation had to be concise and right to the point.
After careful consideration, we decided that the career of each of our 27 stars should be illustrated.
-- by words, i.e. a brief biography and photo captions;
-- by images, i.e. personal photos and film stills representing as extensively as possible the screen career of each of the stars: début on the screen and first leading role, the film that brought him or her to stardom as well as other major films, award-winning performances, most recent work, etc, totaling 6 to 18 photos for each of them, depending on the actual quantity of films they have ever made respectively, and the availability of related photos and stills.
-- by objects, i.e. awards, film costumes, records of original soundtracks, their artistic æuvres such as paintings and calligraphies and publications on or related to them.
In order to assure accuracy and pertinence in our choice, and also in the hope of procuring more materials for the exhibition, we called on the starts on our list who were present in Hong Kong.
Armed with the filmography of each of them that we had prepared beforehand, we asked them each to shortlist 12 to 16 of his (or her) films that he (or she) considered most important: his (or her) débuts, the film that established his (or her) fame, those which have won him (or her) awards or which he (or she) liked most or considered most satisfactory. We also asked them to lend us exhibitable objects from their personal collection, such as awards, costumes, records and film stills, etc.
We were thus able to consult one by one Patrick Tse Yin, Wu Fung, Cheung Ying-tsoi, Chow Tsung, Kong Hon, Lam Kar-sing, Tam Bing-man, Nam Hung, Josephine Siao Fong-fong, Pak Yan, Sit Kar-yin, Bobo Fung, Wong Oi-ming, as well as, quite accidentally, Suet Nei and Connie Chan Po-chu who had emigrated but were back to Hong Kong on visit. They compiled attentively their respective shortlists of films, and, notably Josephine Siao Fong-fong, Wong Oi-ming, Sit Kar-yin, Bobo Fung, Nam Hung, Pak Yan, Wu Fung, Lam Kar-sing, Connie Chan Po-chu and Patrick Tse Yin, generously lent us precious objects from their personal collection. What deserves especially a mention here is that Mr Lam Kar-sing has sent a special envoy to bring us two souvenirs handmade and presented to him by his fans, and that Mr Patrick Tse has couriered to us from Canada precious stills and posters of some of his films.
Of all the objects lent by our stars to the exhibition, most noteworthy are the folding fan inlaid with greenbacks offered to Ms Nam Hung by her fans abroad, the gold medal and the huge commemorative cup Ms Sit Kar-yin received in Malaysia, the Silver Bear Award Ms Josephine Siao received from the Berlin Film Festival, and the banknote-inlaid emblem of Lam Kar-sing's fan club. We thank them earnestly for their support.
We also have to thank Mr Tse Pak-keung, Mr Shu Kei, the Tsui Hark Film Workshop Company Limited, Art Concept International Ltd., Mr Yau Leung, Mr Lo Chi-ying and Mr Lai Kit, etc, without whose generous assistance it would have been difficult to procure stills from the début and recent films of everyone of our 27 stars, especially stills featuring them respectively.
It is regrettable that a number of exhibits, such as Mr Lam Kar-sing's vase of flowers made of banknotes and Ms Connie Chan Po-chu's records, cannot be shown in the present catalogue, as they have as yet reached us.
In order to extend our knowledge and understanding of the Cantonese movie stars of the Sixties, we have invited two well-known writers and film critics, Messrs. Sek Kei and Ng Ho, each to contribute an article on the topic to the present catalogue. They have acceded to our request notwithstanding their busy schedules. To both of them we express hereby our gratitude.
Last but not least, we thank sincerely all our friends who have supported and lent a helping hand to the preparation of the present exhibition.
Hong Kong Film Archive