Aug - Sept 2014:
Elvis Presley of the East
He may not have been naturally handsome, but Cheng Kwunmin earned the nickname “Elvis Presley of the East” with his stylish Pompadour hairstyle, charming smile, a pair of cashewshaped eyes, his always playful mannerisms and superb talent for performance.
Born to a well-to-do family, Cheng graduated from of the prestigious Wah Yan College. Against his family’s wishes, Cheng entered a theatre troupe and later joined Radio Macau as an announcer. In 1937, Cheng made his film debut with The Three-day Massacre in Guangzhou. After playing mostly villainous parts early in his career, Cheng later switched to comedic roles. With over 200 films under his belt, Cheng was a versatile actor who could play heroes, villains, straight men and comic relief in both period and contemporary films. He gained even greater popularity when he began acting in television in the 1960s, seen by audiences on a daily basis. In addition to his acting career, Cheng was also a local cultural icon as a popular Cantopop singer, performing Cantonese covers of popular Western songs and Cantonese opera songs with English lyrics. With themes like pursuing small-time dreams and courting girls, his music was known for their down-to-earth, grassroots flavour.
It’s been two decades since “Uncle Min” left us, but his most memorable works have always stayed in our hearts and minds. To pay tribute to this talented performer, the Hong Kong Film Archive is screening nine of his films, covering genres like comedies, dramas, youth musicals, Cantonese opera musical and even martial arts. The five films in August will showcase Cheng’s villainous roles, while the four films in September incorporate Cheng as the hero or the comic relief. We thank Uncle Min for leaving behind a rich body of work, and hope this retrospective will serve as our most sincere tribute to him.
The Morning Matinee series is guest-curated by film researcher Yuen Tsz-ying
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