Charles Chaplin was a major influence on Hong Kong comedies. The Tramp, the bumbling character in most of his films, was so endearing to audiences that imitators would appear on our screens over and over again throughout the years.
The films would feature a character named Charlie, complete with almost identical renditions of Chaplin's iconic costume - baggy pants, tight jacket, huge shoes, walking stick and a ragtag moustache on his face. Like the Tramp, he is a kind heart surviving tough times with humor and dignity, though, if necessary, he won't shy from using tricks to ensure survival. Hong Kong audiences, with vivid memories or real-life experiences of difficult times, readily identified with him.
Yee Chau-shui's Song Girl White Peony (1939) was likely the first of many films featuring the Hong Kong Charlie. It was so successful that the Tramp would be reincarnated many times, several of them featuring Yee, such as The Great Dictator (1950), the surviving print of which was in great need of restoration. The character continued to appear in the 1960s and as recent as 1980s, when Hong Kong was well into our fabled economic miracle.
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