Shek Sau may be known for his dashing good looks now, but he was also once an adorable child actor named Chan Shek-sau. In the early stage of his acting career, Sau was always cast as the younger version of characters played by big stars like Ng Cho-fan and Cheung Ying. In The Seven Kids (1961), he finally attracted attention as a spoiled child in a rich family. Shek's most memorable roles as a child actor would come soon after, playing Kong Suet’s younger brother is Father is Back (1961) and the despicable rich boy in Garden of Repose (1964). From the gentle, timid nature of the former and the overbearing arrogance of the latter, one can see the impressive acting range Shek already had at a young age.
Josephine Siao Fong-fong
With her bright, round eyes and clean-cut appearance, Josephine Siao Fong-fong was one of the most popular and acclaimed child actors of her generation. Following her Best Child Actor award at the Southeast Asia Film Festival for The Maiden Girl (1955), Josephine immediately became the hottest young actor in the industry. Her roles in films like Nobody’s Child (1960), Filial Piety (1960), Motherly Love (1961) and The Search of Loved One (1961) showed off her expertise in playing the filial daughter or the poor orphan. Between the ages of seven and seventeen, Josephine acted in over 60 films, and she would continue to be a very popular actress in her adulthood. Josephine’s dedication to her craft, her education and her charity work make her more than just an actress, but a true superstar.
Connie Chan Po-chu
Connie Chan Po-chu studied Peking Opera under master Fen Juhua at nine years old and also became Yam Kim-fai’s formal apprentice the year after. During her Cantonese Opera training, Connie would often play male roles on stage, a casting choice that was carried into her film career later. In her debut film The Scout Master (1959), which will be screened as part of this programme, Connie strikes up plenty of comedic chemistry with the great Leung Sing-po. Later, Connie would become one of the “Seven Princesses” along with Wong Oi-ming, Fung Bo-bo and others. Connie would eventually grow from a child star into a household name, and her wide range of screen personas – from the masked assassin to the young idol – would even earn her the title “Movie Fan Princess”.
Hailing from a family of Cantonese Opera performers, Tsui Siu-ming entered the opera stage at a very early age. He began his acting career life at five years old under the guidance of opera star Fung Wong Nui, starting out as an extra. During his time as a child actor, Siu-ming acted in approximately 70-80 films, making him one of the most prolific child stars of his time. His performance in The Flaming Mountains (1962) not only showed off his physical talent, but also his gift for delivering dialogue. That special talent for words was even more apparent during his memorable monologue in Homeless Children (1964).
Unlike her spunky fellow child stars, Wong Oi-ming has always played the quiet and obedient type. Many of her roles are either the kind younger daughter or the poor girl struggling to survive with younger siblings in tow. Beneath Oi-ming’s adorable appearance seems to lay a layer of melancholy, as though her life is deprived of family warmth. Whether it’s the young daughter who reunites with her estranged mother in Deep in Love (1960) or the daughter who is sent away by her parents in The Great Devotion (1960), Oi-ming always has a way to break your heart with her roles. To this day, Oi-ming’s most acclaimed performance is in director Li Han-hsiang’s Back Door (1960), which even earned her the reputation as one of the best child stars in Asia.
Due to his training in martial arts and Cantonese Opera, Yuen Siu-fai was already a skilled performer and martial artist at a young age. When he began his Cantonese cinema career in 1953, Yuen was quickly dubbed “The Wonder Kid,” a name that would stay with him long into his career. Despite his limited presence in debut film Honor Thy Father and Mother (1953), Yuen quickly left an impression as the energetic and playful young grandchild. His much-lauded performances in Story of Father and Son (1954) and Parents’ Hearts (1955) soon made him a household name. Yuen later finds success in hugely popular fantasy period films including the Nazha and Monkey King series.
Sammo Hung is now a respected legend in the film industry, but one can still see hints of his childhood past as a clever, confident, but ultimately mischievous member of the Seven Little Fortunes troupe (which also includes Jackie Chan, Yuen Wah, Yuen Biao and others). In addition to his time studying under Peking Opera master Yu Zhanyuan. Sammo also inherited his talent for performing from his family. Young Sammo was already keen to show off his abilities at the age of 10 with a surprisingly complex performance in Education of Love (1960).
The son of two opera performers, Yu Kai began learning the craft at the age of four. Under his own “Yu Kai Troupe” banner, he performed as the lead actor in public venues like restaurants and gaming houses – an amazing feat for a seven-year-old. Dubbed “The Gifted Child,” Yu Kai was a multi-talented performer who could sing, fight and act in any type of role he embodies. Like his stage career, Yu Kai was already given a starring role in his first film Nazha’s Adventure at the East Ocean (1948). He followed his debut with other fantasy period roles as well as dramas like The Pauper King (1949) and The Orphan’s Rescue (1949).
Bruce Lee’s star may not have shone for very long, but he certainly shined the brightest. Before he hit superstardom as a martial arts star, Bruce was once a popular child actor in Hong Kong. In The Kid (1950) and In the Face of Demolition (1953), Bruce already showed talent for dominating a scene, hinting at the larger-than-life gravitas he would carry as an adult. Later, Bruce shows that the fighter can also play a lover with Thunderstorm (1957), the only romantic performance of his short acting career. In The Orphan (1960), Bruce played a rebellious bad boy who seemed to have taken a lesson or two fromJames Dean in Rebel without a Cause (1955). As his final film before going to the United States, The Orphan could not have been a better farewell for Bruce’s career as a child actor.
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