A legendary figure in the Hong Kong cinema, Linda Lin Dai, four-time winner of the Asian Film Festival Best Actress Award, was not only a beautiful superstar but a versatile actress. She appeared in vastly different roles, from historical beauties to village lasses to modern city girls and in ways wonderfully befitting them. The screen diva died before her time, throwing her fans into mourning.
Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)’s new retrospective “The Legend & The Beauty - The Films of Lin Dai” will be held from August 14 to November 1 with an exhibition of artifacts and screenings of Lin’s classics, featuring her in different roles. The programme is organised with the generous support of Lin’s son, Lung Tzong-hann, Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong) Limited, Cathay-Keris Films Pte Ltd, Celestial Pictures Limited and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
After Lin’s premature death in 1964, her husband, Lung Shun-shing, kept furnishings and possessions in their room undisturbed for more than 40 years. After Mr Lung passed away in 2007, his son donated Lin’s personal artifacts to the HKFA. The HKFA exhibition will recreate Lin’s bedroom with her furniture, dressing table, accessories, oil portrait, photos, trophies and display of film contracts, scripts and costumes she wore in her films.
The 18 films showcasing Lin’s brilliant performances are her portrayals of different historical beauties in “The Kingdom and the Beauty”, “Beyond the Great Wall”, “Diau Charn”, “The Last Woman of Shang” and “Madam White Snake”; her early works “The Fisherman’s Daughter”, “Golden Phoenix” and “Golden Lotus” which won her the first Best Actress Award; city comedies “The Battle of Love”, “Cinderella and Her Little Angels”, “Les Belles”, “Love Parade” and “Bachelors Beware”; city dramas “A Mellow Spring” and “Humiliation for Sale” and the popular romantic melodramas “Love without End”, “The Blue and the Black” and “The Blue and the Black 2”.
To supplement the screenings, a seminar titled “Lin Dai: The Star, the Actress, the Legend” will be held at 4.30pm on August 22 at the Cinema of the HKFA. Mr Lung Tzong-hann, actress Fung Bo-bo and writer Peter Dunn will share with audiences their views and personal experience with Lin Dai. It will be conducted in Cantonese. Admission is free.
Lin Dai started her career in 1950. Her debut “Singing under the Moon” (1953) was a great success. Her performance as village lass in her early films “The Fisherman’s Daughter” (1956) and “Golden Phoenix” (1956) charmed many audiences. The challenge to play the dual roles of a strong-willed songstress and a maiden from a rich family in “Golden Lotus” (1957) won her the first Best Actress Award at the 4th Asian Film Festival at the age of 23.
Lin Dai was captivating and compelling in playing historical beauties in “Diau Charn” (1958), which won her the second Best Actress Award. She followed that with “Beyond the Great Wall” (1964) and “The Kingdom and the Beauty” (1959), which was a huge box hit. These three films, directed by Li Han-hsiang and featuring Lin and the singing of Tsin Ting ushered in the era of “huangmei diao” opera films in Hong Kong cinema.
Lin’s pathos of gentle determination and sorrowful dignity brought history vividly to life. With Griffin Yue Feng as director, Lin projected the internal struggles of the historical queen in “The Last Woman of Shang” (1964) with gravity and sorrow, giving a new view of the beauty who supposedly caused the collapse of the Shang Dynasty. In “Madam White Snake” (1962), she portrayed the cherished goddess in Chinese folk myth with a nuanced performance, tender and loving in romantic scenes, tough and determined in dramatic moments.
The modern city girl is another major persona embodied by Lin. With a script by the great writer Eileen Chang, “The Battle of Love” (1957) was one of the Lin’s most memorable works. In “Bachelors Beware” (1960) and “Cinderella and Her Little Angels” (1959), she flexed her comic prowess with a performance of sharp wit.
Her mastery of dance steps in the musical “Les Belles” (1961) won her the third Best Actress Award at the 8th Asian Film Festival. The film also represented a major effort by Shaws to establish itself as a studio of weight, lavishing a generous budget on its first widescreen colour production. In “Love Parade” (1963), Lin did more than act, dance and lip-synch; she also designed the costumes.
Although Lin’s role as an unemployed worker in director Li Han-hsiang’s “A Mellow Spring” (1957) was not a star turn, she dutifully serves as a team player, complementing other actors with an understated but by-no-means mundane performance. In “Humiliation for Sale” (1958), her delightful blend of youthful innocence, childlike naiveté and headstrong charm captured the essence of urban femininity.
Lin’s performance in the romantic classic “Love without End” (1961) was one of her most beloved. She played a songstress with a sophistication that distilled the Mandarin cinema’s penchant for heart-wrenching emotions, adding a touch of class to the film’s melodramatic twists. The sorrow of Lin’s character in “The Blue and the Black” (1966) and “The Blue and the Black 2” (1966) took on extra poignancy as her life was prematurely cut short in 1964 before the films were completed.
All the films are either in Mandarin or Cantonese. “Love without End”, “Love Parade”, “Les Belles”, “The Blue and the Black”, “The Blue and the Black 2”, “Beyond the Great Wall”, “The Kingdom and the Beauty”, “The Last Woman of Shang”, “Diau Charn” and “Madam White Snake” have English subtitles.
Tickets priced at $30 for the screenings are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009, or on the internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information and various discounts can be obtained in the “ProFolio 48” distributed at all performing venues of the LCSD. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the websites: www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp.
Ends/Wednesday, July 15, 2009
A film still from "Cinderella and Her Little Angels" (1959).
A film still from "Golden Lotus" (1957).