Photos, personal belongings and stage costumes of the late actress Lydia Sum, as well as footage of her films, TV dramas and interviews, will be on show at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from tomorrow (July 22) until February 22, 2010, to review Sum's memorable show business career and explore the cultural meanings of her iconic screen image.
The exhibition, Our Beloved "Happy Fruit" Lydia Sum, reviews Sum's eight iconic screen images - "Happy Fruit", "Fei Fei (Fatty)", "Shanghai Woman", "Shi-nai" (Family Woman), "Strong Woman", "Champion Mistress of Ceremonies", "Dear Friend" and "Charity" - to pay tribute to her outstanding career and explore the relationships of the icons with the broader historical and cultural context of Hong Kong.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (July 21), the Acting Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Chung Ling-hoi, said Sum was a well-known actress to Hong Kong people. During her glittering career in show business spanning more than four decades, she played numerous roles - young maidservant, factory girl, stay-at-home mum, the "Shanghai Woman" and hostess of TV programmes - in which she never failed to bring happiness to Hong Kong audiences of all ages. She really deserved the affectionate nickname "Happy Fruit".
"Early this year, Sum's family donated 347 memorabilia items belonging to Sum to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. This treasured collection contains costumes, personal items used in performances, news clippings and publications, and other items which provide a comprehensive reference for understanding Sum's performing career and the development of local popular culture.
"After the Roman Tam Collection in 2006, the Lydia Sum Collection is the second of its kind focusing on local performing culture, bringing encouraging support to the museum to preserve local popular culture. On behalf of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, I wish to give our heartfelt thanks to Miss Joyce Cheung for her generous donation of this invaluable collection," Mr Chung said.
Sum's career began with her audition to become a child actress, which was encouraged by her classmate's father, the boss of the Feng Huang Motion Picture Company. Seeing the potential in Sum's chubby yet sharp persona, film director Yueh Feng signed her up. Going to the cinema was a major form of entertainment in the 1960s. The audience could relax and enjoy laughing at comedians such as Lydia Sum, Cheng Kwan Min and Tam Ping Man on the big screen.
As television sets became a standard domestic item in the 1970s, watching TV programmes soon took over as a favourite pastime. In 1967 when TVB opened, Robert Chua recommended the naturally agile Sum for the role of hostess of the variety show "EYT". Her humorous acting, as well as her singing and dancing in "Lovers' Duet" and the "Four Golden Flowers", all revealed her creativity, performing talent and deftness. The media began to refer to her as "Happy Fruit" or "Fei Fei" (Fatty) for her ability to deliver a sense of happiness.
With her ancestral home in Ningbo, and born and raised in Shanghai, Sum was selected to play the leading role in "Shanghai Woman", a comedy sketch aired on TVB's "EYT" in 1979. Sum's outstanding acting made the depiction of the "Shanghai woman" one of the many images that became synonymous with her in the public eye and it was also integral to her acting career. She also took on such parts as a "shi-nai" (family woman) in films such as "It's a Mad Mad Mad World" in 1987. These roles were an extension of her portrayal of the rapid-fire chatterbox, depicted in the "Shanghai woman" role, and at the same time, a reflection of the redefined "shi-nai" under economic advances - a woman who is fiercely protective of her family, demanding of her husband and children and longing for a quick fortune.
Sum was not only an outstanding actress, but also the "Champion Mistress of Ceremonies". After joining TVB, she became a hostess for the variety show "EYT" and interviewed famous icons such as martial arts superstar Bruce Lee, beloved pop idol Connie Chan Po-chu and winner of the Hong Kong Princess beauty pageant Louise Lee. Talent and diligence took Lydia Sum to the next level of hosting. In 1977 she hosted the Miss Hong Kong Pageant alongside Ivan Ho, becoming the first female MC in the history of electronic media. In the 30 years that followed, Sum played host at almost all major functions, including the TV station's anniversaries, game shows, community and fundraising events, among others.
If the definition of "strong woman" not only includes career achievements, but also persistence, professionalism and continuous self-reliance, then Sum's rise to stardom from minor roles and her determination in life were a true example of a "strong woman".
Enthusiastic about charity activities, Sum was the mistress of ceremonies for many fundraising activities by organisations such as the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, Po Leung Kuk, Pok Oi Hospital, Yan Chai Hospital and the Community Chest, in which she invited sponsorship from directors and cheered on performing guests. She also took part in numerous benevolent or community events. Mayor Samuel C Sullivan of the city of Vancouver, in British Columbia, proclaimed June 1, 2008, as "Ms Fei Fei Day" to commemorate the significant contribution made by Sum to Vancouver over the years.
Sum was a great friend to the people with whom she worked. In the early 1960s, she became good friends with many film actors. The most famous alliance was the "Silver Mice", a group that she formed with Chen Hao, Paul Chang Chung, Patrick Tse Yin, Alan Tang Kwong-Wing, Willie Chan Chi-keung and Chin Hsiang-lin. In 2006, TVB's "Where are they now?" was an interview show which followed in Sum's footsteps to visit more than 20 of her friends in Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Canada, and the US, among other locations. Sum respected the old, cherished her peers and guided the young - she valued her friends as dearly as her own family. These close connections, which she enjoyed not only on screen but also behind the scenes, touched the hearts of audiences, who also regarded her as a dear friend and shared her emotions both on and off stage.
Located at 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and full-time students. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
Paid car parking is available at the Heritage Museum. Those who prefer to use public transport may take the MTR Ma On Shan Line and get off at the Che Kung Temple Station, which is within three minutes' walk of the museum.
For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Heritage Museum's website at http://hk.heritage.museum/ .
Ends/Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Lydia Sum hosts the "EYT" 1st Anniversary Special with To Ping and Woo Fung in 1968.
Formed by Lydia Sum and Roman Tam in the 1970s, the "Lover's Duet" frequently toured Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.
Lydia Sum formed the "Four Golden Flowers" with Liza Wang, Felicia Wong and Teresa Cheung to sing and dance in "EYT". Picture shows them performing in the 1970s.
The "Fei Fei Inviting All Guests, Happy and Fun Concert" was held to commemorate Lydia Sum's 40th year in show business. Picture shows a painting autographed by stars to congratulate her on her achievements.
Picture shows the dress worn by Lydia Sum when she hosted the "Po Leung Kuk Charity Gala 2006", her very last performance.
Picture shows the dress worn by Lydia Sum when she hosted the "Tung Wah Charity Gala 2005" - the last time that Sum hosted Tung Wah's charity show.
Lydia Sum wore this unisex outfit to attend her daughter Joyce Cheng's high school graduation ceremony in Canada in 2005 and danced with her. The school had requested graduates to dance with their father during the ceremony.