Greasy quiffs and cuffed jeans, motorcycles and boogie-woogie all spring to mind in connection with the Teddy Boys of the 1950s and the 1960s. With their trendy western clothes, rebellious spirits and delinquent habits, these youths became cultural icons of the era. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s "Morning Matinee" series on Friday mornings in July will pay tribute to four actors who specialised in playing Teddy Boys in Cantonese cinema: Cheng Kwun-min, Yu Ming, Ha Chun-chau and Ding Yue.
The "Teddy Boys" series will be screened on July 6, 13, 20 and 27 at the Cinema of the HKFA. The films to be shown are "Poor Mother" (1961) with the quintessential Teddy Boy Ha Chun-chau scheming to seduce a school girl; "Love with Tears" (1965) with Ding Yue playing a rebellious youth; Yu Ming as a bad guy specialist in "Teddy Boy in the Gutter" (1967); and "Two Fools in Paradise" (1958) starring Cheng Kwun-min who was known as the "Elvis of the East".
Ha Chun-chau was the perennial Teddy Boy on local screens since his debut in such roles in 1953. He throws himself into the genre as the youthful embodiment of corrupt modern values in "Poor Mother", and schemes to take a rebellious school girl (Sheung-kwan Kwan-wai) to a hotel after she has a row with her mother (Pak Yin).
Adapted from a radio serial, "Love with Tears" is full of drastic twists and turns. Cheung-ying is forced to marry against his will and abandons his girlfriend Tang Bik-wan. Their illegitimate daughter, Patricia Lam Fung, later works as a nurse for Cheung's family. Lam's spoiled half-sister is so jealous that she asks Ding Yue to ruin Lam's life. Ding turns in a great performance, breezing through the wind on his bike and boogieing his way through cheap dance halls. Ha Chun-chau and Ding Yu will meet the audiences after screenings of their films.
In "Teddy Boy in the Gutter", Yu Ming is head of a punk gang that terrorises people at a wet market. His gangmate Sun Ma Si-tsang tries to bully Tang Bik-wan, a young vegetable seller, but is pushed into the gutter. This popular film's theme song, which bears the title of the film, is sung to the tune of "Three Coins in the Fountain". The comedy "Two Fools in Paradise" features the team of Sun Ma Si-tsang and Tang Kei-chen, who bumble their way through life and have to pit their wits against the troublemaking "Elvis of the East", Cheng Kwun-min.
The August "Morning Matinee" series, entitled "Actress, Singer, Opera Star: Leung So-kam" will be held on August 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31. The films to be shown are Leung's early career "Top Singers Two" (1952); "A Poor Girl" (1959) in which she plays a cunning woman; "Puppet Princess" (1962) in which she plays the wicked West Empress; "The Nine Ladies of Fragrant City" (1964), which stars a group of character actresses; and "The Lucky Pal" (1963) with Leung playing a spinster.
A highly versatile actress, the now 81-year-old Leung So-kam also has an accomplished singing style. It is so unique it is often reverentially called "the Kam sound". She played a wide variety of roles - from martial arts expert to strong-headed shrew to loving mother. One of her popular roles was as the aging spinster pairing with Leung Sing-po, the great comedian. Leung So-kam came from a family of performers, and both her parents were famed musicians in Guangdong. She made her screen debut in 1949 in the film "The Ancient Beauty, Mang Lai-Kwun" and retired from the screen after marriage. She enjoys painting and Chinese calligraphy, and is still teaching her singing skills to young musicians.
"Top Singers Two" is the earliest of Leung's works still available today. With Sun Ma Si-tsang, Ho Fei-fan and Pak Suet-sin, the four play a love rectangle in a story with an opera background. "A Poor Girl" is the first film in which Leung appears alongside opera luminaries Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin, and more than holds her own with an outstanding turn playing a cunning, two-faced woman. Leung plays the villain, a wife who not only has an extramarital affair but also coldheartedly commits murder and frames Pak for the crime.
Leung's acting talents are given a real chance to shine in "Puppet Princess" as the wicked West Empress. She is jealous of the princess Fung Bo-bo, who has a consuming fondness for puppets, and tries various means to kill and exile both the girl and her mother. Leung turns in a bewitching performance, especially in her seduction of the gullible Emperor. Another side of the versatile actress is on display in the city comedy "The Lucky Pal", where she plays a spinster with a crush on Leung Sing-po, who in turn is interested in the beautiful Patricia Lam Fung, who in turn loves Woo Fung. Donning thick glasses and drab clothing, Leung fulfills the stereotype of the role and infuses it with humanity and humour.
"The Nine Ladies of Fragrant City" has been selected to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nine Sisters, a group of character actresses who, following a cherished tradition of the Cantonese film industry, made a pact to be sworn sisters. In fact, the film is the inaugural project of the company they formed. In the film, nine sewing-school students band together to help an innocent girl harassed by a Teddy Boy.
The two series, "Teddy Boys" and "Actress, Singer, Opera Star: Leung So-kam", are guest-curated by film researcher Yuen Tsz-ying.
All films are in Cantonese without subtitles. Tickets for "Teddy Boys" are now available at URBTIX outlets. Tickets for "Actress, Singer, Opera Star: Leung So-kam" will be available from July 3 onwards. Tickets are priced at $20. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made at 2111 5999 or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information can be obtained in the "ProFolio 63" leaflet, which is distributed at all performance venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2011mm/2011mm_index.html.
Ends/Wednesday, June 27, 2012
A film still from "Poor Mother" (1961).
A film still from "Teddy Boy in the Gutter" (1967).
A film still from "Top Singers Two" (1952).
A film still from "A Poor Girl" (1959).
A film still from "Puppet Princess" (1962).
A film still from "The Nine Ladies of Fragrant City" (1964).
A film still from "The Lucky Pal" (1963).