Each generation of Hong Kong cinema has its group of popular child stars with enchanting performances. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s new retrospective, "Merry-Go-Movies?Star Kids", will feature 30 films with performances by 12 child stars, namely Fung Bo-bo, Michael Lai, Yuen Siu-fai, Peter Dunn, Wong Oi-ming, Shek Sau, Tsui Siu-ming, Josephine Siao, Connie Chan Po-chu, Sammo Hung, Bruce Lee and Yu Kai, to offer the audience a comprehensive overview of their outstanding and lovable performances.
"Merry-Go-Movies?Star Kids" will be held at the Cinema of the HKFA from August 16 to September 28, and an exhibition, "Merry-Go-Movies?Star Kids of Hong Kong Cinema in the 50s and 60s", will be held from August 9 to November 3 at the Exhibition Hall of the HKFA with free admission. Decorated like a lovely children's playground, the exhibition will feature precious photos, film clips and interviews with Hong Kong child stars from the 1950s to '60s.
In addition, a seminar and a number of "Meet the Audience" talks will be held at the HKFA. Fung Bo-bo and Michael Lai will share with the audiences stories from their child star days at "The Bitter and Sweet of the Good Old Days" on August 17, while Fung Bo-bo, Michael Lai, Shek Sau, Peter Dunn and Tsui Siu-ming, as well as the film critic Joyce Yang, will also share their experiences and opinions in the talks. All the seminars and talks will be conducted in Cantonese with free admission.
The opening film of "Merry-Go-Movies?Star Kids" will be "The Great Devotion" (1960), featuring Fung Bo-bo, Michael Lai and Wong Oi-ming. Other selected films include "The Seven Kids" (1961), a movie with performances by a number of child stars; "Deep in Love" (1960), featuring Wong Oi-ming and Fung Bo-bo as Patrick Tse's children from different mothers; "Father is Back" (1961), starring the lovely Shek Sau; "Father Takes a Bride" (1963), co-starring Peter Dunn and his brother Paul Dunn; "Nobody's Child" (1960), a newly restored print starring Josephine Siao; "The Scout Master" (1959), starring Connie Chan as a young boy scout; "Homeless Children" (1964) with Tsui Siu-ming; "Story of Father and Son" (1954), starring the 8-year-old Yuen Siu-fai; and three great works by the young Bruce Lee, namely "The Kid" (1950), "A Son is Born" (1953) and "An Orphan's Tragedy" (1955), in order to tie in with the exhibition "Bruce Lee: Kung Fu?Art?Life" organised by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Lee's passing.
The life of Fung Bo-bo contains miracles. Starting out at the age of 5, Fung was a bright new talent on the screen. By the age of 7, she would appear in more than 30 films in a year. The characters she played, such as a super mini-hero soaring up to the sky and a prime minister in an ancient dynasty, were all popular with audiences. In "The Great Devotion", a work that made director Chor Yuen famous, Fung and other child stars Michael Lai and Wong Oi-ming give heart-wrenching performances in a dilemma marked by love for the family and the dictates of reality. The film was selected as one of the Best 100 Chinese Motion Pictures by the Hong Kong Film Awards Association. Other films featuring Fung in this retrospective include "The Prodigious Child and Her Loyal Dog" (1961), with a heart-warming performance by Fung and a dog that saves the lives of others; "Little Cosmonaut" (1961) and "Little Twin Actresses" (1962), which both saw Fung play two roles; and "My Grandchild" (1964), featuring performances by Fung and Leung Sing-po.
Michael Lai, who began his acting career at the age of 5, had a lovable look with his round eyes and slightly plump appearance. His performance in his first Cantonese-language film, "Murder on the Beach" (1957), won him attention: his escape scene had plenty of narrow escape stunts that kept his fans and the rest of the audience on the edge of their seats. In his performance in "The Seven Kids", in which he played a punk-haired high school kid, Lai brought to the role layers of street smarts, impulse and fervency that are the very image of youth rebellion and angst.
Peter Dunn became an actor with the MP & GI film company after going through rigorous auditioning. He showed a natural gift for performance, and his trademark beaming cheek-to-cheek grin revealing two cut buck teeth became unforgettable to audiences. At the age of 8, he played the son of Li Mei in "For Better...For Worse" (1959), and his smiles and tears are hard to forget. Another selected film, "Father Takes a Bride", featuring Peter Dunn and his brother Paul Dunn, easily melts and breaks the audience's hearts.
Shek Sau may be known for his dashing good looks now, but he was also once an adorable child actor. After entering the film industry when he was young, his performance in "The Seven Kids" gained him attention. He was always cast as the younger version of characters played by big stars like Ng Cho-fan and Cheung Ying. His performance in "Father is Back", appearing alongside two great artists, is still impressive, and his youthful performance as a spoilt heir in "Garden of Repose" (1964) was also remarkable.
Clever and smart, Josephine Siao started her acting career at the age of 6. She won the Best Child Actor award at the Southeast Asia Film Festival for the 1955 film "The Maiden Girl" at 8, and became a household name at 11 with her outstanding performance in "Nobody's Child", in which her performance alongside a monkey, a dog and a street performer was sentimental. The rendition of a popular ballad on motherly love sung by Siao remains well known to this day. Her lovable performance in the "Loves of the Youngsters" (1955) has also gained applause from audiences. From playing a poor orphan to appearing as plain Jane, Siao continued to be a very popular actress into her adulthood.
Connie Chan studied Peking opera under master Fen Juhua from a young age and became Yam Kim-fai's formal apprentice at 10. She often played male roles on stage. In her early film "The Scout Master", she played a mischievous boy scout prankster, and later Chan had a blockbuster under her belt with "The Unroyal Prince" (1960), in which she confidently holds her own in her scenes opposite her famous co-stars.
Hailing from a family of Cantonese opera performers, the lovable Tsui Siu-ming began his acting career at 5 years old and acted in approximately 70 to 80 films. He showed his talent by performing as the Red Boy in "The Flaming Mountain" (1962) and in his role for "As Time Goes By" (1964). His special talent for words was even more apparent during his memorable monologue in "Homeless Children".
Wong Oi-ming always played the quiet and obedient type, and many of her roles saw her appear as the kind younger daughter or the poor girl struggling to survive with younger siblings in tow. Her adorable appearance seemed to have a layer of melancholy, and she earned a reputation as one of the best child stars in Asia. Selected films in this retrospective include "Deep in Love", in which she plays a young daughter reunited with her estranged mother; "The Prodigal's Return" (1958), featuring her being a silent witness to her father's degradation; and "Back Door" (1960), with her playing a child neglected, unloved and unwanted by her parents.
Dubbed "The Wonder Kid", Yuen Siu-fai began his Cantonese cinema career in 1953 due to his training in martial arts and Cantonese opera. At just 8 years old, Yuen gave a dazzling lead performance in "Story of Father and Son" that made him a household name. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Yuen's career and the "Morning Matinee" programme of the HKFA will showcase a selection of Yuen's films on Fridays in August and September.
Sammo Hung showed his talent in the movies at a young age as a clever, confident but ultimately mischievous performer. In the film "Education of Love" (1961), a selection of the Venice Film Festival, Hung shows himself as a skilful actor. When falsely accused, he swallows his pride in silence as tears swell up in his eyes. His performance in "The Seven Little Tigers, Concluding Episode" (1966) dazzles with jaw-dropping jumps, teeth-clenching somersaults and hair-raising and realistic kung fu moves.
Dubbed "The Gifted Child", Yu Kai began learning his craft at the age of 4. 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 7-year-old. "Kiddy Stone's Night Battle with the Five Tiger Generals" (1949) is one of his early works. At just 10 years old, Yu convincingly portrays a heroic young warrior, combining difficult wire work with genuine martial arts skills.
Bruce Lee appeared in lots of Cantonese movies when he was young, already showing his talent for dominating a scene and hinting at the larger-than-life gravitas he would carry as an adult. "The Kid" marked Lee's first leading role as a child actor and the early parts of the film "An Orphan's Tragedy" saw Lee and Josephine Siao in a rare joint appearance as child actors.
Most of the films are in Cantonese and several have Chinese and English subtitles. Tickets are priced at $40. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities and their minders, 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 found in "ProFolio 68" at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For programme enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900, or browse the webpage at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2013sk/2013sk_index.htm l.
Ends/Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Issued at HKT 17:10
A film still of "The Great Devotion" (1960).
A film still of "The Seven Kids" (1961).
A film still of "Nobody's Child" (1960).
A film still of "The Scout Master" (1959).
A film still of "Story of Father and Son" (1954).
A film still of "For Better...For Worse" (1959).
A film still of "Education of Love" (1961).
A film still of "The Kid" (1950).