Hidden Treasures－One-Man Entertainment Machine: Chan Cheuk-sang and His United Film
The Hong Kong film industry, despite having gone through its fair share of ups and downs, had managed to enjoy a respected international reputation. Such a reputation was distilled from the hard work of many a filmmaker throughout the years, each contributing in his/her own ways, often without public recognition. The Archive launched the Oral History Project in the mid-1990s and has since conducted interviews with over 400 filmmakers. Channeling our inspiration by the interviews into screenings and discussions, the Archive is presenting a new series ‘Hidden Treasures’ to introduce the neglected forerunners of our cinema. The first personality featured is Chan Cheuk-sang, an all-round filmmaker active in the 1950s and 1960s.
Chan Cheuk-sang moved to Hong Kong from Xinhui, Guangdong at the age of eight but fled to Vietnam during WWII, not returning until 1947. He entered the film industry by accident, first landing a job at the New World Cinema through his elder brother, getting involved in film producing, subtitle writing and editing. After getting to know the Kwan Family, who owned several important theatre chains, he started distributing films for second runs. Then, in the early 1950s, he began producing films financed by theatre chains. He named his companies The United Film, after the eatery United Soda Fountain he owned, and Ngai Sing, after his son. With Chan and his wife Wong May-yee at the helm, the companies did everything, putting together crews, keeping accounts, obtaining official exhibition approvals and selling to overseas markets. To save expenses, Chan took up producing, directing, scriptwriting, still photographing and even animation. He was truly a one-man entertainment machine, an embodiment of the Hong Kong work ethics. At the Cantonese cinema’s decline, Chan and his wife decided to call it quits, immigrating to the United States in 1974.
With over 200 titles under his belt, Chan was a master in gauging audience tastes. He focused on sing-song films in the 1950s, moving on to common-folk comedies in the mid-1960s. He also dabbled in different genres, from wuxia to thrillers to melodramas, working hard to capture audience fancies. This programme will screen six of Chan’s films, providing a glimpse into his remarkable career. The Archive is grateful to the late Mr. and Mrs. Chan for granting us Oral History interviews and their generous donations of film and film-related materials. We would also like to thank other members of the Chan family for loaning us personal photographs, film stills and documents, allowing us to have a better understanding of the operations of film production back in the 1950s and 1960s.
The contents of the programme do not represent the views of the presenter.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.