She drew the crowd to the cinema like pieces of iron to a magnet. She was not only an actress but a singer and an accomplished dancer. And she was beautiful. Following Hollywood's movie musicals this lady did the same to Chinese cinema.
She was born in China, grew up in Shanghai, went to Hong Kong in 1949 and began her career there. Grace Zhang/Ge Lan or Zhang Yu Fang is still a favourite today.
There is a lot of Western influence in her music and except for Zhou Xuan (previous posting), appeared in the movies mostly in cameo roles or solely on the soundtrack. Grace Chang was foremost an actress although she starred in musicals.
Her movies were very popular in Singapore. She started from 1953 and after starring and co-starring in nearly three dozen movies like Mambo Girl, Spring Song, Air Hostess, Wild Wild Rose and Sun, Moon And Star her popularity soared and she was considered, for some time, the queen of musicals.
In 1959 she sang on NBC/US television on the Dinah Shore show. Between 1950 and 1960 she also made records for the Bai-Dai label. Some personal favourites are, I Love The Cha-Cha, Carmen, *I Want Your Love (wo yao ni de ai), Oh Calypso and I Want To Fly In The Blue Sky.
I would rush to the Cathay Cinema at Prinsep Street to watch these musicals. It was also the first time, as a teenager, had seen such a pair of long legs! Or did she really have them? I could have mistaken her with Cyd Charisse.
She was lovely and sparked the screen with her personality, enthusiasm and genuine smile. Grace Chang was a favourite of my mother's too and we would both watch her movies at the Queen's Cinema. I remember her appearing in a Technicolor movie called Air Hostess. She and a host of other girls were an eyeful. At that time these girls were sumthin'.
The Indian rojak (spicy, tasty meal) at Waterloo Street and National Library came afterwards. And the biggest upset? Not stomach upset but not collecting her vinyl a long ago.
*I Want You To Be My Baby - Georgia Gibbs.
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Original article: Andy Lim Collection.