Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Shao Fong Fong Sings In Impeccable English

(Josephine Shao, Siew, Xiao, Siao, Fong Fong, Fung Fung, Fang Fang. Same name but spelt differently.)

I had often seen 60s Hong Kong movies which starred Siew Fong Fong and it didn't matter then whether I understood the language or dialect that the script was in. She was a joy to watch and what attracted me then was her pretty face and her ability to entertain her audience with her Jane Bond kiss-bang, wuxia chops, sword wielding choreography and hippy-hippy-shake dancing.

Examples were movies like SwordsOf Swords, I Love A-Go-Go, The Lady Killer and much more. She was one Chinese actress that most fans in the 60s would remember. On the silver screen, Josephine Siao was a major star in both Mandarin and Cantonese movies. In that decade alone she had acted in more than 200 movies and those days the Hong Kong film studios churned out films like factories produced chopsticks. Personally, she felt manipulated, like a "puppet."

Delving into her life and history, I found that she was born in Shanghai in 1947 with a career spanning some five decades, from her beginnings as a child star up till the highly respected professional that she is today. She was the most popular princess in the group of actresses termed the 'Seven Cantonese Princesses' and became one of the biggest teen idols in Hong Kong along with frequent co-star Connie Chan Po Chu.

Unlike many child stars, Siao made a successful transition to adult stardom, winning so many awards and remaining one of Hong Kong's most prolific and popular actresses today. Having largely missed out on a formal education because of her acting career as a child, Siao pursued her studies in later years despite the handicap of increasing deafness and the demands of raising a family. She holds an MA in Child Psychology and is also a published author.

Digging into my drawers lately, I managed to find some western pops by Shao Fong Fong on EMI vinyl (images). And the recordings were proof enough of the fluidity and ease with which she used the English language. The lyrics were beautifully enunciated and her gentle, soft but clear voice was sufficiently suitable for the covers she was interpreting as she delivered them with grace and dignity. These few western covers she did were a contrast to many of the Cantonese and Mandarin songs she had sung on screen and those recorded on other vinyl labels.

Her diction and phrasing reminded me of Malaysian teacher and pop singer Frankie Cheah's English language recordings on EMI. (Click 'Frankie Cheah on 'Label' below to read the posting.)

Vinyl Notes: EMI ECHK 527 (1969). Bluer Than Blue, Who Will Buy this Wonderful Morning, Running Free, Goodbye. EMI ECHK 523 (1968). L.O.V.E, Love, Ding Dong Song, Kiss Me Goodbye.Images/Original article: Andy Lim Collection. Information from Websites.

*Notes from a Website about the actress:

Josephine lost all the hearing in her right ear at age two and has become nearly deaf in her left ear since 1990 so decided to retire for good. Fredric Dannen relates the following about his meeting with Josephine Siao - who he noted has impeccable English.

"At her request, we met in the conference room of a hotel, because, she explained, 'my gadgets do not work so well in noisy places.' Siao did not seem to miss a word I said, and I thought perhaps she had exaggerated her condition until Ann Hui (the director of Summer Snow) later told me that Siao often has to lie down after a conversation because the strain of using her hearing-aid left her exhausted.I was all the more amazed at Siao's acting skill - her deafness is indiscernible in her movies - and all the more grateful for her interview."

Images: Andy Lim Collection.
Video: justiniong1120.


Lam Chun See said...

I don't remember much about her childhood movies. But as an adult, her most memorable movie for me was Hiroshima 28.

Andy Young* said...

Well, I guess you were too young to go to the movies then? Shao Fong Fong is one great lady.

Thanks for the visit.

Anonymous said...

Siew Fong Fong, Cantonese movie queen from sixties. Masked and cat burgler.

FL said...

I watched Josephine Shao's movies in my teens ! Too young to remember the movies titles, mainly Cantonese. She used to act and sing with Connie Chan. Nancy Sit, etc. esp during the "A Go Go" years in the sixties. Also, back then, Rediffusion played their Cantonese songs very frequently, but not the RTS radio waves.

Andy Young* said...

Thanks Anon. Only familiar with some of her movies. There is one Golden Cat and another Golden Bat but definitely one or two of her A-Go-Go movies.

Andy Young* said...

Thanks FL for visiting again and bringing back memories. I cannot remember those movies except for a few but they are available on the Net.

Nancy Sit was popular too but Shao Fong Fong had the advantage of a clear and distinctive voice, especially with her English pops.

Connie Chan too is another pretty lass. I have a posting of her previously.

Andy Young* said...

Yes, FL about Rediffusion and RTS. I have never heard these singers on our radio.

The government was promoting their usual speak Mandarin campaign but forgot about groups who love to listen to Cantonese songs and other dialects.

A salient point indeed. Thanks for bringing it up.

Anonymous said...

I didn't date her.....damn! But wanted to. Met her in my line of work.

Andy Young* said...

Well thank you my friend for being so frank. She is pretty and with a romantic voice too. Oh!

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

Thanks for sharing. As a Cantonese guy approaching 65, I remember
the era of Tze Yin, Ka Ling, Lam Hung. Fung Po Po, and of course
Shao Fong Fong.

And also the musicals too - Sun Ma Si Tsang, Yum Kim Fai, Pak Shuit Sin, Leoung Sing Por.

Back then, I didn't get to see many movies - I wasn't allowed out of the house too often for fear that evil spirits would get me, and we couldn't afford too many luxuries such as movies.

But I did get to listen to Rediffusion's serialization of Cantonese movies.

Occasionally it would be the complete story. But most times these serials would end just before the climax or resolution.

To find out what happened
in the end, the listeners are encouraged to go watch the movie.

My solution was to ask a classmate, a well-off Cantonese guy, who could afford movies, to...

Well, I didn't ask him to give me a treat. Since he would most probably have seen the movie within the first couple of days of its release, I would ask him to tell me how the movie ended... while I helped him with his school home work. A real win-win situation!

Cheers !
James (Jim) Kwok.

Andy Young* said...

Thank you James for the response, information and memories.

I am so glad you replied because I was hoping for someone to write a little about Cantonese movies. I remember there was a huge following
those days.


KM said...

Hi Andy, she was and still is my mother's and wife's favorite actresses. Though i dont watch many of her shows but the very few I did made an impression especially when you know she has a hearing handicap. She is a good role model in the show business. Another great actress of the past was Lin Dai who won the Asian Movie Queen title 4 times ( if my memory does not fail me ). Perhaps you can do a piece on her in future. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

Like James, I also grew up watching all these HK flicks starring those 60s stars, especially the cat-burglar TV movies of her and Chan Po Chu.

Josephine Siao then was one classy lady. Nice profile, bone structure - she could have been a model! I think she was my first screen idol before all those 007 babes came along.

Frankly, I had a difficult time growing up because of her. An ---- looks very much like her and so every time she visited, I would look at her funny. She must have wondered what's wrong with this -----kid of hers!

And then she goes and marries this crap-looking guy, whom my other ---- called "fatt sui meen pow" - waterlogged bread. He was rather chubby in the face.

Haha. I don't think they were mean, they had nicknames for everybody back then (how I learned Cantonese was such a colorful language).

In any case, the hubby turned out to be one nice fella who gave good ang pows during CNY, so this nephew was rather appeased. :-)

In any case, Josephine Siao sang many English songs and retired from acting because she was going deaf - something much talked about when she filmed Fong Sai Yuk (1993).

She has a masters in Child Psych and heads a group that is against child sexual abuse, something I wholeheartedly support.

Here's a link to a movie of hers from 1996 which showcases much her
talents. Hu Du Men (see attached poster), which was adapted from a play.

And the song Wedding by both her and Rogers.


Andy Young* said...

Thanks KM for the feedback. Glad your folks still remember SFF, a superstar during her glory days.

I hope this posting will remind others of the influence regional countries have on little Singapore.

I guess we are a little magnet, drawing what talent there is surrounding us.

Andy Young* said...

Hi TC,

You've made my day. Thanks for the very detailed and interesting write-up. As a non Cantonese speaker but fan of SFF, I appreciate your fresh and humorous presentation style.

The personal anecdote too brings back memories of my experiences with family members.

JJ said...

Hi, how about posting Siew Fong Fong's version of Bluer Than Blue on Youtube if you have that EMI vinyl in your collection. I can't find this song of hers on Youtube except her other Mandarin and Canto songs. I used to enjoy listening to her version of this song, preferring it over Rolf Harris' original one.

Andy Lim* said...

Hi JJ,
Thank you for your mail. I must disappoint you because I do not have this particular song you have asked for.

If anyone can help we would both be grateful.

Jessie James Low said...

Can anyone tell me where to find on you-tube or myspace a version of Siew Fong Fong's "Bluer than blue"? I remember it as a very nice song being sung by her. There are other versions by other singers but I don't seem to be able to locate the one sung by SFF.

Andy Lim* said...

If anyone can help James, please write in.

Anonymous said...

Do you know where I can get some vinyl of "Shao Fong Fong"?

Please contact me via Facebook: I'm Geoff.Vane

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I hope some readers will read your FB pages. All the best.