Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Li Li Hua 李麗華 (1924 - 2017) R.I.P.


Born in 1924 in China, Li Li Hua made her first movie in 1940, just before World War II. Three Smiles it was called.  She was only 16 but with a whole lot of acting experience since she started acting at four. 

Because of her training in Peking (Beijing) Opera she was able to maintain her journey through the tough film industry acting in 120 movies within 4 decades.

There were many 'firsts' in this illustrious lady's career. She starred in the first colour movie made in Hong Kong, Blood Will Tell (1955); the first Chinese actress to star in a Hollywood movie, China Doll (1958) with Victor Mature. 

She acted in a Chinese movie that won a Cannes Award, The Magnificent Concubine (1962) and walked on the famed Cannes red carpet. Could she be the first Chinese actress to be fully undressed in a Shaw Brothers' movie?

A very young Jackie Chan had acted in 3 movies with her.  Cecil B. De Mille, Yul Brynner and Clark Gable were some of her admirers.

She was under Great Wall, a China controlled movie company but was later under the banner of Shaw Brothers film based in Hong Kong and Singapore. 
She married thrice and her second husband Yen Chun was another famous actor; they had acted in many movies together.

According to a Chinese newspaper report, she had an apartment in Singapore opposite the American Club in Claymore Hill. She used to frequent this island but because of her health had lived in Hong Kong since.

She passed away in Hong Kong at 92 years in March 2017.

She was also a celebrated singer, having recorded a good number of songs that were just as popular as her movies. Those years a movie had its own theme song usually sung by the main star. 

The You Tube song below was interpreted in a jazzy style rather than in her usual traditional way. Li Li Hua had many tracks to her name.

In 1994, at 70 years, she recorded again and had more than a dozen of her classic songs but adding 3 more to her already popular repertoire for EMI, Singapore.
                    China Doll - Li Li Hua (1956) - Video Chan Julian

A Short List of Li Li Hua's Songs:

Blue Bridge - 魂断蓝桥 (Auld Lang Syne)
Waiting For His Return In Vain -人儿不见归
Beaming - 喜上眉梢

Blazing With Irises - 万紫千红
A Million Purple and Red - 萬紫千紅
Cabbage - 小白菜

The Second Spring - 第二春 (Ding Dong Song)
Heaven and Earth - 天上人間
Blind Love - 盲戀

Snow Red - 雪裡紅
Flowers Hate - 殘花恨 
Two Flowers - 兩朵花

Song of Spring Tour - 之歌 春之旅
Song of Potherd Mustard - 之歌 雪裡紅
A Personal Experience:

This beautiful and talented lady won the hearts of both men and women in South East Asia and even around the world. My mother adored her and often went to Li Li Hua's movies at Shaw Brothers theatres in Singapore. 

I was still a child then but used to accompany her to see this Ms Li's films. What little I know of Mandarin today I had learnt from watching Chinese movies.

I remember going alone one day to queue up for one of her films. The line snaked round the Capitol Cinema so long I ended up going home, unhappy and did not see the movie until it was screened in one of the smaller cinemas in the suburbs, at the Roxy which was near the East Coast.  

                           Li Li Hua Grass On The Wall 李丽华-墙头草

Many times I would watch Li Li Hua movies at the Queens Cinema at Geylang, catching many of the shows there produced by Shaw Brothers. It was one of many cinemas own by the magnates.

I had refused to pay two dollars for any show, limiting myself to a dollar a movie. I didn't quite enjoy the costumes and plot - having been westernised even as a child - but will never forget the story of Liang Shan Po and Chu Ying Tai (1964), the butterfly lovers.

There are many websites about Li Li Hua. 

Rest In Peace Li Li Hua.

Images: Google. Pix 2 with her husband Yen Chun,  Pix 3 with Clark Gable. Pix 5 with Victor Mature.
The Capitol Cinema Singapore where many of Li Li Hua's movies were shown.


Henri Gann said...

Good writeup Andy ! That's really going back in time. Sorry to hear that she has left us. A great actress and definitely one who define the Chinese movies in the 50s era. She was my mom's favorite star :)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Henri for your immediate response. Being so westernised like you are I didn't expect you to comment about Li Li Hua.

I am not getting many readers for this post. I think either I'm getting younger readers on this blog (which is a good thing) who don't know who she was, or the older folks are too lazy to respond (which is expected).

Appreciate your readership.

Abel Tan said...

Traditional conservative Baba watch first Mandarin film when obliged a non-Nyonya girl on date to see One-armed Swordsman, actor untimely death in his Forties


Li lee hua. A most beautiful lady


She was the fairest of the old mandarin movie stars

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

My comment started the above:

The Capitol Cinema used to be packed to capacity with her movies showing. Come on tell us about your first date?

One Armed Swordsman. Wang Yu. :-) Oh man, he was my favourite too. Thanks Abel for nostalgia.

Yes, Jimmy. Thanks. Very pretty and popular actress then.

She was truly "the fairest" of them all. Like Snow White's description. Thanks Stephen for comment.


Bert Fern
James Seah
Stephen Han
Ann Rowena Lim
Kwandy Yao
John Cher
Jimmy Appudurai-chua
Merlin Lim
Michael Ho
Joseph Chua


Ask your parents or your grandparents about Li Li-hua and they would say she was the most glamorous and beautiful actress of the Mandarin Films.She was also the first Chinese star to act in a Hollywood movie,playing opposite Victor Mature of Samson And Delilah fame. I think she was kissed by him in the movie.I remembered seeing her with Yen Chun at a cafe at Cathay Building.Ohshe was very fair and sweet with her smile.Unfortunately the mobile was not invented then,otherwise I would have a photo with her.RIP Li Li-hua and thanks for the memory.


That pic consists of Li Li-hua's hubby Yen Chun and her.I had the chance of seeing them at the cafe at the Cathay Cinema.I really admired her beauty though I was young then.

Faris Kamarudin said...

Dear Sir

I am currently a student in NUS who would like to conduct an email interview with yourself regarding pop music in the 60s. Questions I would like to ask are regarding the consumers of pop music in the 60s, extent of Western influence and culture on pop music and the importance of pop music in developing the Singaporean culture. I hope you will be able to assist in answering my questions.

Thank you.

Warm regards,

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Faris,

Please write to me again as you have done on the blog's comment page but leave me your email address and mobile phone number.

I shall write or call you but will not publish and reveal your personal details.

Thank you.