«Though best known to modern audiences as the father of director Wong Jing and the occasional elderly heavy-set character actor who has appeared in a few high profile films over the past five years, Wong Ting-lam was in his own right one of the more prolific and prominent HK film directors in the 1950s and 1960s. He later moved to television at TVB and became an extremely important producer for a number of years.
Born in Shanghai, Wong moved to Hong Kong as a teenager and had entered the film industry by 1947. He worked his way up the ranks and eventually earned the nickname of “king of assistant directors” and then in 1950 he had his debut as director of the film The Flying-Sword Hero from Emei Mountain. The film though that made him a well-known quantity was the Songs of Peach Blossom River in 1956. This musical was a strong influence on the Mandarin musicals that were to follow, as it was the first (according to the HKIFF book Mandarin Films and Popular Songs, 40s – 60s) of them in which “the music and songs spring forth naturally as a function of both scene and plot”. It is nearly impossible to say how many films Wong directed over his career as many have been lost and many were made under various pseudonyms – but Wong himself claims to have directed over 300 films. These encompassed all genres – action, drama, martial arts, comedy and musicals – and in a variety of languages/dialects such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai, Filipino, Amoy and Chaozhou.
In 1958 Wong joined the MP & GI film studio (later renamed as Cathay) where he had his most productive years until leaving in the early 1970s. Many of the films he directed for this studio have come to be considered classics of their period. One of his first big hits was The Greatest Civil War on Earth (1961), which was one of the very first HK films to delve into the conflicts between the Northeners and Southerners in HK and utilized both Mandarin and Cantonese dialects in the film. He followed this with three film scripts written by the legendary literary author Eileen Chang, The Greatest Wedding on Earth, The Greatest Love Affair on Earth and Father Takes a Bride.
Other well-regarded films of Wong’s were the noir like Death Traps, Lady on the Roof (starring Linda Lin Dai), A Story of Three Loves (1964 and starring Grace Chang) and the comedic martial arts film, A Mad Mad Mad Sword. Wong was especially considered a good director of actresses and MP & GI had a fabulous roster of some of the top female stars in the business. His most renowned film – and termed a masterpiece by many – was the 1960 The Wild, Wild Rose based on Bizet’s Carmen and starring Grace Chang in a career defining performance in which she played against type as the seductive Deng and scorched the screen with both her singing and dancing.
After MP & GI/Cathay stopped its film production in the early 1970s, Wong became a TV producer at TVB and was responsible for many of the top shows during that period. In the late eighties and early 90s after retiring from television, Wong began taking on a few small roles in films. Some of these were in All About Ah Long, To Miss with Love and Private Eye Blues – but it wasn’t until the film production company Milkyway began using him on a regular basis that Wong’s sleepy eye demeanor began making an impact on fans. During his TV days Wong had been a mentor to Johnnie To and now To brought in his old friend for some of his films – The Longest Nite (the café owner), The Mission (the restaurant owner with the classic spaghetti scene), Wu Yen (one of the ancestral ghosts), Love on a Diet, Fatt Choi Spirit (the father of Lau Ching Wan’s character), and My Left Eye Sees Ghosts.
He has appeared in some non-Milkyway films as well – i.e., A True Mob Story, The Blood Rules, and Beauty and the Breast.»
«Though best known to modern audiences as the father of director Wong Jing and the occasional elderly heavy-set character actor who has appeared in a few high profile films over the past five years, Wong Ting-lam was in his own right one of the more prolific and prominent HK film directors in the 195...»
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