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Bruce Lee & Connie Chan Po-Chu

August 14 2015 at 4:25 AM
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Connie Chan Po-Chu (10th Dec. 1946 - )
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Connie Chan Po-Chu was HK cinema's most beloved teen idols in the mid 60s till early 70s. Her main rival was her good friend, Josephine Siu Fong-Fong (13th March 1947 - ) who played along Bruce Lee in “An orphan's tragedy”(1953). Both Connie and Josephine were also members of the famous “Seven Princess” of the HK silver screen which include also the famous Petrina Fung Bo-bo, Nancy Sit Kar-yin and Fung So Bor who played along Bruce Lee in “Kid Cheung (1950).”
Born to impoverished parents in Guangdong, China, Connie was later, adopted by Chan Fei-Nung and his wife, Kung Fan-Hung, who were renowned Cantonese opera stars. Po-Chu was a name given by her adopted parents which meant the precious pearl, while Connie was an English name given by the movie company.

Photos of Bruce Lee & Connie Chan: http://postimg.org/image/b7zqpmne3/

Photos of Connie Chan: http://postimg.org/image/v4dveepfj/

"Princess of Movie-Fans"
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Within a movie life span of 14 years, Connie had made more than 230 films in a variety of genres: from traditional Cantonese opera and costumes movies to contemporary youth musicals; action films to comedies; melodramas and romances. Owing to her popularity she was dubbed the "Princess of Movie-Fans". Connie was exhausted after making numerous movies over the years. She took a break by temporarily retired from the movie industry in 1970 at age 24. She further her study in San Francisco. When she returned to Hong Kong in 1972, she made one last film with director Chor Yuen. “The Lizard,” was a Mandarin-language production by Shaw Brothers.

Childhood Friends
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Like Bruce’s father, Lee Hoi Chuen who was a Cantonese Opera Comedian, Connie’s adopted parents Chan Fei-Nung and his wife, Kung Fan-Hung were also well known Cantonese Opera stars. Both Lee Hoi Chuen and the Chan’s couple knew each other very well since they were all in the HK Cantonese Opera Group. Connie’s godfather was actor Walter Tso Tat-Wah. Walter Tso and his wife Eva Tso were both close friends of Lee Hoi Chuen’s family. His daughter Cho Meng-Yi was one of Bruce’s HK teenage girlfriends.

Bruce was 6 years older than Connie. They knew each other since young. Bruce was already acting in the Cantonese movies when he was 6 and until 18 years old, he had made more than 20 movies. On the other hand, Connie started her movie debut when she was 11 in 1958. Connie, Josephine Siu, Nancy Sit Ka-Yin, Unicorn Chan etc. used to play with Bruce in the studio. Nancy Sit once recalled, “Bruce was a mischievous boy and liked to play pranks on people but he was quite nice to girls. Bruce was like a big brother and whenever he went, Connie, Nancy and the rest would follow. During Bruce’s returned trips from U.S. in the 1960s, he would often get Unicorn to call us out for gatherings. As the center of attraction, he would always attract us to listen to his funny jokes, anecdotes and see him peforming his new learnt magic that would always mesmerise us. Sometimes, we would go out to the sea in a ferry. With Bruce around, it was always fun and enjoyable. He would often share with us some meaningful stories or talked about his philosophy of life. He seemed to be very well learnt and knowledgeable. I believe he had read extensively from books and learnt many things in his university days. As young girls, we really admired and liked him a lot just like other girls. Except for Josephine Siu who never treated him like an idol. Maybe she, herself was also proud and knowledgeable…haha…”

Lady of Actions
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Connie learnt Cantonese Opera at the age of 5 from her parents and later became an apprentice of Peking Opera Master Fen Ju-Hua, who was one of the first martial arts actresses in Shanghai during the 1920s. Thus, Connie learnt not only opera but also martial arts skills from Master Fen. Usually, the opera players know how to do somersaults and performed a mixture of various types of northern Kung Fu.

Connie was also the disciple of the Cantonese opera master, the legendary Yam Kim-Fai (note: Bruce taught Yam to dance Cha-Cha in “Too Late For Divorce”.) Connie had mastered opera and some martial arts moves from Master Yam who had high regards and compliments on Connie’s talent. Connie also acted in quite a number of martial-arts movies, usually in the company of veteran action stars Yu So-chau, Walter Tso Tat-wah, and perennial bad guy, Shek Kien (1 January 1913 – 3 June 2009) who played Han in ETD (1973). Connie also picked up some martial arts skills from these veteran actor/actress who in real life knew Kung Fu. Shek Kien himself, graduated from Jin Mo School and was a master in northern Shaolin Kung Fu.

In 1965, two films boosted Connie’s career: “The Six-Fingered Lord of the Lute” and Black Rose (in which director Chor Yuen had the foresight to change her image by putting her in a contemporary role as a modern-day Robin Hood). Connie performed the actions mainly by herself with some being doubled. With the strong foundation in opera and some martial arts skill, it was not difficult for Connie to later learn Cha-Cha and Karate for her action movies. In fact, Connie likes to dance and performed martial arts in her movies. She would sometimes choreograph her own moves and her fans were always be fascinated. The famous Yuen brothers - Yuen Woo-Ping and Yuen Chor-Yan actually had worked with Connie in 1967 - as extras in “Lady Black Cat Strikes Again.” They would later become the choreographers for her last film “The Lizard(1972).”

From Shinning Star To Farewell
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1966-67 was a diverse and prolific period during which Connie’s talent, skills, and popularity reached full bloom. In 1966, her most frequent onscreen partner was Josephine Siu, who had also studied opera under Fen Ju-Hua. The two were paired off with a variety of leading men in a profusion of comedies, musicals, romances, and action movies. “Princess of Movie-Fans” was a prototype combo of all four genres and, more significantly, the beginning of Connie’s four-year onscreen romance with her most popular leading man, James Lui Kei (1st Jan 1942 - ). And then there was “Lady Bond”, Cantonese cinema’s answer to 007 that spawned three sequels and fueled the transition from traditional martial-arts pictures to contemporary action movies.

Connie’s frenetic film output of the previous two years started to slow down a bit. Her contemporary action films had played themselves out and she settled down onscreen with leading man Lui Kei, who then became her most frequent costar in a medley of comedies, musicals, and romances. Within a year, Connie stopped making movies altogether and moved to San Francisco to finish her education in 1970. When she returned to Hong Kong in 1972, she made one last film with director Chor Yuen, who had recently signed on with Shaw Brothers.

Happy Reunion
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On 24th June 1972, Bruce performed in the TVB’s Operation Relief show. He reunited with Connie in the TV station, who was also appearing in the same show. Both Bruce and Connie happily took photos behind the TV camera. Bruce was wearing a blue vest with a striking yellow-red flying star and blue jean. Connie was in a fanciful purple dress and appeared with a calm composure. Photos showed Bruce, Wu Ngan and Brandon breaking boards, and perform JKD while Connie sang Cantonese opera songs plus fried rice for the audience. Host Tam Peng Man looked on while she cooked.

After the TVB show, Bruce met Connie again in a social function together with Unicorn Chan. They chat a lot like old friends and toasted with each other, wishing each other well in their careers. Bruce was happy to see Connie again and told her that he would visit her when she began filming “The Lizard.”

According to the 1970’s HK movie magazine, Bruce visited Shaw studio 3 times in 1972. Out of the 3 times, he was accompanied by Unicorn Chan and visited Connie twice while she was filming “The Lizard”. During the second evening visit, he and Unicorn Chan came specially to see Connie’s filming. Director Chor Yuen who was Bruce’s good friend, was really delighted when Bruce said he wanted to give some advice to Connie on the action choreography. Bruce took off his shirt and taught Connie how to fight in various stances so that it would look more realistic and convincing on screen. Bruce also showed his JKD moves that made the filming crew bewildered. Connie followed what Bruce taught her and performed her best on screen.

Chor Yuen suggested that Bruce and Connie should make a movie together if Bruce was able to film for Shaws. Bruce was looking forward to an opportunity to work together after seeing Connie swift and agile movements in “The Lizard.” Besides Angela Mao, Polly Shang Kwan, Connie was another potential martial arts actress that was overlooked and underrated. Her glamorous good looks, charisma coupled with her opera and martial arts background would surely made her a bigger movie star if given a right opportunity.

Chor Yuen who had made some of Connie’s best films during the 60s (“The Black Rose,” “Opposite Love,” “Young, Pregnant and Unmarried”), directed this Shaw movie by using Connie as the lead star again. What “The Lizard” lacks in funk, it was compensated with martial mayhem. Energetic and complex, the fight scenes were definitely the film’s main attraction. Connie got plenty of opportunity to show her stuff, thanks to action choreographers Yuen Woo-Ping and his brother Yuen Chor-Yan and of course, not forgotten Bruce’s valuable advice and input to this movie.

Return of “The Precious Pearl”
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Connie said she saw Bruce just weeks before his sudden passing. She felt sorry for Linda and her children. Bruce was like a meteor that disappeared too early. They did not have a chance to make a film together anymore. Connie and Nancy Sit both attended Bruce’s funeral together with the friends from the movie circle. Connie later, declared her retirement after completing “The Lizard.” She was only 26 then. The loss of a dear friend made Connie underwent deep thinking about her life and career. Connie is a traditional virtuous woman. She thought no matter how successful a woman is, her biggest happiness is still her family. So, eventually she waved goodbye to the silver screen and got married. However, her husband passed away few years upon their separation. Just like Nora Miao, Connie was persistent in her decision for not making a comeback to make any movies regardless of many persuasions. Only after 25 years after Bruce’s death, Connie made an exception to return to the stage in 1998 to perform opera shows in commemorating her late master, Yam Kim-Fai.
Her popularity still remains as strong as before. From 1998-2007, she has performed more than 200 stage shows, which received overwhelming response from the audience. In January 2007 she was honored with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Hong Kong Drama Awards ceremony. Just like Bruce Lee, the “Princess of Movie-Fan” will always remain the legend in the hearts of the HK audience.

Resources:
Hong Kong Movie News Article “Bruce Lee Visited Connie Chan”
Hong Kong Movie Database: http://hkmdb.com
Movie Fan Princess website: http://moviefanprincess.com/biography.html
2013 HK-TVB Interview with Nancy Sit Kar-Yin

 
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  • Re: Bruce Lee & Connie Chan Po-Chu - Anonymous on Aug 15, 2015, 9:57 AM
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