HK actor Bao Fong (or Bao Fong, Pao Fang, Pau Fong, Pao Fong) (鲍方) died at the age of 84.
Born Bao Ji Huan (鲍继焕) in November 12th, 1922 in Nanchang, Jiangxi province (江西, 南昌), Bao's family originated from the Anhui province. After law studies at the faculty of Guangxi, he joined a theatrical company in Guilin in 1942. In 1948, he arrived in Hong Kong. During the 1950s-1960s, he worked with almost all the island’s film studios, often under exiled film directors like him. He thus worked a lot with Bu Wancang, Zhu Shi Lin, Li Ping Qian and Chen Jing Bo, who had all started their careers in mainland China. Bao Fong then evolved in the cinema of the exiled Shanghai people, which was much different from the cinema of the local Cantonese. He appeared in adaptations of novels and plays, great historical events and social comedies. Being tall and good-looking made him play princes or romantic male leads. A friendly and comical air emanated from his personality, which seduced female audience. Among his performances at that time, we can mention Year In, Year Out (Yi Nian Zhi Ji), Wife and Husband (Fu Fu Zhi Jian), A Widow's Tears (Xin Gua), Thunderstorm (Lei Yu) or even Garden of Repose (Gu Yuan Chun Meng).
In 1959, he co-directed a first film with Chen Jing Bo (陈静波) : The Teenage Girl (有女初长成). In 1963, he directed his first film alone The Reluctant Bridegroom (假婿乘龙). He made on the whole about fifteen films in which he also played most of the time. He found genuine critical recognition with the film (co-directed with Hui Sin/Xu Xian) about the poet Chu Yuan (屈原) (or Chu Yuan/Wat Yuen) in 1977. Between 1978 and 1983, he held positions of responsibility among the Feng Huang/Phoenix studio (凤凰影片公司).
In the late 1970s, in order to pay for his son’s studies in the USA, he started acting in TV series for TVB. It was with his uncle, Wong Tin Lam, that he had better parts, usually those of conervative patriarchs, emperors, ministers or declining kung-fu school masters. In King Wah Chun Mung (京华春梦), a series by Wong Tin Lam, which depicts the adventures of a great feudal family, adapted from Zhang Hen Shui’s work, close to Pa Kin’s novels, Bao Fong fought against the star couple, Lisa Wong and Damian Lau. In Man Sui Chin San Chung See Ching/万水千山总是情 by the same Wong Tin Lam (a chronicle about a few families caught in the vicissitudes of History) Bao Fong played by the side of Patrick Tse Yin, Lisa Wong and Ray Lui. In Suet San Fei Wu/The Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain (1985), he worked once again with Ray Lui, but also Angie Chiu, Margie Tsang or even Chow Sau Lan. At that time, Johnnie To took part in the filming of all Wong Tin Lam’s series, in which we could also find the names of Law Kar (currently, a curator at the Hong Kong Film Archives), Benny Chan, Lau Shut Yue, Tam Ling or of course Wong Jing, his son. His great presence, his noble face and pleasant voice often forbade Bao Fong to play bad guys. As he grew old, he lost his comic aspect in his roles. He ended up specializing in the parts of strict yet good old men, or of old wisemen in wu-xia series.
In the 1990s, he would occasionally appear in films. The fans of Ronny Yu, Brigitte Lin and Leslie Cheung must remember Bao Fong as the patriarch Wu-Tang in Jiang Hu/The Bride With White Hair (1993). Bao Fong got numerous honorary awards towards the end of his career. He had an apoplexy in 1999, during the shooting of a Chinese TV-series. That accident forced him to retire. Besides his 60-year career, Bao Fong took part in more than a hundred films and TV series.
The actress Pao Hei Ching (鮑起靜) – recently seen as Jet Li’s mother in Fearless – is Bao Fong’s youngest daughter and producer Fong Ping’s (方平) wife, Derek Yee’s old friend. She started in the industry in her father’s shadow. She was an actress, but also scriptgirl, assistant, production assistant, etc. on the films he made. Bao Fong’s son Peter Pau (Pao Hei Ming/Pao Tak Hei - 鮑起鳴/鮑德熹), after film studies in the USA, came back and settled down in Hong Kong where he is now one of the most reknown directors of photography. The producer Fong Ping (方平), Derek Yee’s old friend, is his son-in-law.
Bao Fong died at Hong Kong Ruttonjee Hospital on September 22th, 2006.
VTL (September 2006)