| ||One of the "Seven Princesses", a group of bright teen stars in the early 1960s.
Biography (Chinese Screen Queens of the '50s and '60s)
Born in 1947 in Shanghai Without a doubt Josephine Siao is one of the greatest HK actresses of the second half of the twentieth century. Her career spanned some five decades and she was always a star, right from the beginning as a child actor through the teenage years into adulthood to her retirement. She appeared in her first film in 1954 (A Child's Tear) and two years later won the Best Child Actor award for her role in Orphan Girl.
In the 1960's alone she starred in over 200 films! She was one of the popular female teenage stars who were termed the "Seven Cantonese Princesses" of the 60's , but she was perhaps the most popular of them all. She appeared in all sorts of films , from romance to drama to comedy to action to fantasy. Some of these titles are Sword of Swords, Hero and the Beauty, Beautiful Queen of Hell, Eternal Love, Romance of a Teenage Girl, Young and Furious, Seven Princesses (which starred all seven of the Cantonese Princesses), I Love a Go-Go, Blood Stains the Iron Fist, The Joys and Sorrows of Youth and Teddy Girls. Trying to find these films today unfortunately seems nearly impossible (with your best bet being to attend the annual Hong Kong International Film Festival).
In 1969 she cut back on her film output to focus on her education (Josephine got a Communications degree from New Jersey's Seton Hall University), then her marriage (to actor Charlie Chin, for only three months) and worked less frequently from then on in films. In the second half of the seventies up to the early eighties she set-up a small production house of her own and made movies, some of them were hugely successful. In 1974 she starred in the noteworthy drama Hiroshima 28 where she played a young Japanese girl who fell victim of the A Bomb fallout. There was also Jumping Ash, a precedent of the police procedual and a precursor of the new-wave movies with it's hand-held camera work, on location shooting and blending of tone: comedy, suspense, action. Siao had only a small part on the screen as the hero-cop "girlfriend", but behind it she co-directed with Po Chi-lin and co-wrote with Phillip Chan. She then created for TV the bumbling plain jane character Lam Ah Shun in 1977, and then brought her character to the big screen the following year (78) in a movie that ranked 7th at the box-office. She made two more film sequels (one of them Plain Jane to the Rescue was directed by John Woo). In between she produced and starred in Ann Hui's early new wave ghost story classic The Spooky Bunch (79). In the 80's she folded up her production company and entered again into marriage and soon motherhood. In 1987 she received the Best Actress award for Wrong Couples, but her true comeback was not until the 90's.
In the early 1990s, she received acclaim from a new generation of movie goers with her appearance in Stephen Chow's Fist of Fury 1991 II and portrayal of Fong Sai Yuk's mother (who at one point pretends to be his brother, Fong Tai Yuk, and goes out to fight to regain the Fong family honor!). In 1995 she received yet other - including one at the Berlin Film Festival - Best Actress awards for Summer Snow. Other official recognition she received for Summer Snow included her being made a Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1996 she played a retiring Cantonese opera star in the terrific Hu-Du-Men. Her last film was the 1997 Mahjong Dragon.
Two of her favorite films are ones that date from earlier in her career: Chor Yuen's Winter Love (1968) and The Window (1968) in which she plays a blind girl. In an interview, she says that this was the first film in which she really felt that she was acting - "In my previous movies, I was like a puppet". In the same interview in HK Film Archives Treasure, Josephine goes on to talk about her shyness "I am not fond of being a star. I am really a shy person and I don't like big occassions. Once I finish a movie, I don't like to socialize. Being a star, even if you don't want to, circumstances will put you out of psychological kilter" She has had increased problems with her hearing in the past few years (Josephine lost all the hearing in her right ear at age two and has become nearly deaf in her left ear since 1990) and has decided to retire for good. Fredric Dannen relates the following about his meeting with Josephine Siao -- who he noted has impeccable English -- in his "Hong Kong Babylon": "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 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" (1997:121).
Today she is married (to a senior executive at the Hong Kong Telecom) and has two daughters. Somewhat appropriately, she has become a child psychologist (having got an MA degree in that field some time in the 1990s). She is also very active with children's charities and welfare in Hong Kong. This amazingly versatile woman additionally has taught English on television and written a best-selling book on Western etiquette.
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