Evergreen Motion Picture (永茂電影企業)
York Lo: Evergreen Motion Picture (永茂電影企業)
Left: poster for Evergreen’s “Action Speaks Louder than Words” in 1955 starring Sheung Kwun Kwan-wai and SzemaWah Lung; Right: Poster for Evergreen’s “Honor Thy Father and Mother” in 1953 starring Sheung Kwun Kwan-wai and Cheung Ying-tsoi
Evergreen Motion Picture was one of the eight leading independent movie production companies in the 1950s which produced over 30 films between 1948 and 1959 and distributed at least 9 films. Even though the firm was relatively short-lived and largely forgotten today, it produced high quality films and stars developed by the firm went on to have long careers in movies and television.
Evergreen founder Cheng Sang (鄭生), whose alias was Kwan-pui (鈞沛), was a native of Bao-an county in Guangdong (which included HK).Born in HK in 1905, he was the son ofCheng Chiu-nam (鄭超南), who was an architectural draughtsman. After graduating from Queen’s College, Cheng Sangworked for the Hong Kong government and later at the law firms of Remedios and Woo & Woo, which was founded in the 1960s by Far East Exchange co-founder Edward P.H. Woo (胡百熙) and his sister Victoria Woo (胡紫棠) and emerged as a prominent figure in the legal circle. He also worked as manager of Tai Sun Electricity Supply (大新電力) in Bao-an andUnited Chemical Industries (聯合化學工業製造廠)and Tai Hang Garage (大坑汽車修理廠) in Hong Kong before starting Evergreen & Co (永茂洋行) and Sang Sang Construction (生生建築行). (XianggangNianjian, 1971)
Cheng Sang’s interest in movies started before the War and he had starred in at least three movies in the late 1930s as an actor – “Blood and Iron” in 1937 co-starring Woo Tip-ying (胡蝶影), “The Woman General” in 1939 starring Nancy Chan Wan-sheung and “The Blood-Stained Peach Blossom Fan” starring Cheng Mang-ha. The last two films were directed by Mak Siu-ha (麥嘯霞), who was killed when a bomb was dropped on Robinson Road during the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941 and all three films also featured Chow Chi-shing (周志誠), who later starred in Evergreen pictures.
When Evergreen was launched in the late 1940s, the Cheng family held a cocktail reception at the open-air terrace of their residence on Bonham Road in the Mid-Levels. The first film produced by Evergreen was “Separated Too Soon” (紅顏未老恩先斷) in 1948, starring Shanghainese actor Pak Wan (白雲, 1917-1982) and local actressTsi Law-lin (紫羅蓮, 1924-2015) and written and directed by Ng Wui (吳回,1913-1996) and Chun Kim (秦劍, 1925-1969) and was the first movie for Chun. Ng directed many other movies for Evergreen including the action film “Night Discovery of the Women’s Trap” (夜破藏香洞) and costume film “Pitiable Wife” (可憐閨裡月) in 1949 and “When a Lovely Girl Bestows Her Favors” (美人恩) and “Sunset Rendezvous” (人約黃昏後), last two both filmed in 1951 and starring Pak Yin (白燕, 1920-1987).
Left: poster for Dragon & Phoenix Film’s “Her Difficult Life” distributed by Evergreen in 1954. Right: Poster for “Family Mottos”, Evergreen’s top selling film in 1955
Aside from Ng Wui, other directors for Evergreen included Chu Kei (珠璣), Lung To (龍圖) and Wong Toi (黃岱) and the four of them and six other directors of Cantonese films in the 1950s and 1960s were known collectively as the “Ten Brothers”.While Evergreen’s early films relied on established actors such as Cheung Ying, Sun Ma Sze-tsang and Pak Yin, Cheng recognized the need to develop his own stars so inearly 1953, Evergreen organized a star search with directors Ng Wui, Wong Toi and Mok Hong-sze as judges. Several dozen young people were selected including Cheung Ying-tsoi (張英才, starred in 195 films between 1953 and 2003 and numerous TV shows), Sheung Kwun Kwan-wai (上官筠慧,1933-2011, starred in 61 films between 1953 and 1966), Yu Mei-wah (余美華, starred in 46 films between 1953 and 1969), Szema Wah Lung (司馬華龍, 1921-2012, starred in 344 films between 1953 and 2002 and also countless TV shows for RTV and ATV between 1977 and 2000), Ha Chun Chau (夏春秋, original name Kenneth Ng Kam-tsun, later became popular TV show host for RTV and ATV for over 30 years), Yuen Shiu-fai (阮兆輝, then a child star, later became a leading Cantonese opera artist) and Koo Chun-kwong(古振光), the father of star Louis Koo. (WKYP, 1953-3-27) These new stars became the leading men and ladies of Evergreen pictures for the following several years.
In December 1954, Cheng Sang was appointed managing director of the Apollo Theater (新舞台), which opened the year before in Sham Shui Po. The theatre operated until 1977 and afterwards was developed into the residential Apollo Building. (WKYP, 1954-12-16) Cheng had also served as deputy manager of the Globe Theatre in Wanchai.
Aside from being shown in local theaters, Evergreen films were also distributed by the Ho family’s Kong Ngee Organization in Singapore (the backer of Kong Ngee Films and Wader Film Studio, see article) and in late 1955, Ho Kai-sheung and his nephew Ho Chung-yip inspected the production of Evergreen film during their visit. (WKYP, 1955-11-5)
In 1955, Evergreen produced five movies with “Family Mottos” (家教) starring Sheung Kwun Kwan-wai and Yu Mei-wah being the top grossing film. When Cheng Sang spoke to the press in January 1956, he announced plans to produce 8 films that year and insisted that the firm emphasized educational and artistic value over box office, stating that he had films which turned away superstitious audience because of the presence of a nun in the 1955 movie “Doomed Love” or less sophisticated audience because of difficult words in the movie’s title. (TKP, 1956-1-5)
Left: Newspaper ad for Evergreen’s ”Doomed Love” (孽緣) in 1955(WKYP, 1956-1-3); Right: Poster for the last Evergreen film “Madam Kam” in 1959 starring Tang Pik-wan
In April 1957, the market rumoured that Evergreen would cease production after “The Dragon King’s Daughter” (龍王公主) starring Sheung Kwun Kwan-wai that year as Cheng Sang would like to focus on his rattan business. That proved to be just rumour as Cheng was found to be discussing a sequel to the movie with its director Lung To at Evergreen’s office and Cheng reiterated that he was churning out less movies because he was selective rather than planning to shut down. (KSEN, 1957-4-30)
For whatever reason, Cheng Sang only produced two more films at Evergreen after that – “Victim of Jealousy” (妃海花) in 1957 starring Sheung Kwun Kwan-wai, Yu Mei-wah, Sze Ma Wah-lung and Ha Chun-chau and directed by Chu Kei and “Madam Kam” (琴姑) Part I and Part II, starring Tang Pik-wan as Madam Kam and Law Kim-long and directed by Wong Toi in 1959.
Article and picture of Evergreen film “Jealousy” in 1957 (KSEN, 1957-6-18)
Left: Cheng Sang delivering a speech at the graduation ceremony of the Po On Chamber of Commerce School in 1973 (KSEN, 1973-12-21); Right: Cheng Wai-sum
In the 1960s, Cheng Sang took a hiatus from movie production.In July 1960, he opened the Hakka restaurant TsuiYuet Lau (醉月樓) at 6 Tonocchy Road in Wanchai with air conditioning and new style lighting. (WKYP, 1960-7-17) He was also a director of Tung Shing Entertainment (東成娛樂) and Wing On Motor (永安汽車公司).
Outside of business, he was active in community affairs and served as supervisor of the Cheng Clansmen Association and director of the Po On Chamber of Commerce. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he donated 7 scholarships each year at the Po On Chamber of Commerce School named after himself, his father and his father’s three wives including his mother Wong Yuk-ching. (WKYP, 1972-12-20)
In 1971, Cheng Sang re-entered the movie business by startingAntar Motion Picture & Trading (安逹電影貿易有限公司) in partnership with Yuen Wing-on (袁永安). The firm distributed over 20 films from South Korea in 1971 and produced two action films directed by Han Ying-chieh (韓英傑), who was action director for Bruce Lee’s “The Big Boss” and King Hu’s “Dragon Inn” including “Treasure Castle” (飛龍奪寶), a Mandarin martial arts movie. (WKYP, 1972-2-1) As a firm, Antar was incorporated in 1971 and dissolved in 1995.
Cheng Sang’seldest son Cheng Wai-sum (鄭惠森) left King’s College at the age of 14 in 1939 to join the military in China. After the War, he became an actor with his film debut in Evergreen’s “Romance Everywhere” (到處惹相思) co-starring Pak Yin and eventually starred in over 75 films between 1949 and 1965. In March 1954, Cheng Wai-sum was attacked at a restaurant in Kowloon by Lam Heung-wing (林向榮), the father of actor Lam Ka-shing and Lam Ka-yee (林家儀), who was three months pregnant with Wai-sum’s baby while Wai-sum was married with 5 children. For the assault, Lam was sentenced to 2-year probation. (TKP, March 1954)
List of films produced by Evergreen:
This article was first posted on 2nd July 2021.
Related Indhhk articles:
- The Kwan Family – Theatre Owners and Movie Producers
- Lee Wui-tao (李會桃): Textbook and Tabloid Publisher and Movie Producer
- Lo Lam (盧林) – Building Contractor, Theater Owner and Movie Producer
- A Brief History of Hong Kong Cinema to 1988 – Film Studios and Personalities
- Benjamin Brodsky – first to open a Hong Kong film production company and “King of Chinese cinema”
- Chow Mud-wai (周沕桅, 1905-1978) – Maker of Steel Windows, Owner of Theaters and Philanthropist
- Lee Po-lam (李寶林,1909-2002) – Theatre Owner in the 1950s to 1970s
- Central Theatre (中央戲院)
- Ho Chapman (何澤民): Movie Producer, Theater Owner and Developer of the Imperial Hotel
- Yung Hwa Motion Film Industries, newspaper article 1948