Hong Kong Chemical Industries Ltd – 1960s wax factory producing models of Hollywood stars

HF: “It should come as no surprise that the waxworks of the Los Angeles ‘Palace of the Living Arts,’ famously described in Umberto Eco’s comic nightmare, Travels in Hyper-Reality were designed in Hong Kong, the work of Jack Chen, the Shanghainese trained sculptor who joined Hong Kong Chemical Industries in the mid-1950s. The company had built a reputation for designing ornamental wax candles imitating jade figurines (up to 200 designs a year), and around 1960 had progressed to polyester duplications of their earlier wax imitations.

When in 1962 a Chinese entrepreneur in Long Beach enquired in Hong Kong about waxwork manufacture, it was natural that the company should have secured the contract to produce four figures including Nancy Kwan in a rickshaw from The World of Suzy Wong. Hundreds more figures followed, and it was a short step to La Giaconda in a rickshaw.” (1)

The company was incorporated on 27th June 1960 and dissolved on 2nd April 1965.

This document is “Crown Copyright Reserved”  1962 but I am not sure where it originates from. Many thanks to Mark Regan for retyping the original document.

Hong Kong Chemical Industries 1962 company description 1962 snipped extract

Hollywood Stars “Made in Hong Kong”

Top Hollywood stars can be seen almost any time in the crowded workrooms of a tiny Chinese factory in Hong Kong. In recent weeks they have included Nancy Kwan, Anthony Perkins and William Holden. Smiling, professionally poised and at ease, they submit to being photographed and stared at. Then, with fond care, they are wrapped in polythene sheets, nailed into specially made cases and put on the next ship for America. Their destination: the Movieland Wax Museum at Long Beach, California.

The manufacture of wax figures is the newest of Hong Kong’s manufacturing industries. Hong Kong Chemical Industries Ltd. Recently received an order for 100 models of film stars and these are now being made at the rate of one every 10 days. Each model is individually created by artists who work from photographs and – when available – detailed measurements. Immense trouble is taken to give the models exactly the right colour eyes and complexion, while human hair brought for HK$100 for eight ounces (£6.50 Sterling; US$18) is used. Papier mach  parts that show are covered with wax. Generally a male figure costs HK$7,000 (£437.10s. Sterling; US$1,200) and a female figure HK$8,800 (£550 Sterling; US$1,500).

This picture shows workers at the wax works dressing and grooming a model of Al Jolson before packing it for shipment to America. The arm and head are moveable.

Official photograph issued by Government Information Services, West Wing, Central Govt Offices, Hong Kong

[Possibly the picture referred to above is that of Al Jolson shown below]

Crown Copyright Reserved     1962.

Hong Kong Chemical Industries -company employees and wax models

From left to right: Mason ZC Yung, Managing Director; a model of Jeff Chandler; a model of a rickshaw puller with Nancy Kwan; William S Hart: Jack Chen, Chief Artist of the company

Hong Kong Chemical Industries AN ARTIST WITH MODELS OF WILLIAM FARNOM (LEFT) AND HUMPHREY BOGART, 1962]

A company artist with Mr Bogart and “William Farnom” [should be William Farnum?]

Hong Kong Chemical Industries [A MODEL OF AL JOLSON IS BEING PACKED FOR SHIPMENT, 1962]

A model of Al Jolson being packed for shipment, 1962

Hong Kong Chemical Industries AN ASSISTANT ARTIST IS PUTTING HAIR ON A MODEL OF ANTHONY PERKINS, 1962

An assistant artist putting hair on a model of Anthony Perkins, 1962

Source:

  1. 60s/90s Dissolving the People – Hong Kong Sixties – Matthew Turner
  2. HK Public Records Office: Hong Kong Chemical Industries

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