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Legendary actress honored

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-30 13:21

Wang Danfeng received a standing ovation as she received the lifetime achievement award at the 20th Shanghai International Film Festival which took place from June 17 to 26.

Accompanied by her daughter and grandson, the 93-year-old wheelchair-bound actress is one of the country's most lauded thespians who first made her acting debut in Longtan Huxue (The Dragon Dungeon and Tiger's Den) in 1941.

Throughout her film career which spanned nearly 40 years, Wang acted in more than 60 roles. In her last film appearance in 1980, she played a Japanese natural scientist in Yuse Hudie (The Jade-Colored Butterfly).

Born in 1924, Wang started her film career at 16 when the then middle-school student was handpicked by director Zhu Shilin. Impressed by her petite beauty, the director later casted Wang as a young maid in Longtan Huxue.

Zhu also suggested she change her name from Wang Yufeng to the more resounding Wang Danfeng and made her the leading role in Xin Yu Guang Qu (The New Fisherman's Tale), a highly successful movie that propelled the young actress to stardom.

In the early 1940s, Wang went on to star in a series of movies and most of her roles were as unfortunate women suffering from persecution or mistreatment. The film Minzu de Huohua (Sparks of the Nation) marked a turning point in her career as she played a patriotic and progressive teacher.

Wang said that one of her favorite roles was Xue Baochai in The Dream of Red Mansions because her self-esteem was boosted by getting to work alongside big names such as Zhou Xuan whom she admired as well as acclaimed director Bu Wancang.

In 1949, Wang moved to Hong Kong at the invitation of the newly-founded Great Wall Film Studio. She made six movies there before moving back to Shanghai where she married Liu Heqing, the son of Liu Zhongliang who was the co-founder of the Cathay Film Company.

In the years that followed, film studios in Shanghai were integrated into one collective company before going under a public-private joint management. After the State took over ownership of this film studio collective, Wang became an actress at the newly established Shanghai Film Studio in 1952.

Among her most celebrated performances in the 1950s was the role of a young nurse in the film Hushi Riji (A Nurse's Diary). She is still widely remembered today for the scene in which she tried to put a baby to sleep by humming the song The Little Swallow.

Wang went on to star in a host of other films in the late 1970s before retiring in 1980. Though she was no longer an actress, she had an active and eventful social life that included attending the inauguration ceremony of American president Ronald Reagan in 1985.

Wang has enjoyed a blissful marriage that produced four daughters. In the late 1980s, the couple moved to Hong Kong where they introduced the vegetarian restaurant brand Gong De Lin, also known as Godly.

The first Gong De Lin restaurant opened in Shanghai in 1922 by Zhao Yunshao. It was frequented by intellectuals, scholars and celebrities.

In order to make vegetarian dishes tasty and palatable, chefs in Hong Kong used copious amounts of oil in their cooking.

The couple believed this practice was contrary to the objective of eating healthy and in turn created light and wholesome cuisine which won support from diners. Gong De Lin was so successful in Hong Kong that it soon expanded to two venues.

When Liu and Wang were in their 80s, they sold the business and moved back to Shanghai where they lived peacefully in Shannan village, located in the city's downtown area. Liu died on Feb 4, 2016, at the age of 90.

Legendary actress honored

Legendary actress honored

(China Daily 06/30/2017 page9)

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