Chen Qiang dies: 'Perhaps God wants to watch comedy'

Updated: 2012-06-28 09:44

By Wang Ru (China Daily)

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Chen Qiang dies: 'Perhaps God wants to watch comedy'

Left: Chen Qiang's vivid portrayal of Huang Shiren in The White-Haired Girl was one of his classics. Right: Chen attends a news conference for Tuo'er, in 2005, a comedy starring his son Chen Peisi. Provided to China Daily

Chen Qiang, a film star whose career spanned 60 years, and one of the industry's pioneers of New China, died of organ failure on Tuesday night in Beijing. He was 94.

He was well-known for playing villains in such black-and-white classics as The White-Haired Girl, 1950, in which Chen vividly portrayed the despotic landlord Huang Shiren. His acting was so convincing that after the film was showed, viewers often attempted to beat him when they came across him on the streets.

He was also the evil landlord Nan Batian in The Red Detachment of Women, 1961, which won him Best Male Supporting Actor Prize of the first Hundred-Flower Film Awards in 1962, and Best Male Actor Prize of the third Asia-African Film Festival, in Indonesia, 1964.

Chen was skilled at exploring the inner worlds of the characters he played and understanding their psychology.

From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, Chen and his son, the comedy star Chen Peisi, acted together in several famous comedies about ordinary families in the era of reform and opening-up, in which he played a funny, old-fashioned father figure.

Chen's death prompted mourning both within the film industry and among the general public. When the news was posted on Sina Weibo, a popular micro blog, it was soon forwarded more than 130,000 times.

"Perhaps God wants to watch comedy," was one comment. Another person wrote: "My grandfather 'hated' him so much, I 'laughed' at him so much; we both love him forever!"

Actress Liu Xiaoqing, who acted with Chen in 1979, expressed her grief on her micro blog: "I was shocked to hear the sad news. He guided and cared for young actors a lot. May he rest in peace!"

TV hostess Yang Lan recalled that 20 years ago, Chen rode a bike and climbed six floors to her apartment to ask her to act in a film.

"He didn't have to come himself to invite a fresh face like me. I was touched by his passion and devotion to film. We love you!" Yang wrote on her micro blog.

Born to an impoverished family in 1918, in Hebei province's Ningjin county, Chen moved to Taiyuan, Shanxi province, with his parents. He started to study drama at middle school and after the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945) broke out, Chen joined a resistance performance group and acted in several dramas encouraging people to fight the Japanese.

In 1938, Chen went to Yan'an in Shaanxi province, the then revolutionary center of the Communist Party of China, to study and perform drama. In 1942, he joined the Party. In 1949, he appeared in New China's first feature film, Bridge.

In 1961, Chen and 21 actors and actresses were honored as "People's Actors of New China" - known as the "22 Stars".

In 2008, Chen was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 29th Hundred-Flower Awards.