Morning Matinee: Jimmy Lin, the Diamond Divo
Jimmy Lin Chong, originally named Lin Hsi-hsien, was born into a notable family in Tainan. Despite his father's wishes for him to become a diplomat, he fell in love with performing arts and learned dancing under the tutelage of renowned choreographer and modern dance pioneer, the late Tsai Jui-yueh. After appearing in more than a dozen films (including several Amoy-dialect films produced in Hong Kong), he was sent to Japan by his father to pursue his university education.
As if endowed with an unstoppable shine, Lin, born of mixed Taiwanese-Japanese descent, was recommended by his professor to work as an interpreter for Li Mei, leading actress of the Hong Kong-Japan co-produced stage musical, Hong Kong (1961) during the summer of his freshman year. Even greater news ensued, when Lin's dashing looks and impeccable dancing skills landed him a significant role in the musical and catapulted him to overnight fame as Toho's new and rising star. Before long, he graced the silver screen again with Star of Hong Kong (1963) and Honolulu, Tokyo, Hong Kong (1963), both co-productions between Toho and MP & GI, playing opposite superstars Lucilla You Min and Takarada Akira and yet losing none of his dazzling charm. Throughout his five-year stay in Japan, Lin remained extremely active in showbiz, even recording an album and developing a singing career.
There seems to be a destined bond between Lin and Hong Kong – after being crowned champion of the first Asian Singing Contest held in Korea in 1967, Lin went to Hong Kong on a performing tour and caught the attention of two film industry heavyweights, Raymond Chow and Chang Cheh of Shaw Brothers. The mega-studio produced three musicals in a row, all tailor-made for Lin, whose infectiously flamboyant persona made him an immediate household name in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.
Dubbed "Diamond Divo" for his delightful portrayal of the diamond thief and glitzy performance of the now-classic theme song in The Singing Thief (1969), Lin has proven to be not only an instant hit, but also an unforgettable cultural icon with a brilliant style all of his own.