Biography of Chor Yuen

Biography of Chor Yuen

Chor Yuen was born Cheung Po-kin, on 8 October 1934 (HKID birth year: 1933) in Canton, his father the Cantonese film star Cheung Wood-yau. He studied Chemistry at Sun Yat-sen University in Canton, but dropped out in Year Two (1955) to seek medical treatment in Hong Kong. He then started working as Ng Wui's assistant director and scriptwriter, and had since then stayed in the film industry.

He joined Kong Ngee Motion Picture Production Company in 1957 and learnt directing from Chun Kim before making his directorial debut with The Natural Son (1959). In 1960, he rose to fame after directing the realist classic The Great Devotion. He formed Rose Motion Picture Company with his future wife Nam Hung in 1962, releasing Rose in Tears (1963) as the company's inaugural title. Chor Yuen soon became one of the most sought-after directors in Cantonese cinema, with cherished titles like the actioner Black Rose (1965), the suspense film The Violet Girl (1966), the romance Winter Love (1968) and the comedy The Pregnant Maiden (1968). With the decline of Cantonese cinema in the late 1960s, Chor joined Cathay Organisation Hong Kong Limited to make his first Mandarin film Violet Clove and Firebird (1970) and his first wuxia film Cold Blade (1970), the latter laying the foundation for the atmospheric romantic approach to swordplay films that has become his signature. He then moved over to Shaw Brothers and made Duel for Gold (1971). Studio owner Sir Run Run Shaw was impressed with the film, paving the way for Chor's productive tenure in the company. He directed Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972), written by Chiu Kang-chien, which received much acclaim for its splendid visual and exotic style. He then made The House of 72 Tenants (1973), its use of Cantonese created a sensation, breaking box office records and leading to the revival of Cantonese cinema in Hong Kong. In 1976, he adapted novels by Gu Long to start a series of swordplay films, including Killer Clans and The Magic Blade, both considered classics of the genre. Murder Plot (1979), another Gu Long adaptation, won the Best Action Film Director award at the 25th Asian Film Festival. Chor left Shaw Brothers in 1985 and worked on projects with different companies, including Hong Kong's last Cantonese opera film The Legend of Lee Heung Kwan (1990), starring Hung Sin Nui. Chor Yuen was highly productive in his creative career, having directed over 120 films with varied styles. Apart from Cantonese and Mandarin films, he also made Farewell to a Warrior (1976) in Teochew dialect. He concluded his directorial career with Blood Stained Tradewinds in 1990. He had also worked as an actor, in such films as Cherie (1984) and Police Story (1985), and the TV series Family Squad (1991).

Chor Yuen received the Professional Achievement Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th (1998) and the 37th (2018) Hong Kong Film Awards respectively. He passed away on 21 February 2022 in Hong Kong.

Source: Oral history interview of Chor Yuen

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