Saturday, September 23, 2006

Bao Fang Dies Aged 84 years

[Ta Kung Pao & Wen Wei Po 23/09/08]

Revered actor and director Bao Fang has suffered a period of poor health and yesterday afternoon at around half past three, he passed away in hospital at the age of 84. His eldest daughter, son (Oscar winning cinematographer) Peter Pau, son-in-law Fong Ping and his grandchildren were at his side when he died, but his second daughter, actress Bao Qijing (Sis Bao), was not able to be there in time as she was filming in Shenzhen. She arrived back at around 4pm but was unable to say her last goodbyes to her father. However, she feels that he has suffered a lot of pain and hardship since his stroke, so although she misses him dearly, she feels that this is a release for him.

Sis Bao was in tears as she arrived at the hospital and rushed into the room to see her father. Afterwards, she gave a short interview to the waiting press and with her face sore from crying, she says: "I could not see him alive one last time, he has left now. Fortunately, my sister and brother were there for him and he left peacefully. (Has your father left any words?) His condition deteriorated this year and has had more visits to hospital. We knew last week that he was in a bad way and he has not said anything for a long time now. When my brother speaks to him, he will raise his hand, but he did not respond to anyone else. Maybe he loved my brother especially." Sis Bao continued as she wiped her tears: "My father has been through a lot of pain in the last seven and a half years since his stroke and this is a release for him. When we found out that Uncle Ha (Kwan Hoi Shan) had passed away earlier, we were already very upset. Although his stroke was much later than my father's, to see them suffer so much makes you want them to be released from it, so we should not be too sad, but I really do miss him." As Sis Bao has to continue with her filming commitments, she has left her father's funeral arrangements to her brother to arrange.

Sis Bao's husband (director) Fong Ping was also filming in the Mainland, but he arrived back to Hong Kong in time to see his father-in-law before he died. Asked as to the cause of death, Fong explained that this was down to a weakening of the body functions. He said sadly: "When you get old, there is nothing you can do and everyone was prepared for the worst. The most important thing is that he is not suffering now, that is just life." He says that Bao suffered a stroke in April 1999 and over the last seven years, his condition was deteriorated with his respiratory system failing, leaving him with constant visits to the hospital. The one regret for the family was that Sis Bao did not arrive back in time and that although Bao worked hard making films and filming series over the years, he lived a simple life of a pauper and was never able to truly enjoy life. Fong adds: "The curious thing is that something always happens when we are at our busiest. Fortunately Peter and big sister were here and they whispered their final words to their father as they watched the heart monitor falling from 80 to 70 to 60 before falling to a straight line." Asked about the plans for the funeral, Fong explained that as Bao has not been able to speak for a while, he was not able to express his wishes. Fong says: "For us, he is a family member, but to other people, he is just an old actor, so there is nothing special to them about his funeral." Fong adds that in life, Bao was not just his father-in-law, but also a great teacher, from whom he has learned a lot in the past.

Bao Fang was a renowned movie actor and director. Originally named Bao Jihun, he was born on 13th November 1922 in Jiangxi Province, with his family originating in Anhui. In 1934, he joined the provincial arts college, where he appeared in plays and started his artistic drive.

After graduating in 1947, Bao moved to Hong Kong, where he appeared in many Mandarin movies for various production companies, alongside the other migrating Mandarin greats of the time. He also expanded into scriptwriting and directing over the years. In 1974, he undertook a project to film historical epic "Chu Yuan", but due to the political situation in China, this film was not released until 1977, where it caused a commotion and received excellent reviews.

In 1980, as he recalled personally, he had to fund his son Peter's studies in America, so Bao joined TVB to film "Yesterday's Glitter" and started his career as a veteran TV actor. He appeared in many series including "Love and Passion", "Yang Family Saga" and "Heavenly Sword Dragon Sabre". In 1999, whilst filming for "Plain Love" in Guangxi, he suffered a stroke and was unconscious for a while. This led to his retirement and ended his showbiz career. In this year, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Bauhinia Film Awards.

Bao married his stage sweetheart Liu Su during the war, but she died young through ilness. His daughter Bao Qijing is a film and television actress, son-in-law Fong Ping is a film producer and his son Peter Pau is an internationally acclaimed cinematographer and director, who won an Oscar for his camera work in "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". In 2005 as China celebrated 100 years of film, Bao was named as one of the top hundred Hong Kong actors of all time.

One of the most memorable events for Bao in his latter years was the news of his son Peter's success at the Academy Awards. At the time, he was recovering from his earlier stroke and undergoing physiotherapy, but when he saw his son on the television accepting the award, he was very excited and said as he watched: "My goodness, he is even taking the American Award!" Afterwards, Peter called him and he laughed that his son needed to show him the award and said: "This is not only representative of Chinese people, but also takes it to Asia, Africa, Latin America and all over the world where there are Chinese people."

Later when Peter brought the award back to Hong Kong, he presented it to his father, who commented on the weight before saying to Peter: "You are worthy!" Bao always believed that his son would receive an award for 'Best Film' because he felt Peter had a great determination, drive and a spirit for research and he was particularly comforted because Peter had repaid his sacrifices. Peter says that his own interest in the film industry stemmed from his father and the opportunities he had offered through his own work and for funding and supporting Peter's studies in San Francisco. He will forever remember the methods his father taught him as a director that he will use for the rest of his life.

Bau Fong 1922-2005
Rest in Peace


Reactions to Bao Fang's death

When Liza Wang heard about the death of TV and film veteran Bao Fang, she was a little shocked. She said: "It is a great loss because he has made a great contribution to the world of film and television." Liza worked with Bao in "Yesterday's Glitter" and "Love and Passion" and she has particularly fond memories of filming "Yesterday's Glitter" because he played her father-in-law. Liza says that working opposite Bao was very relaxed because he was very professional and had a good attitude, treating everyone well. She says that Bao had the aura of a superstar and was articulate and suave, which was a rarity. She feels that male leads now are more like 'kids', but Bao had the height and the grace of a true gentleman. Liza recalls that she has watched many of his earlier films over the years and she loves his performances in his youth. She says: "I will be thinking of him a lot. (Will you offer a tribute?) I have not thought about this yet."

For Damian Lau, who is currently filming in the mainland, when he heard the news of Bao's death, he quickly asked for the details from the reporters. Asked what impression he had of Bao, Damian replied: "He was a very good senior, who was willing to teach others and was very amicable."


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