In the movie industry of virtually every nation there is a roster of reliable character actors who may seem to be in every film, their faces familar although their names may not be. And while the names immediately following the title (if not above it) garner the publicity, the awards and the big bucks, most of of them realize that even their most successful films would be nothing without the capable backup of the unsung heroes, their supporting cast. To me, the all-time consummate character actor was a small, creepy-looking guy named Elisha Cook, Jr. (He should have received a Lifetime Achievement Oscar before a lot of the faded old stars who were so honored.) For more Hollywood examples, Google "character actors" and Hollywood; there are numerous sites devoted to these people.
One of the great character actors of Chinese cinema's first golden age, the 1930s, was Liu Jiqun (刘继群) (sometimes credited as C.C.Liu), as popular with filmgoers as he was respected by industry co-workers. Liu was born in 1908, a native of Wujin, Jiangsu. He made his screen debut with the Great Wall studio in 1925's "Star-plucking Girl," then followed that with roles in some of Great Wall's more successful films, although his name was usually well down or last in the cast credits. An exception was 1929's《Heroic Son》, in which Liu had the principal adult role as the good-hearted but somewhat hapless and naive father of the title "son". But Liu's career blossomed when he joined the new Lianhua studio, appearing in some of the major film classics of the 1930s.
[right, dvd of 1929's 《Heroic Son》. Click on any image to view full size]
[below, Liu with Ruan Lingyu in 1930's "Suicide Pact".]
He was often in movies starring Ruan Lingyu, who publicly declared Liu "the best supporting actor in our business" and encouraged Lianhua directors to cast him in her own movies. He largely disappeared from the screen for a time in the mid-30s, but it is unrecorded why. While it may have been health-related, another possibility may have been despondence resulting from the March, 1935 suicide of Ruan, who had used her clout as Lianhua's prime diva to help his career, and became a close friend.
[right, Liu Jiqun as a young playboy in "Night in the City" partying with, from left, Ruan Lingyu, Jin Yan, and Zhang Meimei]
Whatever the reason, he came back in late 1936 to make one more film for Lianhua, before moving to wartime "Orphan Island" studios like Xinhua and Huaxin. His later movies were mostly comedies in which he was teamed frequently with "Skinny Monkey" Han Lan'gen as a Chinese version of the U.S. Laurel and Hardy comic duo. Liu Jiqun died in early 1940 after a brief illness, age 31.
[left, China's "Laurel and Hardy": Liu Jiqun and Han Lan'gen]
[Selected filmography follows after the bump]
A String of Pearls ... Ma Rulong
The Country Girl ... Shen Shaoqin
The Hypocrite ... Gao Bitian
Hardships and Joys of a Couple ... Zhang Jintang
The Arrow of Hatred ... the leper
Wu Song Kills his Sister-in-Law ... Zhang Dulian
No Way Out for a Romantic Woman ... Hu Wei
Shixiu Kills on Mount Cuiping ... Hu Tuoduo
Huang Tianba Seeks a Wife ... fat man
The True and False Monkey King ...
The Spider Gang ... Wu Dacheng
Strange Knight ... Old Wang
Evil's Shadow ... Big Niu
Ne Zha's Birth Date ... The Dragon King
Two Stars of the Milky Way ... associate director
The Peach Girl ...
A Spray of Plum Blossoms . ... Fatty Zhu
Love and Obligation ...
Wild Rose ... Old Niu
Spring in the South ... You Xiang
Loving Blood of the Volcano ... Old Wang
Light of Motherhood ... Liu Dakui
Little Toys ...
New Year's Eve ... Old Man
Night in the City --- young celebrity
Such Heroes ... Fatty
Street Cleaner ...
Dawn Over the Metropolis ... Little Zhang
Perfumed Snowy Sea ... Uncle
The Wind ... Director
The Big Road ... Boss Ding
Four Sisters ... Father
Men Without Worries ...
Spring Dream in the Peach Garden ...
Spring Arrives Everywhere ... Old Father
Joined by a Hyphen ... Factory Owner
Unexpected Luck ...
Lianhua Symphony: Three People's Way ... Old Liu
The Invincible Martial Arts Troupe ...
Visiting Shanghai After 60 Years ... Old Liu
Three Swordsmen ...
Empress Wu Zetian ...
Mother and Daughter ... Second Spectator
Lady General (aka Mulan Joins the Army) ... Liu Ying