Huang Manli 黄曼梨 (Cantonese: Wong Man-li, English name Mary Wong), was one of the most prolific Chinese movie (and later TV) actresses over five decades, mostly in her native Hong Kong, where she was born Huang Wensu 黄文素 in 1913, to a family with ancestral origins in Zhongshan, Guangdong. After receiving an education in parochial schools operated by Italian missionaries, she joined the Jinan studio in Shanghai, making her debut in a 7-part martial arts series《24 Heroes》(1930-32). When the Lianhua studio opened its Hong Kong branch in 1932, she returned home to make a succession of silents, and her first sound film in 1935, the Cantonese production,《Yesterday's Song》. From that initial 1930 appearance through 1966, she amassed over 300 big screen credits, then moved into television, becoming a regular in several 1970s and 80s TV series and miniseries. It is interesting how her roles evolved: while at first she was often cast as evil and manipulative sister-in-law types who make the heroine's life miserable, she broke free from that to become most familiar to Cantonese movie fans as the long-suffering and faithful "dutiful wife and loving mother" character type portrayed so often on 1930s Shanghai screens by Lin Chuchu.
[right, Huang Manli in the 1940s, in a typical suffering mother role]
In her later years, especially on TV, Huang Manli often portrayed family matriarchs. Offscreen, Huang Manli was very active in professional matters, being one of the co-founders of the Hong Kong and South China Film Industry Workers Union in 1952, and later serving two terms as the organization's president. Huang Manli died in Hong Kong of natural causes on April 8, 1998.
[left, a middle-aged matriarch, 1950s and beyond]