[left, Kwan Shan in the 1960s, at the height of his career]
We recently posted about a 1930 docudrama relating the events surrounding an infamous 19th century legal case, a case which has been given several stage and screen versions since. The search for an illustration connected with the 1930 film was fruitless, so we drew on an advertisement for the 1963 Shaw Brothers treatment to accompany our article. Now comes word that Kwan Shan, the actor who played the accused scholar Yang Naiwu in that later version and is pictured in the ad, has died in Hong Kong of lung cancer.
Kwan Shan 关山 (PinYin: Guan Shan; Wade-Giles: Kuan Shan) was born April 20, 1933 in Shenyang, Liaoning province, of Manchu ethnicity. In 1954 he successfully tested into acting school, and in 1956 joined the Great Wall (HK) movie studio, and that same year acted the title role in《The True Story of Ah Q》, adapted from Lu Xun's famous novel of the same title. His performance won him the Silver Sail award for Best Actor at that year's Locarno International Film Festival, making him at age 25 the first Hong Kong film actor to win Best Actor in international competition. In 1961 Kwan moved to the Shaw Brothers studio, where he became one of Shaw's mainstay romantic leading men during its golden era of the 1960s. During that decade, he played opposite many of Shaw's top female stars, beginning with Lin Dai in《Everlasting Love》(1961). In 1962, he married Zhang Bingxi [aka Cheung Bing Sai], an actress with Great Wall. The couple divorced in 1982, but before that had two daughters, one of whom grew up to become the famous and very popular Hong Kong star Rosamund Kwan. In 1972, Kwan Shan left Shaw to produce《Brutal Boxer》(aka《Blood Fingers》for his own film studio, the Far East Motion Picture Company, serving as producer, director and studio head. After this, Kwan Shan moved into television in Hong Kong and Taiwan, effectively ending his motion picture career although he appeared in several small screen roles in the 1980s. Following his 1982 divorce, Kwan Shan emigrated to the United States, and although retired, on return visits to Hong Kong he would appear occasionally in small roles, cameos really, in such films as《A Better Tomorrow II》(1987) and《Police Story 2》(1988). His last such appearance was in 1993's《The Executioners》. After being diagnosed with his final illness, Kwan Shan returned to Hong Kong to live out his final days there with his surviving family.
UPDATE: Chinese sources differ as to Kwan Shan's birth year: Hong Kong and Singapore media give it as 1933, which I have used here; but mainland Chinese media say 1929, which would make his age at death as 83, not 79. A Chinese correspondent informs me that some mainland filmmakers who relocated to Hong Kong pared a few years from their ages when they arrived, so that earlier date is a possibility.