[left, a newspaper photo of Zi Luolan, taken in 1940 when she was 25. For other images of Zi, see our post discussing her 1931 film,《Two Galaxy Stars》
The actress billed in Shanghai as Zi Luolan 紫罗兰 and in Hong Kong as Violet Wong was born Huang Ziluo 黄紫罗 in 1915. She was a child prodigy, displaying considerable musical talent at a very early age, and making her public debut at the age of 8 in the 1923 Guangzhou Spring Festival entertainment concert. After appearing in a small role in the Tianyi studio's first sound film《Pleasures of the Dance Hall》, she co-starred opposite Jin Yan in《Two Galaxy Stars》, a major success for the Lianhua studio, and which led to their being paired again in《A Music Teacher》the following year. Had she remained in Shanghai, Zi Luolan might have become one of Lianhua's premiere leading ladies during the late silent era, but by the time her last Shanghai film was released she had left for Hong Kong. There, in April, 1932 she married a young man who was the son of a prominent political figure in the Nationalist government. (The couple divorced in 1940.) In 1935, with the renaissance of the Hong Kong motion picture industry under the leadership of Li Beihai, Zi Luolan returned to the screen, and for the rest of that decade she worked steadily in Hong Kong Cantonese films. In addition, she was a major star of Cantonese opera, so prominent in that role that Chinese sources usually list her as an opera performer first, and a movie star second. (A scene from one of her most popular operatic performances was recreated in the classic 1986 action comedy《Peking Opera Blues》, in which the character played by Sally Yeh finally gets the chance to appear on stage, previously forbidden by tradition.) But while she was primarily regarded as an opera star, "Violet Wong" had a prolific film career in Hong Kong in the 1930s, making 13 films in 1939 alone. In 1940 she turned to war work and organized the "Violet Song and Dance Troupe," a 15-member aggregation which toured Southeast Asia giving patriotic and morale-boosting performances to the Chinese community in that region.
(Complete filmography follows after the bump)