Hong Kong martial arts star dies at 79 – The Hollywood Reporter

Jimmy Wang Yu, the pioneering martial arts star who starred in classic Hong Kong films golden swallow, One-armed swordsman and The Chinese boxer and paved the way for Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, has passed away. He was 79 years old.

Wang died in a Taipei hospital on Tuesday, his daughter Linda Wang revealed on Instagram. He had suffered from chronic illnesses for several years.

On Facebook, Jackie Chan wrote, “Another martial arts hero has left us… The contributions you made to kung fu movies, and the support and wisdom you gave to younger generations will always be remembered by industry. And your films will always remain in the hearts of your fans. We will miss you!”

Born Wang Cheng-chuan in Shanghai in 1943, he emigrated with his family to Hong Kong. Wang began acting in the early 1960s and caught the eye of the fledgling Hong Kong branch of the Shanghai-based Shaw Brothers Studio, which had begun to expand its production line with action films and wuxia films.

A contracted actor early in his career, Wang’s early career was indelibly tied to Shaw Brothers, for better and for worse, and he would go on to become a mainstream star in the studio’s most famous wuxia films, including One-armed swordsman (1967) which broke box office records in Hong Kong, golden swallow (1968), Return of the One-Armed Swordsman (1969) and breakthrough kung fu film The Chinese boxer (1970).

The Chinese boxer, which saw Wang’s character single-handedly take on a gang of Japanese karate thugs, proved to be a huge hit and found audiences outside of Hong Kong and Asia. Written, directed and starring Wang, the film is credited with setting a new blueprint for Hong Kong action movies, giving birth to kung fu films, with storylines that veer away from swords and swords. fantasy elements and focus more on hand-driven combat scenes. hand to hand combat. It also established a popular trope used in countless kung fu films, that of a loner seeking revenge but facing seemingly impossible odds/numbers of enemies.

The prominent Hong Kong action star of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wang’s career was derailed by a very messy and public legal battle with Shaw Brothers after he broke his contract with the studio in 1970. The studio sued the star, winning after a very public lawsuit. A series of scandals in his private life have also weighed on Wang’s stardom, including sex scandals, alleged ties to organized crime and repeated fights in public.

In an interview with Kicks from the EastWang called himself a “street fighter” and said that between 1964 and 1968 he was often in the news for fights, usually with paparazzi, and even a policeman.

Finding work harder to come by in Hong Kong, Wang would move to Taiwan to work with Shaw Brothers rivals Golden Harvest.

In Taiwan, and now producing his own feature films, Wang was prolific and among the many kung fu films he made during this time, one arm boxer (1972), A Man Named Tiger (1972) and Beach of the Gods of War (1973) have all become cults.

With the rise of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and the success of Shaw Brothers stars Ti Lung and David Chiang, Wang’s popularity began to decline in the mid-1970s. A self-proclaimed street brawler rather than a A trained martial artist, Wang’s lack of skill, hidden to some degree by the editing, was beginning to show against his fully trained rivals.

However, Wang was still in demand in international productions, with Western producers looking to cash in on the kung fu craze. In 1975, Wang starred in the first Hong Kong-Australia co-production, Hong Kong man. The following year he starred in The Queen’s Ransom. Both films co-starred a declining George Lazenby.

Another notable Wang film from this period was Flying Guillotine Master (1976), which Quentin Tarantino would classify among his favorite films and which would later influence RZA The man with the iron fists.

Left to right: ‘The Chinese Professionals’ aka ‘One-Armed Boxer’ (1971), ‘The Man From Hong Kong’ (1975), ‘A Man Called Tiger’ (1973)
Courtesy of Everett Collection

In the 1980s, Wang’s career began to slow down and he was best known for scandals in his private life. There were reports of domestic violence, ongoing reports of his alleged triad ties and in Taiwan he was charged with murder in 1981, but the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

In the 1990s, Wang’s films gained new audiences after his work, including The Chinese boxerwas championed by the likes of Tarantino.

In his later years, Wang appeared in Peter Chan’s 2011 film Wu Xiao, with Donnie Yen and Tang Wei. The film was a tribute to One-armed swordsman series and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. His last film appearance was in 2013, in the Taiwanese horror film Soul. In 2019, Wang received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards.

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