Friday, November 28, 2008

Fanny Fan: Les Belles (1961)

Sweet girl Fanny Fan, ca. 1960

Fanny's transformation from Man Lei Hung, second-string actress in Shaw Brothers' Cantonese division, to Fanny Fan, rising star in their Mandarin division, was a great success. Following the release of The Pink Murder, Fanny was featured for the first time on the cover of Southern Screen (November 1959), and in the next issue, she made her centerfold debut: "Le Girl Fanny Fan". (I'd scan it for you Fanny fans, but sadly it's missing from my copy.)

So, what was next for Miss Fanny? According to this article from Southern Screen No. 26, she flew to Tokyo on February 23, 1960 to shoot dance scenes for the musical Les Belles. Being chosen to star in this film was a big deal. Not only was it a great opportunity to work with superstars Lin Dai and Peter Chen Ho and esteemed director Tao Qin, but Les Belles was also Shaw's first Eastmancolor production shot in CinemaScope (or ShawScope, as it was redubbed).

Of course, given that the film was first and foremost a vehicle for Lin Dai, Fanny was pretty much relegated to the sidelines. Still, in a dramatic turnaround from her femme fatale role in The Pink Murder, her "dumb blonde" role in Les Belles gave Fanny a chance to show her sweet side, an aspect of her personality that, in my opinion, was sadly underused during her film career.

In Les Belles, Fanny is paired off with Mak Kay as the film's secondary couple, and the two of them are quite charming. Truth be told, I would much rather have seen them as the centerpiece than the bickering Lin Dai and Chen Ho (who would repeat the same stale dynamic a few years later in Tao Qin's Love Parade).

But if Fanny and Mak Kay were to become the stars of a musical romantic comedy, it should be something along the lines of Viva Las Vegas. Here I go again, creating "What If" movies in my head that could never have possibly been made. Seriously though, Fanny's sweet and sexy demeanor is very comparable to Ann Margret. And Mak Kay was known for his "teddy boy" roles opposite Lam Fung: in fact, he played a character named "Elvis" in Young Rock (1959).

Anyway, here is a clip from Les Belles which offers a glimpse of the rarely seen sweet side of Fanny Fan.

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