Hong Kong Actor and Action Director Lam Ching Ying,
from Bruce Lee’s P.A. to a Star in Sammo Hung Films
Hong Kong actor and action director Lam Ching Ying had a spectacular work ethic and discipline that showed in all of his films, whether in front of or behind the camera.
Lam Ching Ying was born Lam Gun Bo on December 27 1952 in Hong Kong. He was the third child in a brood of six. By the second grade his father sent him to the Chun Chau Drama Society to learn the Peking Opera style. This was the “rival” school of Yu Jim Yuen, headed by Madame Fan Fok Fa.
It was under Madame’s guidance that Ching Ying learned acrobatics, gymnastics and his amazing fighting abilities. But more importantly this is where he learned the ancient art of being able to play female roles.
He even had the talent of singing in falsetto. All of which is showcased in his brilliant performance in “The Prodigal Son”
Ching Ying’s reputation for being disciplined, headstrong, restrained, and self-willed can be tracked as early as his teen years when at 17 he began working professionally for the Shaw Brothers as a martial arts coach and stuntman (he was able to stunt double for women due to his training for female roles)
He worked then for a few years then started working for Golden Harvest as well, where he continued working as an action choreographer and stuntman.
In 1971, Lam Ching Ying was invited personally by Bruce Lee to work on “The Big Boss aka Fists of Fury” . This marked the beginning of a long lasting professional relationship with Bruce that lasted until Bruce Lee’s death.
Both Ching Ying and Lee studied Wing Chun Kung Fu which made for a powerful partnership. There is a story that Lam didn’t think that Bruce was as strong as it was rumored.
So in a hotel room, he challenged Bruce. Ching Ying put a pillow over his chest and stomach then Bruce struck the pillow and sent both Ching Ying and the pillow flying across the room.
Apparently that was all that was needed to earn Ching Ying’s respect and their friendship went smoothly after that. Apparently they had wonderful intellectual and philosophical discussions that quickly made Ching Ying one of Bruce’s favorites.
Not that everything was always smooth. Lam Ching Ying allegedly had quite a temper and seemed to always get into fights and into trouble. Bruce even had to bail him out of jail during “The Big Boss”.
Lam worked as an co-action choreographer, and personal assistant to Bruce on all of Lee’s movies including “Fists of Fury aka The Big Boss”, “Fist of Fury aka Chinese Connection”, “Enter the Dragon” ,”Return of the Dragon”, and “Game of Death”.
For “Game of Death”there are stories that Bruce and Ching Ying shot fighting scenes and made huge changes to the film and that somewhere there is a lot more footage than was actually used in the version that was released. AND that Lam Ching Ying was a Karate fighter in the film fighting Bruce Lee.
After the death of Bruce Lee, Lam joined Sammo Hung’s stunt team The Hung Gar Ban. he started working behind the camera, then he became assistant fight director and ultimately found himself as Sammo’s right-hand man of the stunt-team.
But I think we can all agree that his most historic role for this Hong Kong actor came in his next movie “The Prodigal Son” where he played Master Leung Yee Tai. Apparently Sammo first intended to give this role to a famous opera performer.
Unfortunately, or fortunately for Lam, that Hong Kong actor had a bad opium habit and was unable to fulfill his duties. So, Sammo picked Lam Ching Ying as a second choice. Best decision he ever made.
Lam Ching Ying owned this role of playing Wing Chun master Leung Yee Tai so much that he shadowed the movie’s intended star Yuen Biao.
No one is a more serious Hong Kong actor than Ching Ying, since it was he who told Sammo that this role needed to be even MORE feminine and got to showcase his spectacular female impersonating abilities to the extreme. Even shaving his own eyebrows.
The depth that Lam brings to this role is unmistakeable proving that his Kung Fu skills can only be matched by his acting capabilities.
He was able to bring a cool, sweet quality to this sharp and hard-nosed character. Not to mention the dry understated comedy that he brought to Master Leung without over playing anything or playing up typical stereotypes.
His career on camera as a Hong Kong actor took off and you can admire more of his brilliance in movies such as “Shanghai Express”, “The Dead and the Deadly”, “Winners & Sinners”, “Pom Pom”, “Return of the Pom Pom”, and the highly successful “Mr. Vampire”.
Ching Ying never turned down a role. No matter how low or high the budget was. He was always dedicated to the art of Kung Fu movies , Kung Fu fighting, and performing. No matter how bad a movie might be, if he is in it, you can be assured that he performed at 100% and makes it a film worth watching.
His career as a Hong Kong actor and action director was action-packed (forgive the pun) and his most heart breaking performance was in “Painted Faces” in 1988. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must see movie.
He was in many other movies. I have mentioned a few of my favorites here. You may love others that I haven’t. Check out the IMDB page for Hong Kong actor Lam Ching Ying . It is a full listing all of his credits as a Hong Kong actor and action director. It’s a long list for such a short life. Lam Ching Ying was diagnosed with liver cancer in his 40′s and died a month before his 45th birthday. It is reported that he forbid any of his friends or family from seeing him in his last months.
He always put his best face on. He was precise, and perfect in everything he did. Death was not going to change that for him. His discipline followed him to the end of his life. His self-restraint was only ever tainted by moments of losing his temper and getting into fights.
Unfortunately in his greatest Kung Fu match of all, he lost. Cancer is a devastating opponent that shouldn’t be ignored or underestimated.
Luckily this Hong Kong actor and action director has a full body of work for his fans to enjoy for centuries to come. Be sure to check him out.Tags: Lam Ching Ying