Kiều Chinh and the International Asian Film World in the 1960s-70s

I came across some articles from The Straits Times in 1975 that were talking about a movie that was being made in Singapore at the time called Full House.

Apparently the leading female role was to be played by Evelyn Ai Li, but she gave up the role when she learned that it would require that she “appear in the nude for three minutes.”

Evelyn Ai Li

Evelyn claims to have been forced to sign her contract before reading the script. However, some of the comments that she made in an interview are a bit contradictory.

At one point she said that “I accepted the part at first because I thought it was a comedy movie without any sexy bits,” whereas at another point she stated that “I strongly expected that there would be a nude scene for me to play.”

Whatever the case may have been, in the end not only did Evelyn give up the part, but she also apparently quit acting and became a bank receptionist.

Kieu Chinh

The director of the film, J. P. Tan, was sorry that Evelyn turned down the part, but he welcomed on board South Vietnamese actress Kiều Chinh. However, when Kiều Chinh arrived in Singapore and was asked if she would appear in the nude she responded with an emphatic “No!”

She then went on to say, “Nudity is an art and should not be exploited as a form of sex for entertainment,” and that “Anyway, I don’t think I am sexy enough to stand in front of a camera with no clothes on.”

martial arts

In the end, I’m not sure what was actually filmed as I can’t find evidence that this movie was ever completed. I found a March 16, 1975 article in The Straits Times which stated that the film was expected to be released in June of that year and that it would “be screened not only in Singapore but in America, Europe, Malaysia and Australia as well.”

However, I haven’t found evidence of this.

The same article reported that “The plot of the film is woven around a $250,000 diamond robbery planned by two men (played by Alan Young and martial arts expert Joey Chen Li) and a woman, Kieu Chinh.”

“The climax of the diamond heist is a thrilling car chase and a shoot-out between the police and the robbers. The law finally catches up and the crooks are killed.”

So if it is true that this movie was never shown, then that would be a shame, as it looks like it must have been really good. . .

lead role

In any case, learning about this movie made me want to know more about Kiều Chinh’s career during these years. I found mention in a few places that before 1975 she had “leading roles in 22 features films in Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan.”

Her Wikipedia page lists some of these, like the 1972 film, Bão Tình (Storm of Love).

BT

And the 1973 film, Chiếc Bóng Bên Đường (Roadside Shadow)

cb

However, I find it particularly interesting that there was an international dimension to Kiều Chinh’s acting career at that time.

In 1964 she starred in an American movie that was filmed in South Vietnam, A Yank in Viet-Nam.

yank

Then in 1965 she starred with Burt Reynolds in a movie called Operation C.I.A. which was supposed to take place in Saigon, but which was actually filmed in Bangkok.

CIA

Finally, in 1970 she made a film with Indian movie star Dev Anand called The Evil Within. Apparently this film was actually made in the Philippines.

evil within

While some of these movies might not have been “world-class” (although Kiều Chinh did win some acting awards during this period) they clearly were “international.” It’s amazing to see how much interaction there was at the time in the film world in Asia. It’s also nice to see that Kiều Chinh was at the center of this international cinematic world.

Good job!!

2 thoughts on “Kiều Chinh and the International Asian Film World in the 1960s-70s

  1. Kiều Chính was definitely the major star of Vietnamese cinema – I don’t think there has been anyone else as successful as her. I think that you could have found many people at the time who would have disagreed with her contention that she “wasn’t sexy enough” for that part. She went on to have a remarkably successful career in American film and television – given that by the time she emigrated she was a middle aged Asian-American actress. How many great roles are there for that demographic? But early on she got a role as a love interest for Hawkeye in an episode of MASH. She had some recurring parts on soap operas like Santa Barbara and Dynasty. She played an important role in the independent movie Green Dragon. But her most famous role was one of the mothers in the film adaptation of Joy Luck Club. Kiều Chính is the real deal.

  2. Yes, and I wonder how many people in Vietnam today know that there once was a Vietnamese actress who was internationally famous. What actor or actress since then has been able to do that?

    You probably already know her life story, but I only learned about it recently by reading online. It’s impressive, but it’s also very symbolic. The history of post-colonial Vietnam has been tragically played out in her life and in her family, and yet she has persevered through it all (from Hanoi to California) and maintained a career in film through it all. Among the Vietnamese-American community I think she is respected, but she deserves much wider respect.

    So I’m impressed with her, but I also find the world that existed then to be so interesting. There is so much about Southeast Asia in the 1950s-70s that people haven’t even begun to think about, let alone research. In many ways it means looking at cultural ephemera and failed organizations, and perhaps because of that, people haven’t seen the importance of that time, but there was so much that was going on at that time which was so interesting.

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