Famous martial artist, action choreographer, and director Lau Kar Leung (劉家良) passed away on June 25 due to leukemia. Lau was involved in 400 films over his 50-year career, and is best known for his Shaw Brothers’ films from the 1970s and 1980s. His films include Drunken Master II <醉拳 2>, 36th Chamber of Shaolin <少林三十六房>, and Seven Swords <七劍>.
Lau Kar Leung had been battling leukemia for many years. After Lau peacefully left this morning at the age of 76, Union Hospital held a press conference this afternoon to clarify the matter. Lau’s wife Mary Jean Reimer (翁靜晶) did not attend and the doctor explained that Mary needed time away from the public to recover from her husband’s death.
Life as Martial Artist
Coming from a family with martial arts background, Lau Kar Leung always had passionate interest in the field and started his training at the age of 9. His father, Lau Jaam (劉湛), was actually a student of Lam Sai Wing (林世榮), who was in turn a discipline of the famous Wong Fei Hung (黃飛鴻). With impressive mastery, Lau Kar Leung quickly trained to become a top martial artist.
At the age of 18, Lau entered the entertainment industry in 1950 with minor roles before being promoted to action choreographer. Further enhancing his career, Lau directed his first film in 1975. His first work, Spiritual Boxer <神打>, quickly became a blockbuster hit, generating over $1.7 million HKD. Lau’s films were praised for their innovative choreography and spreading the spirit of martial arts.
In 2010, Lau Kar Leung was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards for his influential contribution to the world of martial arts films. At that time, he was already diagnosed with leukemia but remained optimistic during his acceptance speech. Lau said, “I’m not good with words; I can only use my fists. My father was a student of Lam Sai Wing, who was a student of Wong Fei Hung. As a fourth generation discipline, I received Wong Fei Hung’s martial arts techniques.”
Lau Kar Leung’s other productions included: The Jade Bow <雲海玉弓緣>, Challenge of the Masters <陸阿採與黃飛鴻>, Golden Swallow <金燕子>, and Water Margins <水滸傳>. He was an actor in the popular franchise, Drunken Master <醉拳>. Lau worked with many big stars such as Jimmy Wang (王羽), Tommy Tam (狄龍), John Chiang (姜大衛), Jet Li (李連傑), and Jackie Chan (成龍).
Final Battle With Leukemia
During the later stages of his illness, Lau Kar Leung was rarely seen in public and spent the majority of his time at home. After relapsing last year, he spent the rest of his time before his death in the hospital. His last time out in the public was with his daughter on a shopping trip. While shopping with his daughter, Lau appeared to be lively despite his worsening health.
Legacy in the Industry
Lau Kar Leung’s death was not only grieved his direct family, but was also mourned by the entertainment industry. During his lifetime, Lau was good friends with Eric Tsang (曾志偉), Nat Chan (陳百祥), and Liza Wang (汪明荃).
Nat expressed his sorrow and said, “Lau Kar Leung is my respected senior friend. I have known him for several decades. In his late years, we often met for dinners and to watch horse races. Before he left us, he knew that [the media] cared about him and asked me to take care of it. I visited him over the last few days, as I knew he was near [the end of his life].” Nat added that Lau left very peacefully and quietly, without any regrets.
During his 60th birthday party, Eric Tsang mentioned in his speech that Lau Kar Leung was one of the most important people in his life. Eric, who does not possess the typical aesthetics for being an actor, managed to find success in the business with the guidance of Lau. Eric said, “He brought me into the entertainment industry. Without him, there wouldn’t be me. My present success is completely due to him. My knowledge of the movie industry and martial arts films are due to Lau sifu. He is my respected teacher.”
Even though Lau Kar Leung has left us, his contribution to the world of martial arts will always remain in people’s hearts. Not only was he a great exemplar of a responsible father and husband, but he was also a skillful film director. Although he can no longer give off the positive radiance while he was alive, his legacy will continue to live through the works he left behind.
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This article is written by Su for JayneStars.com.