Mr Loke Wan Tho


Film Entrepreneur

Media mogul Loke Wan Tho came from the family that owned Cathay Organisation, which operated more than 60 cinemas in Malaysia in the 1950s. In 1955, Loke acquired the debt-ridden Yung Hwa Motion Pictures in Hong Kong and reorganised it into Motion Picture & General Investment Company (MP & GI). Referencing the Hollywood style of management, Loke developed the studio’s film production business to meet the demands of Cathay cinemas in Singapore and Malaysia. MP & GI soon became Shaw Brothers’ biggest competitor. MP & GI recruited up-and-coming writers and directors like Eileen Chang, Chun Yik Foo, Chang Cheh, Wong Tin Lam and Evan Yang, and ran training classes to groom stars for the industry. Among the resulting glitterati were Lucilla You Min, Kelly Lai Chen, Grace Chang and Jeanette Lin Tsui. Loke and his Western-educated managers introduced a modern corporate culture into the studio. MP & GI made films that appealed to the middle classes, such as fashionable light comedy The Battle of Love (1957) and Our Sister Hedy (1957); musical films Mambo Girl (1957) and Calendar Girl (1959); and melodramas Her Tender Heart (1959) and For Better, For Worse (1959). In 1964, Loke and important MP & GI staff were killed in a plane crash after the Asian Film Festival in Taiwan. The tragedy sent MP & GI into a decline that rewrote the history of Hong Kong cinema.