Ms. Yam Kim Fai
(1913 - 1989)
Original name Yam Lee-chor, aka Yam Yuen-yee, Yam Kim-fai learned the art of Cantonese opera under Siu Kiu Tin and Wong Lui-hap. In 1939, she joined an all-female opera troupe and began performing with other female leads on stage, mostly cross-dressing as male lead. Her costumed look was graceful and handsome, winning her the title of “Audience’s Lover”. Yam tried out acting in films already in pre-war years, but was first cast in leading role in “The Valiant Poon On Perplexed by Love” (1951). She then went on to star in over 200 titles. Although she performed as females in films like “The Bachelor Girl” (1954) and “The Maidservant's Sad Tale” (1954), she was cross-dressing in most films as male leads, or playing around with gender switching as in “Lady General Fa Muk-lan” (1951), “Lovesick” (1952) or “Whose Son Is This?” (1954). She performed best as handsome and intellectual scholars in Cantonese opera works, many of which were being adapted into films. Memorable titles include “The Nymph of River Lo” (1957), “A Buddhist Recluse for Fourteen Years” (1958), “Snow in June”(1959), “Princess Cheung Ping”(1959) and “The Legend of Purple Hairpin” (1959). Yam has appeared in over 300 film titles. She retired in 1968 after her last screen appearance in “The Tragedy of a Poet King” (1968), and spent the rest of her life grooming young opera talents. In 1995, she was presented with the 100 Years Opera Movie Hall Award by the Hong Kong Film Awards.