It’s a birthday fest this week, but special mention goes to Michelle Yeoh, who hits 48 today. As I’ve said before, the golden age of Hong Kong cinema (approx 1985 – 1995) was my gateway drug to the wonders of films outside my insulated, narrow viewing habits to date. Police Story III was one of my favourites, and Yeoh one its greatest assets, a rare occasion when Jackie Chan allowed his lead actress to upstage him. Elegant and poised, she was never above risking her neck in a fight or an ill-advised vehicular stunt. See her jumping a motorcycle onto the top of a moving train. Yes, really:
Her first time on a motorbike, apparently, in the film that relaunched her career in fine style after she had retired for the duration of her marriage to spoilsport businessman Dickson Poon (when they met, Yeoh was Miss Malaysia, representing her country at the 1983 Miss World where Maggie Cheung was a semi-finalist – it’s a small (miss) world). The following year, she starred alongside Maggie Cheung and her friend, the late, much-missed Anita Mui in Heroic Trio, directed by Johnnie To (currently riding the crest of a wave of critical praise akin to that granted Jerry Lewis by the French), the last word on that increasingly exploitative sub-genre of women in tight clothing kicking stuff.
Michelle shares her birthday with plenty of illustrious movie people, some no longer with us, including: M. Night Shyamalan, Danny Lee (star of John Woo’s The Killer), Andy Warhol (d.1987), Robert Mitchum (d.1997), Lucille Ball (d.1989), the great Ealing director Charles Crichton (d.1999), and Harry O. Hoyt (director of the 1925 version of The Lost World, d.1961).