Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Remembering Ronald Chow

One of the great things about this blog is that I get contact from a wide variety of people. Some get in touch to say thanks, some get in touch to offer me suggestions on films I may not have been aware of (it happens a lot, and I really appreciate the pointers), some people are curious about a location in a film that I haven't already covered, and some people are just like-minded individuals who share this rather weird obsession with film locations (it's more popular than you would think!).

Recently I was contacted by a women in the US who was keen to get a copy of some of the screen grabs I had put up for Soldier of Fortune. Soldier of Fortune is the Clark Gable feature made around the same time as Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (in 1955) that also featured Susan Hayward and Michael Rennie as well as some fantastic HK locations including King Yin Lei and the Barker Road Peak Tram stop.

The film is quite famous in that its female lead, Susan Hayward, couldn't get to Hong Kong to shoot any scenes due to an ongoing custody battle over her children with her ex-husband (Jess Barker). As a result of her absence during key HK-located scenes (such as the rickshaw ride around Central, the scenes outside the Peninsula Hotel and also one at the aforementioned Barker Road Tram Stop) a stand in was used for her character and filmed from a distance so that no one would tell the difference. An unconfirmed rumour was that this stand in was Jennifer Jones - who was also in HK for the filming of Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. It's unconfirmed but not beyond belief because both films also shared Buddy Adler as a producer.

It turns out though that Jennifer Jones and Buddy Adler weren't the only links between the two films, there was one other in the form of a gentleman by the name of Ronald Chow. Here is an edited version of the mail to explain further:
Hi...I am interested in a photo in your...blog... 
Of particular interest is the first photo in a series of three, featuring Michael Rennie and an unknown man walking towards the Marine Police HQ. That man was my father, Ronald Chow, who passed away 2 years ago [in 2013]. He happened to be the location scout for this film, as well as Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, and was given a bit part in the movie. This movie was made 7 years before I was born. He had a short career in the movie industry.

He was very proud of his involvement in this movie and I'd love it if I could obtain a print or JPEG file to include in my memories of him.
So there you go, the man responsible for tracking down and organising all those fantastic locations for both of these films back in 1955 - many of which I have been able to include here in the blog - was Ronald Chow.

So I went back to look at Soldier of Fortune again (and I'll be updating my blog posts with better quality grabs in the very near future) and sent a whole bunch of screen captures off to his daughter.

In case you haven't seen the film, or in case you have but want to know who Ronald was, he played Merryweather's (played by Michael Rennie) local police assistant who went by the moniker of '303'. He was in several scenes and I have included a few grabs from each below. The first scene is on the Marine Police patrol boat as Rennie's character is on the lookout for Susan Hayward's missing husband (played by Gene Berry). Ronald is the chap in blue inside the wheelhouse.


Part of the same scene but now on board a sampan as they go looking amongst the 'flower boats' in the typhoon shelter.


Here is Ronald and Michael Rennie in front of the old Marine Police HQ in TST (now the Hullet Hotel).


And finally, one last appearance outside the Peninsula Hotel just next to the Marine Police HQ.


So there you have it, a small piece of cinema history. Sadly, as you have read, Ronald passed away only 2 years ago but at least we can remember him in our own little way here and give him some late thanks for the seemingly small but actually quite significant contribution he made to these films.

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