Hong Kong, 1957 – a nightclub scene in its elemental form: a dance floor at the centre, surrounded by tables and chairs, a band supplies music and the singer provides focus, translating musical sounds into romantic sentiment, giving voice to the moves performed by the dancers… ‘我來唱 你來跳 親親愛愛緊緊擁抱’ – ‘I’ll sing as you dance, kiss, love and hug tight’.
This is a scene from 曼波女郎 Mambo Girl, the 1957 movie-musical made in Hong Kong by Motion Picture and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), a subsidiary of the Cathay Organisation in Singapore.
It shows how Hong Kong nightclubs in the 1950s were criss-crossed by trans-regional vectors – from Shanghai to Singapore, Manila to Melbourne.
The singer, 方逸華 Mona Fong, was born in Shanghai; her family migrated to Hong Kong in the 1940s. The song is 今宵樂 ‘Tonight’s Pleasure’, composed by 易文 Yi Wen and 姚敏 Yao Min, also emigrants from Shanghai who settled in Hong Kong.
After making the film, Fong toured to Melbourne, where she sang for a season at the Savoy Plaza Hotel with Pete Cruzado and his Combo from Manila. On her return, Fong sang ‘popular Chinese and European songs’ at the Champagne restaurant in Kowloon, ‘fresh from her successful Australian tour’ (South China Morning Post, 1 July 1958, 5).
She then toured to the Philippines for a season in Manila and returned to Hong Kong for another season at the Champagne, this time with Pilita Corrales (South China Morning Post, 1 November 1958, 4).
今宵樂 Tonight’s pleasure – artists on tour in the nightclubs of Hong Kong…
Jonathan Bollen, Touring Variety in the Asia Pacific Region, 1946–1975 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)