Searching for Lady Kung Fu
Her break came when the Hong Kong producer Raymond Chow discovered her in an opera. Though Ms. Mao generally described her life as a case of being in the right place at the right time, she did display a rare moment of tenderness at this point. “I have to thank God and Raymond Chow,” she said.
The dominant studio in Hong Kong at the time was Shaw Brothers, which produced dozens of formulaic action films per year. Mr. Chow was considered one of Asian cinema’s revolutionaries for founding the competing studio, Golden Harvest, which is credited with helping bring martial arts cinema to the West. Among his early coups were signing Bruce Lee — and discovering Angela Mao.
“Everyone told him, ‘No one wants to see a woman on the screen,’” Mr. Meyers said. “He said, ‘That’s not true: I do.’ And Raymond Chow was right. He searched for a female actress with the same charisma and talent as Bruce Lee, and he found Angela Mao.”
Her first prominent role was “Hapkido,” or “Lady Kung Fu,” in 1972. “That made me a star,” she said. “I traveled the world to promote it. People knew my face. Then the whole Asian world knew my face.” “Lady Kung Fu,” along with “Lady Whirlwind,” also in 1972, established her nicknames.
In the early 1970s, she appeared in a string of films now considered martial arts classics: “Angry River,” “Thunderbolt,” “The Fate of Lee Khan,” “When Taekwondo Strikes” and “The Tournament.” A teenage Jackie Chan appeared as an uncredited stuntman in several of her early films.
70年代初，她出现在一系列现如今被视为经典的功夫片里：《鬼怒川》(Angry River)、《五雷轰顶》(Thunderbolt)、《迎春阁之风波》(The Fate of Lee Khan)、《跆拳震九州》(When Taekwondo Strikes)和《中泰拳坛生死战》(The Tournament)。不到二十岁、尚未成名的成龙作为无名替身演员参演过她早期的几部片子。
“Jackie and I started together,” she said. “We learned to take care of each other. He is my brother.” At the height of Ms. Mao’s fame, a man attacked her on a walk home, she recalled in an interview from the mid-1990s. She promptly dealt him several kicks. He ran off. The episode made headlines.
Ms. Mao reflected: “A lot happened to me in a little bit of time.”
Aside from some cameos in the early 1990s, Ms. Mao said, she effectively concluded her film career in 1983, when her son was born. By this time, her husband had moved to New York to start a construction company. Ms. Mao and their son joined him in 1993. She opened her first restaurant, Mama King, on Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing three years later. She opened Nan Bei Ho in 1997. New Mei Hua, in Flushing, and Guo Ba Inc, in Bayside, would follow.
除了在90年初客串过一些角色，茅瑛说她实际上在1983年，即儿子出生那年便息影了。当时她丈夫已经移居纽约，去创办一家建筑公司。1993年，茅瑛携子前往纽约与丈夫团聚。三年后，她在法拉盛的罗斯福大道开了自己的第一家餐厅Mama King。南北和则于1997年开业。接下来是法拉盛的新美华(New Mei Hua)和贝赛德的Guo Ba Inc。
“After I got married,” she said, chuckling, “I had to keep a lower profile so my husband could be the leader. But in film? I was the king.”
Ms. Mao’s lack of regard for stardom may have been apparent from the start. “It is evident that success has not spoiled Angela Mao, or that she is too simple to know the extent of her popularity,” a 1974 profile in a martial arts magazine reads. “But, there is a small indication she is finding all the strings of kung fu movies a bit monotonous since she constantly repeats her plans after retirement. She still considers herself Mao Ching Ying, the Chinese opera actress and loves simple clothes.”
The article ends: “Angela Mao gets up to leave. She runs her hands down the sides of her Levi’s, crushes a last Silva Thin on an ashtray and picks up her purse.… She did not say goodbye.”
If Ms. Mao has tried to part ways with her past, she has never been able to fully shake it. The occasional customer recognizes her to this day, and sharp-eyed kung fu fans still stop her in the street.
“It always happens,” Ms. Mao said. She recalled the time years ago when, while she was sitting in Central Park, a man shouted “That’s Angela Mao!” “He wanted to know what it was like working with Jackie Chan,” she said. “I was so surprised.”
Mr. Meyers considered her legacy. “She didn’t have the ego of Bruce Lee,” he said. “He didn’t feel justified unless he was a star. She didn’t need that. She left Hong Kong on her own terms. She was a pioneer unconcerned with her own stardom.”
May Joseph, a professor at Pratt Institute who wrote an essay about Ms. Mao as a feminist hero, encapsulated her influence this way: “She was a radical feminist cinematic presence before there was a language for that,” she wrote in an email. “She is the Lauren Bacall of kung fu.”
曾在一篇文章中把茅瑛描述为女性主义英雄的普瑞特艺术学院(Pratt Institute)教授梅·约瑟夫(May Joseph)，如此总结她的影响:“她是一位带有激进女性主义色彩的影坛杰出人物，而当时人们甚至还不知道该怎么给这样的人归类，”她在一封电子邮件中写道。“她是功夫片界的劳伦·巴考尔(Lauren Bacall)。”
Ms. Mao, however, bristled at grandiose notions about her legacy; she was not interested in hearing that she had become the subject of feminist literature.
“This is not a gender situation,” she said with a baffled expression. “I just played myself. I am strong and I am powerful. That is how I became the most important female kung fu actress of my time.”
One story told in kung fu circles is that she was paid only $100 for her role in “Enter the Dragon.” The subject obviously fatigued her. “I’m more focused on the quality of the movie than how much money I got paid,” she said. “I am very traditional. I don’t want to argue for special things. I don’t think much about male power and female power.”
Grady Hendrix, a founder of the film festival at Lincoln Center who endured the challenge of tracking her down, suggested that Ms. Mao was part of a bigger story.
“She’s one of those martial arts ‘What happened to?’” Mr. Hendrix said. “Lots of Hong Kong talent ends up in places like New York or Vancouver. One of the ‘Five Deadly Venoms’ had a kung fu academy in New York. For every Jackie Chan, there’s ones that aren’t.”
“她是让人感概于其遭遇的那些功夫明星之一，”亨德里克斯说。“香港的许多人才最后都到了纽约或者温哥华之类的地方。《五毒》(Five Deadly Venoms)里的一位演员曾在纽约开过一家武馆。不是人人都能成为成龙。”
“You get the sense it was all embarrassing to her,” he added.