Veteran Chinese actress Li Li-hua, who starred in more than 120 movies between the 1940s and 1970s, including the Hollywood romance “China Doll,” died in Hong Kong on Sunday. She was 92.
Born in 1924 to parents who performed in Peking opera, Li achieved instant popularity with her first film, “Three Smiles,” in 1940. Her lengthy career as an onscreen beauty, which ran till 1978, earned her the nickname “China’s Evergreen Tree.”
She moved from mainland China to Hong Kong in 1948 and made many of her films for the dominant Hong Kong studio Shaw Brothers. Among her starring roles were costume dramas “Yang Gui Fei,” which won the technical prize in Cannes in 1962, and “Empress Wu,” released the following year.
In 1958, she became one of the first Chinese actresses to star in a Hollywood film. “China Doll” starred Victor Mature as an American pilot fighting the Japanese in China who falls in love with his housekeeper, played by Li.
In the 1970s, with her acting career slowing down, Li emigrated to the U.S., though she is also reported as having since lived in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Li also collected Golden Horse acting prizes in Taiwan for her roles in “Between Tears and Smiles” in 1965 and “Storm Over the Yangtze River” in 1969. The Golden Horse organizing committee, which announced her death, also presented her a lifetime achievement award in 2015. The Hong Kong Film Awards gave her a lifetime honor in 2016.
She married three times, including once when she was 80.