Before Angela Mao there were certainly other female action stars, Cheng Pei Pei and Polly Shang Kwan to name two of the best, but Angela captured the imagination of the HK film fans around the world unlike any other and to this day she is still held in legendary status.
She brought a charisma and intensity to the screen that few action stars can. She was beautiful with her big wide eyes and lovely features, but never attempted to use her good looks to further her popularity. What she had was an incredible athletic prowess that enabled her to perform stunning acrobatics and fights on the screen. Her quick leg kicks and somersaults are a pleasure to watch.
Angela’s father was Mao Yung Kang, an Peking Opera star, who escaped from Zhejiang in China in 1949. Angela was born in Taiwan on 20th of September in 1950. Her skills come from natural ability and training - lots of training. She attended ballet classes before joining The Fu Shing Peking Opera in 1958 where some of her classmates Judy Lee, Charlie Chin and James Tien and she trained for the next 14 years.
As a young girl of 12 she was with the troupe when they toured America. When she was 17 Huang Feng ‘discovered’ her (he also discovered Sammo Hung and Carter Wong!) he was looking for a pretty girl who knew martial arts to be the leading lady for his upcoming sword fight film, “Angry River”. Following her successes in films like “The Fate Of Lee Khan” (directed by the late King Hu), “The Association”, “The Himalayans” and “Hapkido” she was picked for the role of Bruce Lee’s sister in “Enter The Dragon”.
Following the incredible response to her short-lived but effective role in “Enter The Dragon” many of her films began to be released in the west. “Hapkido” was the first to gain this wider audience. The film also starred Carter, Sammo, her real life teacher Whang In Sik and also Chi Hon Tsoi. Also working on “Hapkido” were an uncredited ‘bootmaster’ Leung Siu-Leung who was helping Sammo with the fight choreography and a young stuntman/actor now known as Jackie Chan.
During the 70’s Angela and Carter Wong became something of a kung fu double act in a series of kung fu classics. Probably the best ones were “When Taekwondo Strikes” which apart from having possibly the best title of any kung fu film was also the only film ever made by Supreme Master Jhoon Rhee. Rhee is SO awesome in this that he had to have his hands chained together for his main action sequence!. Angela, Whong In Sik and Carter Wong all spent time training with Rhee during the making of this movie.
When she married her long time boyfriend, Kelly Lau, she more or less retired from the movie industry. She has been presented with an ‘honorary’ Second Degree Black Belt in Hapkido in recognition of her work in promoting Hapkido to the world and for being the art’s most honorable, heroic and beautiful representative!