How Come Drink With Me Created A Martial Arts Legend

In the years to come, critics would hail Cheng’s “grace, agility, and dignity, which … came from his training in ballet, music, and Chinese dance.” Cheng had all of these skills and more, but an equally important trait was his willingness to challenge himself. When the Shaw Brothers offered to train their crew in martial arts, Cheng jumped in headfirst. “I’m very proud and competitive to perfection,” she would later say in an interview with TimeOut. “I thought, if a man can do it, so can I.” Cheng’s spirit caught the eye of Runrun Shaw, one of two Shaw brothers, who immediately connected his folk dancing prowess with a future career as a martial arts actor. Soon, Cheng was given the lead role in a project that would mark a turning point in the history of Hong Kong cinema. This film was “Come Drink With Me”, and its director was King Hu.

Despite having vastly different skills, King Hu and Cheng Pei-pei actually looked alike. Like Cheng, Hu had left the mainland for Hong Kong. His fluency in Mandarin Chinese had landed him a job with the Shaw Brothers as a set designer. Much like Cheng, Hu didn’t seek to revolutionize the way martial arts films were made. His main skill was acting and he appeared in several films before being apprenticed to director under the famous Li Hanxiang. His first film was a propaganda picture meant to slam the Japanese, and his sequel “Ting Yee-shan” was canceled once it became clear that propaganda pictures were no longer profitable. The Shaw Brothers wanted a martial arts movie, and Hu and Chang Ping-ping were in the right place at the right time to make it happen.

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