Actor Kim Chan, who appeared in films from The Owl and the Pussycat to Shanghai Knights, passed on Sunday. He is believe to have been either 93 or 94.
Kim Chan was born in the province of Canton, China around 1917. His parents migrated to the United States in 1928 while Chan was still a child. He discovered the entertainment business when he was working in the House of Chan, the family restaurant located in New York City. Chan would eventually part with his family after lying to his father about having been to the cinema. He spent years as a day labourer while trying out for film and television roles. In 1951 he appeared in an episode of the TV series The Clock. In 1952 he appeared in the episode "Winter of the Dog" of The Philco Television Playhouse. He would make his film debut in a small part in A Face in the Crowd in 1957 as a radio announcer. In 1970 e appeared as a theatre cashier in The Owl and the Pussycat.
Chan's career would begin to take off after 1979, when he appeared in an uncredited role in Squadra antigangsters. He would go onto appear in The King of Comedy, Moscow on the Hudson, The Cotton Club, Nine 1/2 Weeks, Cadillac Man, The Fifth Element, Shanghai Knights, and The Honeymooners. Among his last films was 2004's Zen Noir, on which he played a leading role and was executive producer.
Chan also appeared on television, including CBS Summer Playhouse, Gideon Oliver, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Law and Order, Mad about You, and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. He was a regular on the syndicated Kung Fu: the Legend Continues as both apothecary Lo Si and the villainous Ping Hai and a semi-regular on Now and Again as The Eggman.
Chan appeared on stage in such plays as Fame, The Good Earth, and Keep Off the Grass. He also appeared in television commercials, including one for Verizon in which he played a taxi driver.
Kim Chan was a genuinely talented actor who was sadly underused for much of his roles. Many of parts were exceedingly small and consisted of such traditional Asian roles as houseboys or Japanese soldiers. But Mr. Chan's talent far exceeded as such roles. The perfect example of his talent can be seen in Kung Fu: the Legend Continues, an otherwise unremarkable show enlivened whenever he appeared on the show. The roles he played were nearly polar opposites. Apothecary Lo Si as a wise and just man with a strong sense of honour. The monk Ping Hai was absolutely evil. About the only thing the two characters had in common were that they were both experts in martial arts. That Chan played both roles convincingly is proof that he was worthy of so much more than so many of the parts in which he was cast.