霓虹彩畫:尋找消失的彌敦芳蹤 Retracing Nathan Road– A Silhouette of the Past

近日電影《梅艷芳》風靡全港,大家不但能再睹香港女兒的舞台風姿,更能夠跟隨角色的足跡,重回黃金七、八十年代的香港 — 在黑夜中暈開五光十色的霓虹燈光,熙來攘往的街道、大戲院、樂園等。電影利用電腦特技重構消失的街景,呼喚起你我腦海裡的生活記憶。

Right now the biographical film Anita is the biggest hit in the city. The movie depicts the life of the Canto-pop diva Anita Mui and takes us back to the 1970s and ‘80s heyday in Hong Kong. The movie reconstructs the colourful and alluring night view of the old Nathan Road. Looking at the splendid neon signs and the nostalgic theatres on the movie screen, it brings back the memories of the bygone era.

圖片來源:梅艷芳 ANITA 電影 Facebook專頁 Source: Facebook Page Anita Movie

談起彌敦道上的舊日風光,不得不提的是孔雀開屏的霓虹燈招牌配上「妙麗」和「Millie’s Centre」粗框紅字,以及普慶戲院牆牆外千變萬化的電影、粵劇廣告畫。它們雖然早已消逝,不過在舊報紙之中,仍能找到它們的過去蹤跡。

Neon signs and billboard posters were an indispensable part of the city’s visual landscape in the 1980s, especially in commercial areas like Nathan Road. Among them were the iconic feather-displaying peafowl sign of the Millie’s Centre and the various billboard posters of movies and Cantonese Opera outside the Astor Theatre. One may still retrace their glory in the old newspapers. 

妙麗中心及普慶戲院昔日的位置 The original location for The Millie’s Centre and the Astro Theatre

孔雀開屏的妙麗中心

70年代有一句膾灸人口的廣告金句:「妙麗妙麗妙到極,妙麗妙麗妙到極,妙麗手袋天天新款,妙麗皮鞋與眾不同,妙麗童裝零舍夠威」。

妙麗是甚麼?原來它就是人稱「地王之王,商場之霸」的妙麗中心(Millie’s Centre)。它在1977年5月25日正式開幕,為當時油麻地商業中心區內最具規模的高級百貨商場,開幕時候更有陳美琪、張惠儀、禤素霞等電視藝員出席剪綵儀式,風頭極盛。中心樓高四層連地庫,出售世界各地各式各樣百貨,從美妝用品、潮流時裝到飾物精品,琳琅滿目,應有盡有。

The Millie’s Centre

People who grew up in the 1970s probably have heard of the advertisement slogan of Millie’s Centre, which was hailed as “the king of the land, the lord of the shopping mall”.

Opened in May 1977, it was the largest high-class department store in Yau Ma Tei. The four-storey building offered a wide range of goods to the customers, ranging from makeup, beauty products, clothing to accessories.

圖片來源:大公報,1977年5月25日 Source: Ta Kung Pao, 25 May, 1977

推門走入妙麗中心,會看見地庫及二樓有十多間本地時裝精品商鋪,例如興龍牛仔衫、雅麗手飾、新姿時裝。有意購置牛仔褲和化妝品的話,千萬不要錯過地下商場!這裡可找到世界各地入口及本地廠出品的牛仔褲,貨式尺碼一應俱全。不同品牌的化妝品亦應有盡有,女士可在諮詢中心詢問香水的選擇及使用事宜。

三樓全層則是妙麗的主場,售賣自家出品的手袋、皮鞋、童裝。逛街逛得飢腸轆轆的話,不妨登上四樓的名為「鬼佬大排檔」。這個出售各種中式食品的地方,是香港商場最早的「食街」和 「美食廣場」。

今時今日,香港商場很少有大型連鎖店、國際品牌與本地小店共存的生態,但當年這卻是妙麗的特色。放諸今日,或許現在妙麗的商場模式不再是萬中無一,但它那孔雀開屏的招牌,以至內部大小商鋪共存的景象,經已不復見。

Upon entering Millie’s Centre, you would find over a dozen of fashion shops on the first two floors. If you were looking for jeans or cosmetics, do not miss out on the underground level. There you would find both imported and locally-produced jeans of all sizes. The sales personnel at the makeup counters would delightly dole out recommendations on the latest cosmetics and perfume.

The third floor was where Millie’s branded handbags, shoes, and kids wear were sold. If you were feeling hungry, head to the fourth floor, nicknamed “Gweilo Dai Pai Dong”, to fill yourself up with different kinds of Chinese cuisine. It was the first food street or food court concept incorporated into a mall in Hong Kong. 

It is rare to see chain stores, international brands, and small local shops side by side inside a department store today. That was what made Millie’s Centre unique at her time. Along with its iridescent neon peafowl sign, Millie’s Centre has become a thing of the past.

普慶戲院與大型電影廣告牌

現時各位路經佐敦時,會看見巨型的《梅豔芳》廣告懸掛於逸東酒店外牆。 事實上,酒店的前身普慶戲院,正正是以廣告畫而聞名。

Astor Theatre and Movie Posters

If you pass by Jordan today, you would find a gigantic billboard of the movie Anita outside of Eaton Hotel. Coincidentally, the hotel is where the former Astor Theatre was located. It was famous for its array of movie posters.

圖片來源:梅艷芳 ANITA 電影 Facebook專頁 Source: Facebook Page Anita Movie

翻查多年的報導,每逢談起普慶戲院,皆會出現「座無虛席」、「全院滿座」、「車水馬龍」 等關鍵詞。結合戲院及表演場地於一身的普慶戲院,1900年代初開始屹立於九龍地帶,之後歷改建翻新。80年代的面貌為戲院的第三代,為一座樓高13層的大廈,並沿用「普慶」的老招牌。戲院位處大廈後座,1957年前夕聖誕節重新開幕,為設有1900個座位的大戲院,既放映首輪西片,亦會上演粵劇、話劇等。當年報導稱普慶戲院「遠東『電影之宮』」,放映設備「雄霸港九」。為呼應公司中資左派的背景,普慶戲院凝聚了濃厚的中國文化色彩,是粵劇、京劇的熱門表演場地之一,亦曾是慶祝國慶、文藝匯演的表演場地。

Searching through newspaper archives, one would find Astor Theatre often associated with taglines like “full-house” or “sell-out”. It was a 1,900-seat theatre that screened movies and staged live performances. Established in the early 1900s, it underwent several renovations and expanded into a 13-storey building in the 1980s. Given its pro-Beijing leftwing background, a lot of PRC National Day celebrations and variety shows took place in this “cinematic palace in the Far East”.

圖片來源:大公報,1960年4月13日 Source: Ta Kung Pao, 13 April, 1960

戲院外牆廣告畫製作皆手繪而成,許多都是出自廣告畫業界「四大天王」之一的畫師黃金手筆。他從1957年開始擔任普慶戲院的美術主任,30多年來出產不同的巨型電影及戲劇廣告牌。例如電影《毒手》(1960)上映時,他在廣告牌畫了一隻大「毒手」配合主題, 一時甚為轟動,惹來不少路人抬頭觀望。

Most of the hand-painted posters that appeared outside Astor Theatre were created by Wong Kum, one of the “four heavenly kings in poster design” at the time. He became the theatre’s art director in 1957. In the following 30 years, he painted numerous cinematic and theatrical posters. One of his most successful works was the poster of the film The Cruel Hand (1960). He drew a stunning giant hand that drew the gaze of many passers-by.

圖片來源:Pinterest Source: Pinterest

各式各樣的招牌和霓紅燈,拓展了人們發揮創意的空間,為城市景觀帶來無限視覺享受。為求在晚上招徠途人目光,大大小小的霓紅燈既是百花齊放,亦是百花爭豔。當年戲院運作以人力為基礎,即使是電影廣告牌也是人手製作,逐片逐片裝嵌。就如香港的黃金時代,每一樣事物,都是由香港人的手一同建立而成。

Behind the neon lights and billboard posters were the artists’ creativity and craftsmanship. Piece by piece, they created a visually stimulating urban spectacle that captured our imagination of the golden era of the city.