Director who made spy movies fashionable dies at 79

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Award-winning director Le Hoang Hoa (R), who has died, with his daughter Michelle Quynh Anh (C) and wife Truc Quynh. Photo Courtesy of Le Hoang Hoa's Family

Le Hoang Hoa, the man who broke the mold and made television interesting by making a spy series 30 years ago when films were ideology-heavy, died in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday. He was 79 and had been chronically ill.

He had a heart problem, diabetes, and hypertension, and was in hospital after a fall when he died.

Van bai lat ngua (Play your cards), a series he made in black and white, was based on the life of Pham Ngoc Thao, the renowned spy who gathered intelligence against the US forces and the Ngo Dinh Diem regime in the south.

It won a Special Prize at the Vietnam National Film Festival in 1983 and launched Nguyen Chanh Tin, who played the protagonist Nguyen Thanh Luan, and several others to stardom. Many of the characters are still considered benchmarks in Vietnamese cinema.

Le Hoang Hoa, born as Doan Le Hoa in Nha Trang, received a scholarship from the International Cooperation Administration to study cinema in the US from 1952 to 1960.

He also made some 100 movies between the 1970s and 1990s, many of which became blockbusters -- including Cao nguyen F-101 (Highland F-101), the comic-horror flick Con ma nha ho Hua (The Ghost of the Hua Family), Vet thu tren lung ngua hoang (Scar of Revenge on the Wild Horse's Back) and Vinh biet Cali (Farewell to Cali).

He is survived by his wife Truc Quynh and daughter Michelle Quynh Anh.

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