TAIPEI • Sun Yueh, a much-loved comedian, Golden Horse-winning actor and humanitarian who was known to Taiwanese as "Uncle Sun", died in National Taiwan University Hospital on Tuesday, said Taiwanese newspapers. He was 87.
He had been hospitalised for complications of gallstones and acute bleeding in the digestive tract and died of sepsis and multiple organ failure, the hospital said.
A native of Yuyao, Zhejiang province, China, Sun joined the military in his teens and landed in Taiwan with the Kuomintang troops in 1949, according to Apple Daily.
After joining a theatre troupe, he crossed over to film in 1962, at age 32.
He did not have leading-man looks, but had success playing tramps, ruffians and baddies, even winning his first Golden Horse Award for a supporting role as the villain of the 1969 thriller Storm Over The Yangtse River.
But success as a movie baddie made him miserable. His children, a boy and a girl, did not dare admit he was their father in public, and he had suicidal thoughts thrice, he said.
In 1978, at age 48, he decided to switch to television comedy.
He became a household name in Taiwan, hosting variety and children's shows with Chang Hsiao-yen and David Tao Ta-wei, but would also find a second wind in cinema.
At the Golden Horse Awards in 1983, he was named Best Actor for his role as a speech-impaired rag-and-bone man and abandoned father in the weepie Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?.
Around the time, after Tao took Sun to church, the actor found inner peace and finally quit smoking, according to Mirror Media.
Following a trip he made to northern Thailand to help refugees, he announced that he would, at the second peak of his film career, devote eight months every year to charity work.
He acted in movies including Old Mao's Second Spring (1984) and City On Fire (1987), before retiring in 1989 to focus on humanitarian work.
In his later years, he also committed himself to anti-smoking activities.
At the Golden Horse Awards in 2010, he was given a special contribution award and said self-deprecatingly: "A person who has left the film business should be considered a deserter. As for why he's still winning an award, sometimes he can't give a reason either."
He is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years and his children.