Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"Anna May Wong" Hollywood First Asian Superstar

"Anna May Wong was the first Asian-American movie star. Unless my memory has ceased to function, until Lucy Liu came along she was almost the only one. I'm talking about name-above-the-title stars"*

Anna May Wong was born Wong Liu Tsong on January 3, 1905, in Los Angeles, California. Her parents ran a laundry in the city's Chinatown section. It led to bigger parts in other movies with a Chinese or Asian theme, in which she alternated between playing the heroine or the heorine's evil nemesis. Anna's talent and beauty carried her through a successful transition into talkies, and she also traveled to Europe to make films there. By the 1940s, however, Anna's career had begun to stall. Theater patrons were finding escapist fare elsewhere and her Chinese melodramas were no longer in demand. Anna appeared sporadically on teleivison throughout the 1950s. Although the first was a modest hit, the second film was released to mixed reviews and meager box-office receipts. On February 2, 1961, Anna died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, California, at age 56.

Did you know??

  • Cousin of cinematographer James Wong Howe.
  • She was more often cast in "sinister oriental" roles only after actresses like Nita Naldi were forced out of motion pictures due to the coming of sound
  • In 1956 Anna received a long-deferred chance to play a role she lost out on in 1940s Hollywood. Playing the Asian blackmailer in W. Somerset Maugham's "The Letter" on TV, the director of the show was none other than William Wyler who had originally nixed the idea of her playing the role in the Bette Davis classic film version of The Letter (1940). The part instead went to non-Asian Gale Sondergaard.
  • Never married, Anna is rumored to have been bisexual but that has never been definitely established..
  • Anna attended Hollywood High School where she became a photographer's model.
  • Was a Christian Scientist practitioner.
  • Anna once had an affair with noted silent film director Marshall Neilan. Most of her romances tended towards Caucasian men as many Chinese men looked down on actresses as prostitutes

* JOHN HARKNESS http://www.nowtoronto.com/

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