Amy May Wong: Film History Series

Photographer Unknown, “Anna May Wong”, Portrait Photo, Date Unknown, 8 x 10 Inches

America’s first female Asian American star, Anna May Wong was born oin January 3rd in 1905, Wong was a minor film star from the 1920s through the 1940s who fought against stereotypes and sometimes, of necessity, worked with them. She was almost exclusively a film actress as opposed to a live performer. However, she did occasionally make vaudeville tours to promote her film career during the twenties and early thirties.

In 1935 Wong was dealt the most severe disappointment of her career, when Mertro-Goldwyn-Mayer refused to consider her for the leading role of the Chinese character O-Lan in the film version of Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth”, choosing instead the white actress Louise Rainer to play the leading role. Wong spent the next year touring China, visiting her family’s ancestral village and studying Chinese culture.

In the late 1930s, Anna May Wong starred in several B movies for Paramount Pictures, portraying Chinese and Chinese Americans in a positive light. She made history in 1951 with her TV show “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong”, the first ever U.S. television show with an Asian American in the starring role. Wong had been planning her return to film with “The Flower Drum Song” when she died in 1961, at the age of 56 of heart failure.

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