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Anna May Wong ACTOR


Anna May Wong, born Wong Liu Tsong (meaning 'frosted yellow willows') and was the first ever Chinese Amercian and the first Asian American to become a star in the entertainment industry.  She was born January 3, 1905 near Chinatown, in Los Angeles, California.   She was the second of seven children born to Wong Sam Sing, owner of the Sam Kee Laundry in Los Angeles, and his second wife Lee Gon Toy.  At a young age, Wong became infatuated with the movies.  She began skipping Chinese school in the evenings to instead sneak away adn watch movies.  At nine years of age, she begged filmmakers for parts,and began acting in films at an early age.

Without her father's knowledge, a friend of his with movie connections helped Anna May land an uncredited role as an extra carrying a lantern in the film "The Red Lantern" (1919) at the age of fourteen.  She worked steadily for the next two years as an extra in various movies.  Finding it difficult to keep up with both her schoolwork and her passion, she dropped out of Los Angeles High School in 1921 to pursue a full-time acting career.

In 1921, Wong received her first screen credit for, "Bits of Life".  Her father against his wishes finally agreed to allow his daughter to pursue an acting career with the one rule that she must always be accompanied by a guardian on set. 

During the silent film era, at the age of 17 she played her first leading role, in the early Metro two-strip, "The Toll of the Sea" (1922), one of the first movies made in color and Douglas Fairbanks, followed by a role in, "The Thief of Bagdad" (1924).   The film grossed more than $2 million and helped introduce Wong to the public.  However, her parents were very upset and embarrassed about the character she portrayed in this film as a young Mongol Slave girl.

This film however, led to countless offers.  Wong became a fashion icon, and by 1924 had achieved international stardom.  In 1927, Wong starred in, "The Silk Bouquet", re-titled "The Dragon Horse".  The film was one of the first U.S. films to be produced with Chinese backing, provided by San Francisco's Chinese Six Companies and featured Asian actors playing the Asian roles.

She left for Europe in 1928 after becoming disapointed with the type cast roles she was being given.  In Europe, she starred in several notable plays and films, among them, "Piccadilly" (1929).  Wong was featured in films of the early sound era, such as, "Daughter of the Dragon" (1931), which was the last stereotypically "evil Chinese" role Wong played.  In Europe, Wong was becoming a sensation.

To complete her contract with Paramount Pictures, Wong made a string of B movies in the late 1930's returning to Hollywood.  She also appeared in "Daughter of Shanghai" (1937) and "Shanghai Express" (1932). Paramount also employed Wong as a tutor to other actors, such as Dorothy Lamour in her role as a Eurasian in,"Disputed Passage".

Wong performed on radio several times, including a 1939 role as 'Peony' in Pearl Buck's The Patriot.  Wong's cabaret act, which included songs in Cantonese, French, English, German, Danish, Swedish, and other languages, took her from the U.S. to Europe and Australia through the 1930's and 40's.

In 1935 Wong was dealt the most severe disappointment of her career, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM, refused to consider her for the leading role in its film version of "The Good Earth" so Wong chose to spend the next year touring China, visiting her family's ancestral village and studying Chinese culture. 

During world War II, Wong paid less attention to her film career and chose to devote her time to helping the Chinese cause against Japan.  She contributed to the war efforts by working for the United China Relief Fund and touring with the United Service.  During the 1940's and 1950's, Wong took small parts in film and television, even starting her own series, "Mme. Liu Tsong".

Wong was not only an actress she also nvested in real estate.  She owned numerous properties in Hollywood.  She even comnverted her own home in SantaMonica into four small apartments and served an an apartment manager. 

After a six year absence from acting, Wong returned to the public eye in the 1950's in several television spots.  She also had a small role in a 'B' rated film, "Impact" (1949) the same year she lost her father.   Her television series was specifically written for her, "The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong" ( August 27th-November 21st, 1951), however in 1952 the show was cancelled.   

Late 1953, Wong suffered a internal hemorrage, she recoved enough to take a role on," Portrait in Black" (1960) and then was planning to return to film in, "Flower Drum Song" when she died on February 3rd, 1961, at the age of 56 from a heart attack in her sleep at her home in Santa Monica.  She was cremated and her remains were barried with her mother at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.  It is said, only her mother's name is scripted on the Tombstone.

Anna May Wong received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and also has one of the four supporting pillars of the " Gateway to Hollywood" depicting her.  The Mayfair Mannequin Society of New York voted her "The World's best-dressed woman", and in 1938 Look magazine named her "The World's most beautiful Chinese girl".  Wong's image and career have left a lasting legacy.  Through her public appearances, Wong helped to "humanize" Asian-Americans to white audiences.  Wong's films and public image established her firmly as an Asian-American citizen at a time when laws specifically discriminated against Asian immigration and citizenship.

1919  The Red Lantern
1920  Dinty
1921  Outside the Law
1921  Shame
1921  Lotus Blossom
1921  The First Born
1921  Bits of Life
1922  The Toll of the Sea
1922  Lotus Flower
1923  Thundering Dawn
1923  Honky-Tonk Girl
1923  Drifting
1923  Rose Li
1924  Peter Pan
1924  Tiger Lily
1924  Lilies of the Field
1924  The Thief of Bagdad
1924  The Mongol Slave
1924  The Fortieth Door
1924  Zira
1924  The Alaskan
1924  Keok
1925  His Supreme Moment
1925  Harem Girl in play
1925  Forty Winks
1925  Annabelle Wu
1926  The Desert's Toll
1926  Oneta
1926  Fifth Avenue
1926  Nan Lo
1926  A Trip to Chinatown
1926  Ohati
1926  The Silk Bouquet
1926  Dragon Horse
1927  Streets of Shanghai
1927  Su Quan
1927  The Devil Dancer
1927  Sada
1927  Driven from Home
1927  Mr. Wu
1927  Loo Song
1927  The Honorable Mr. Buggs
1927  Baroness Stoloff
1927  Old San Francisco
1927  A Flower of the Orient
1927  Why Girls Love Sailors
1927  The Chinese Parrot
1927  Nautch Dancer
1928  Show Life
1928  Song
1928  The Crimson City
1928  Su
1928  Across to Singapore
1928  Singapore Woman
1928  Chinatown Charlie
1928  Mandarin's Sweetheart
1929  Piccadilly
1929  Shosho
1930  The Flame of Love
1930  Hai-Tang
1930  Elstree Calling
1931  cameo
1931  Daughter of the Dragon
1931  Princess Ling Moy
1932  Shanghai Express
1932  Hui Fei
1933  A Study in Scarlet
1933  Mrs. Pyke
1934  Limehouse Blues
1934  Tu Tuan
1934  Chu Chin Chow
1934  Zahrat
1934  Java Head
1934  Princess Taou Yuen
1934  Tiger Bay
1934  Lui Chang
1937  Daughter of Shanghai
1937  Lan Ying Lin
1938  When Were You Born
1938  Mei Lei Ming
1938  Dangerous to Know
1938  Lan Ying
1939  Island of Lost Men
1939  Kim Ling
1939  King of Chinatown
1939  Dr. Mary Ling
1941  Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery
1941  Lois Ling
1942  Lady from Chungking
1942  Kwan Mei
1943  Bombs Over Burma
1943  Lin Ying
1949  Impact
1949  Su Lin
1960  Portrait in Black
1960  Tawny

Matinee Classics - A Trip to Chinatown starring Anna May Wong and Charles Farrell

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