Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for Anna May Wong



Born: January 3, 1905

Died: February 3, 1961

Aged: 56 years from Heart Attack

Real Name: Huang Liu Tsong which means "Frosted Yellow Willow"

Affairs: Many, mainly Caucasian-Marshall Neillan, Eric Maschwitz (wrote a song about her called "These Foolish Things")

Friends: Leni Riefenstahl

The first major oriental star who should have become a major actress but the racial biases of the day prevented this. Her father worked in the laundry but she was American through and through. She grew up near the picture industry and, as young as 9 years old, she begged to be in pictures. She was so often on the studio lots she was called CCC for Curious Chinese Child.  She would always appear in public in traditional Chinese fashion but in private, she preferred jeans. She started out as a photographer's model but soon broke into films and was in the first full length feature film done in two-tone colour called "The Toll Of The Sea".  She continued playing typical Asian roles of  either a innocent Chinese girl or usually an evil temptress. Due to the laws of the day, she was not allowed to marry Caucasian men, be shown in a leading role kissing or married to a Caucasian in film. In the Chinese culture of the day, any Chinese actress was considered little more than a prostitute so  Asian men would not consider her marriage material.  Since her roles were so biased, she travelled to Germany and got roles suited to her talents. She became re-known for her roles she made in Europe and became friends with the film elite like Leni Riefenstahl and Marlene Dietrich. At this time, rumours started that she was a lesbian due to her associations with members of the same sex.  She became fluent in German and French, was part of the intellectual elite and was known for her intelligence and humour. When in England, Hollywood again came calling and she answered. She was able to work with Joseph Von Sternberg (Director). She really wanted the lead, O-Lan in "The Good Earth" but the studio gave the part to Luise Rainer who was Austrian and won the Oscar for the role. By this point her father (mother died in 1930) and her siblings returned to China so she decided to visit. She received such bad publicity and protests from her fellow Chinese, depression sank in and she started drinking and smoking heavily. She made very few films after, developed her home into apartments and got into real estate. Due to her excessive drinking her liver was compromised. She was offered a role in "Flower Drum Song" which she was excited to do when she died in her sleep from a massive heart attack. She never married.Sorry another sad one but she paved the way for so many others and is listed as one of the greats now.

Films: "The Toll Of The Sea", "The Thief of Bagdad", "Mr. Wu", "Old San Francisco", "Piccadilly", "Daughter of the Dragon", "Shanghai Express", "Tiger Bay", "Jar Head", "Limelight Blues", "Portrait in Black".

Quote: "I see no reason why Chinese and English people should not kiss on the screen, even though I prefer not to."

The films in bold are the ones to try and see:)

69 comments:

  1. I am not sure I have heard of her, she is a lovely looking lady... I know I have seen Thief Of Bagdad... long time ago. It's the song Foolish Things I am going to check out... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought the song created for her was interesting

      Delete
  2. How sad that actresses weren't respected in her culture at the time. She sounds like an amazing woman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think she was and she was caught between a rock and a hard place

      Delete
  3. Those bangs! And this really is such a sad story. It's amazing how biased an awful we as a culture could be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! There were so many roles done by Caucasian actresses where they could have used her but she was not "Chinese" enough

      Delete
  4. Culture can sure show its dark side at times. Sad she had to go through so much crap because of it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Replies
    1. Doesn't it! Can you imagine how she must have felt because she got it from both sides

      Delete
  6. Wow, what a fascinating person. Hollywood could easily make a movie about her life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They could actually and people would remember her then

      Delete
  7. Wow, no kidding about being obscured because of racial bias. I've never heard of her before, and it's so sad that she endured all of that racism in what should have been a fruitful career.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely! She could have been the Oscar winner in more than one role

      Delete
  8. She died young. :( I have noticed that many of the roles for Asian women are like that in China or Japan. Even today. It's such a shame. She sounds like she was amazingly talented.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I'm 56. You got that right. Young.

      Delete
    2. She was and very pretty and full of fun

      Delete
  9. What a tragedy that she was held back because of racial bias. Stupid, stupid...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is beyond stupid and that there were actual laws in place too

      Delete
  10. I have seen Portrait in Black several times and now am trying to remember the role she played in it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She probably had a very small role. I have seen that film but years ago

      Delete
  11. What a tragic story for such a lovely looking actress. I'm unfamiliar with her or her work. Thanks for this great introduction.

    ReplyDelete
  12. So many of them have such tragic ends.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Her story in Hollywood was such a shame. She could have and should have had such a stronger and more varied career, but the studios and the societal opinions were so backwards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were and so was the country since it was law that the Chinese and Caucasian could not marry or even display affection. Then her own race looked very poorly on her. It is a lot to bare to do something you love

      Delete
  14. Wasn't she beautiful. Nowadays, she'd have all kinds of roles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes she would-I can see her in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"

      Delete
  15. I think she would've liked knowing that she paved the way for other women (non-white) in film. That is a fine legacy. Granted, she didn't get the benefits, but if she hadn't done what she did, maybe it would've been longer still before it equalized.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you are right. It starts with one person

      Delete
  16. 56 years young. That's way to young to go.

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Co-host
    W is for Window and White Noise

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right. Her dad died when he was in his 90's

      Delete
  17. It's so weird to think it would have been a big scandal to have an English person and a Chinese person kissing on screen. I've never heard of this woman but what a sad story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was not allowed yet she does do just that in "Java Head". There were many States where her films may have had to be censored because of something they considered too risque

      Delete
  18. Oh, how very sad! And she was so beautiful! People are just so - xenophobic. If only all we could see of everyone was our skeleton, none would know what race we are!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How true is that! It would take away so much bigotry.

      Delete
  19. Her story would be interesting to make into a film. Thank goodness she was able to pursue her career in Europe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes and too bad, in one way, she came back but then, in another way, it was good she did given what Germany was starting to develop as

      Delete
  20. Very fascinating and another one I had not heard of. It is good that we have come a long way in fighting prejudices that were once taken for granted.

    betty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were so taken as law and were law. She was the first to try to break the barriers

      Delete
  21. Prejudice, prejudice, prejudice. It's a terrible thing and has done so many wrongs. Poor woman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It has and so many people have suffered as a result

      Delete
  22. She has a certain dignity and strength and worked hard but it wasn't enough to cast her outside of certain roles. Oh how times have changed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She had tremendous strength. Her own family disagreed with her profession. The Chinese people thought she was just above a prostitute and when she went to China she encountered protests and threats. She had to deal with the studios not allowing her to play leads while white women were made up to look like Asians. She had to deal with so much all for the love of her craft

      Delete
  23. This is a fascinating and tragic story. You do a great job of enlighting U.S.
    R

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Maybe one day a film will be made about her

      Delete
  24. I've seen Old San Francisco and thought it was quite good. Too bad about her career as she was talented as well as very beautiful. Interesting about her connection to Riefenstahl.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was sad and I know what you mean about Leni and her friendship. One wonders what they talked about aside from film

      Delete
  25. One of these days Hollywood will get its act together and treat all people the same. I hope. Because the history is pretty dismal (and things aren't much better today).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hollywood and the moguls were there to make money even though the moguls love film. Now it is big conglomerates and executroids who run the studios and only care about the money

      Delete
  26. It's strange that not so very long ago, it was illegal in the US for people to marry someone of a different race. Another sad story...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! It is so sad and really quite stupid. She paved the way though

      Delete
  27. Stupid laws suck and that is one of the stupidest I've heard of in any country.

    At one time like in the regency period, those actresses were considered little more than pros too. Many did sell themselves though.

    This was sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right! Acting in the very early days was only a step above prostitution and the early movie actors recall seeing signs prohibiting dogs and the movie people from entering

      Delete
  28. Now I'm wondering what role she was offered in Flower Drum Song - I loved that film/musical.

    Her name was familiar but I knew nothing about her background. Great (but sad) story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was cast as Madame Liang but died before any scenes were shot.

      Delete
  29. Such a sad story. How intensely frustrating and demoralizing it must have been for her to see other less talented people getting the roles that she'd never be considered for. At least she was able to find success for a while in Europe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is sad, frustrating and angersome what she had to go through and yet she is considered one of the best

      Delete
  30. It is unfortunate she was so troubled, but she seemed to have been a talented actress.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She had huge barriers to overcome from the studios, the Asian people and her own family all because she loved to act.

      Delete
  31. Yes, very sad she was a victim of cultural bias at the time. We'll never know what her career might have been with proper support. Interesting aside....My son is married to a Singapore girl, something so unheard of then, but acceptable now. Times certainly have changed!

    ReplyDelete
  32. It's sad that she had to deal with so much bigotry and abuse. What a tragic ending to someone with so much promise.

    Julie

    ReplyDelete