Hollywood Goes Oriental
CaucAsian Performance in American Film
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Foreword: Constructing the Alien in Hollywood’s Classical Era
In 1915 the U.S. Supreme Court in a case brought by the Mutual Film Company against the Sate of Ohio decided that the movies as a commercial business should not enjoy the First Amendment rights granted print media and public speech. Film, the court declared, was a “business, pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit,” not a means for conveying information and ideas. ...
Introduction: East Meets West: Performing the Oriental
The most well known Oriental figures on the Hollywood screen were almost always non-Asian actors made up to look Asian. From the film industry’s earliest days, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asians have been impersonated by performers of other ethnic groups. Notably, the Asian depictions have produced wellknown iconic figures still familiar to the present day such as Fu Manchu or Charlie Chan. ...
1. Figures of the Imagination: Hollywood’s Orient/al
In Hollywood, the face of Asia is cast in shadow and cloaked in darkness. It is often a Caucasian face made up to appear Asian. In the film The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) the face belongs to Boris Karloff as he appears for the first time in the title role. ...
2. Masters of the Macabre: The Oriental Detective
A black car drives down a dark deserted street. A young Asian woman knocks on a door as she looks around nervously in the shadow of the building’s entrance. An Asian manservant answers the door, and the elegantly dressed but desperate young woman asks to speak to Mr. Wong. The servant asks her name, but she refuses ...
3. Creatures of Evil: The Wartime Enemy
The preceding excerpt, which opens the play Yankee Dawg You Die by Philip Kan Gotanda, addresses the legacy of wartime films and their impact on the lives of contemporary Asian Americans such as the leading character actor Vincent Chang, who portrays the “Jap soldier.” This description captures some of the basic features of Hollywood’s wartime Japanese enemy. The “thick Coke-bottle glasses,” ...
4. Comics and Lovers: Postwar Transitions and Interpretations
The preceding dialogue occurs during a scene in the film Flower Drum Song (1961) that portrays a communal celebration in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The guests of honor include both the elder Madam Liang (played by Juanita Hall), granted U.S. citizenship after five years of schooling, and her young nephew Wang Ta (played by James Shigeta) who just graduated college. ...
Conclusion: The Fading Oriental Guise?
The lyrics of the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from the movie musical South Pacific (1958) comments on the powerful messages of racial discrimination sent to us as children, often by family members and others close to us. They particularly bring to mind a memory of watching the film for the first time ...
Extended Select Filmography
Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2010
Volume Title: N/a
Series Title: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series
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