Anna May Wong
From Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU
Title Page, Copyright Page
Preface to Second Edition
Since publication of the first edition of this biography of her in 2004, Anna May Wong and her film career have gained increased attention. There are now several academic studies, a children’s book, at least three documentaries, numerous scholarly articles, YouTube sites and about a half million Internet pages dedicated to her. Her surviving films are now readily available, including the impressive...
I first encountered the mystique of Anna May Wong on Cecil Court off Charing Cross Road in London in the fall of 1999. There, I noticed in a bookstore window an autographed photograph for sale of a beautiful woman. Fascinated, I rushed into the shop and bought the framed image. It was expensive, and I wondered what I was doing. After checking capsule biographies of Anna May Wong on the...
Anna May Wong (1905–1961) remains the premier Asian American actress. In part this distinction stems from the historical rarity of Asian actors in American cinema and theater, yet her singularity derives primarily from her laudable acting in more than fifty movies, during a career that ranged from 1919 to 1961, a record of achievement that is unmatched and likely to remain so in the foreseeable future...
List of Illustrations
By birth, Anna May Wong was a third-generation Californian, with family roots that traced back to the first years of Chinese arrivals in the Gold Rush years. Both sets of her grandparents arrived in California by 1855. Between that date and Anna May’s birth in 1905, the Chinese in California went from initial acceptance to attempted exclusion in the 1880s to violent racial hostility at the close...
Two: Seeking Stardom
Following her debut in The Red Lantern, Anna May gained small, unaccredited parts in several films. First she had a tiny bit in a Priscilla Dean feature, Outside the Law, directed by Tod Browning for Universal Pictures. This film was the first of eight screen collaborations between Browning and Lon Chaney, who was ascending into stardom. The film was set in San Francisco’s Chinatown...
Anna May and Lulu arrived in Hamburg, Germany in April 1928. Their arrival there occurred at a time when the nation’s film industry was trying to challenge the dominance of American moviemakers. To German filmmakers, Anna May was a major star who would guarantee attention for any production. Berliners were passionate moviegoers, attending films for the newsreels and to be entertained...
Four: Atlantic Crossings
Anna May’s turn on Broadway in the fall of 1930 was a rousing success. Edgar Wallace, a successful contemporary novelist, had adapted his work into a play called On the Spot. The critics were not universally kind—the New York Times called her “an inscrutably loyal jade”—but the play was a success and drew large enough audiences to move after the Broadway run to a Brooklyn theater. During...
As the cameras rolled for The Good Earth, Anna May was preparing her own production. While the Hollywood magazines were ablaze with stories about the filming of Buck’s novel, Anna May celebrated her thirty-first birthday with preparations for her trip to China. She knew that above all living well is the best revenge. She arranged with the Hearst Corporation to have the skilled cameraman...
Six: In the Service of the Motherland
In China, Anna May was generally an honored guest. In the United States, she was just another “alleged Chinese citizen.” Immediately upon her arrival in San Francisco, Anna May was greeted with a reminder of her family’s status. On her return to the United States, Anna May had to report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to retrieve her certificate of identity. Part of the interview...
Seven: Becoming Chinese American
Anna May’s enforced leisure continued in the postwar years. Los Angeles offered gatherings with her old friends and some vague promises of work at start-up studios, but she missed traveling and especially longed to be in New York City. She jumped at the chance for an arduous tour in the fall of 1947, which would take her through smaller cities in the northeast. When she got to New York City...
After Anna May’s passing, Richard took a month off from the shop. Among the first contacts he made were with the Van Vechtens, whom he thanked for their kindness in a letter on April 14. Richard said that he was tired of inactivity and was ready to get back to work. He consoled them by saying that both Anna May and he believed in eternal life and that “we will all meet again and have a real...
Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 33 b/w
Publication Year: 2012
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