Anna Chen's Gallery - Anna May Wong Centenary Tribute

 

Anna Chen, Anna May Wong Centenary Tribute

Centenary Tribute to Anna May Wong (1905 - 1961)
Anna Chen photographed by Sukey Parnell in the style of Anna May Wong

 

It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily." - Marlene Dietrich as Shanghai Lily in Shanghai Express

One of them is yellow, and the other one is white. But both their souls are rotten." - Lawrence Grant as Reverend Carmichael in Shanghai Express

How can we be be [such villains] with a civilisation that's so many times older than that of the West?" - Anna May Wong on Chinese on the Hollywood screen

 

Anna May Wong was Hollywood's first Chinese movie star, making films from 1919 to 1960. She starred most famously opposite Marlene Dietrich in Joseph von Sternberg's Shanghai Express in 1932, and was an early evil daughter of Fu Manchu in the 1931 film, Daughter of the Dragon. Other co-stars included Douglas Fairbanks, George Raft, Warner Oland, Sessue Hayakawa, Jameson Thomas and a young Laurence Olivier in The Circle of Chalk on the London stage,

An active supporter of the Chinese war effort against the brutal Japanese occupation from the 1930s into World War 2, she visited China and wrote a series of articles on her experience there for the New York Herald Tribune. Her disillusionment with the Hollywood system, where mixed race love scenes were banned and screen depictions of Chinese degrading, led to engagements in Europe where she found respect and acceptance. With decent film roles drying up in the 1950s, she worked in television, appearing in shows such as Wyatt Earp, Mike Hammer and The Barbara Stanwyck Show, as well as her own detective series, The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong. She had hoped to make a comeback in the musical feature film, The Flower Drum Song, but she died at home in Los Angeles in January 1961 of a heart attack aged 56.

Glimpsed on a rare British television screening of Shanghai Express when I was a child, she was a vital sign for me that Chinese artists could make a valuable contribution to Western culture.

 

(c) Photo by Sukey Parnell, June 2004

Anna May Wong Must Die!

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