Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Anna May Wong
ANNA MAY WONG: IN HER OWN WORDS (2013). Writer/director/producer: Yunah Hong.

"I never kissed my leading man in Hollywood -- ever."

Anna May Wong [1905 - 1961] managed to become a minor movie star during a period when racism was at its peak and there were few roles for Chinese-Americans in films [the situation probably has not changed all that much today]. Her career began in silent films with small roles in movies like Mr. Wu, although she did eventually get starring parts such as in The Toll of the Sea, a Chinese version of Madama Butterfly, and went to Europe to get more lead roles in movies. Her talent and good looks were obvious from the first, but her refusal to play stereotypical parts led to her losing roles, and when she did play exotic Eurasian villainesses as in Daughter of the Dragon [a Fu Manchu picture] she was excoriated by mainland Chinese. She held her own with Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express, and a smitten songwriter wrote "These Foolish Things [remind me of you]" for her. She had a good role in Daughter of Shanghai, but by the late forties and fifties she was reduced to very small roles in such films as Impact and on The Barbara Stanwyck Show. While one could say that this brief documentary on the actress is a bit on the superficial side, like TCM's Frosted Yellow Willows which also covered Wong, the emphasis is on the positive aspects of her life and career. Another difference is that a pretty and talented young actress named Doan Ly portrays Wong at different points during the documentary, speaking Wong's "own words" from letters and interviews. There are also quotes from actor BD Wong [Law and Order: Special Victims Unit] and film scholar Pete Feng, among others.

Verdict: Interesting look at the life of a very interesting actress. ***.

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