Brown - Dark
Los Angeles, California
Place of Death
Santa Monica, CA USA
Cause of Death
Claim to Fame
Shanghai Express (1932)
Actor/Actress, Other Crew
Has Detailed Data (New)
Profile Bio Text
Anna May began playing bit parts as a teenager in the early days of Hollywood. Wong`s first role was in Alla Nazimova`s silent film The Red Lantern (1919) as an uncredited extra. However, even with associations with a Hollywood power like Nazimova, her ethnicity prevented her from getting choice parts. Though her family had been in California since 1855, as a Chinese-American, Wong was considered "foreign" both through social prejudices of the time, and by law. Anti-miscegenation laws existed in California until 1948. Hollywood films of the silent era and early 1930s pre-code era sometimes flouted the more conservative social mores of the time, but these restrictions were codified when the studios adopted the Hays Code in 1930, and began enforcing it in 1934. Wong`s career was especially affected by the anti-miscegenation rules in the Code, since they prevented her from playing romantic roles with non-Asian actors. When MGM was casting for The Good Earth (1937), she was passed up for the lead female role of O-lan because Paul Muni, an actor of European descent, was to play Wang Lung, O-lan`s husband. Even though Muni was to wear heavy make up to look Asian, industry regulations prevented her from playing romantic roles opposite actors of different ethnicity. Instead, the role Wong hoped for went to Luise Rainer. MGM offered Wong the part of Lotus, but Wong refused to be the only Chinese American playing the only negative character, stating: "...I won`t play the part. If you let me play O-lan, I`ll be very glad. But you`re asking me - with Chinese blood - to do the only unsympathetic role in the picture featuring an all-American cast portraying Chinese characters."
Despite this discrimination, she had a number of significant film roles. Her first starring role was in Hollywood`s first color movie, The Toll of the Sea (1921) opposite Kenneth Harlan. Anna May travelled throughout Europe, and was one of the leads in the British film Piccadilly (1929). In Java Head (1934) she starred opposite actor John Loder as a Chinese princess married to a 19th-century English gentleman.
She also made films in German and French. In addition, she co-starred with Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932) and with Lana Turner in Portrait in Black (1960), though she typically earned far less than her billing would indicate. For her work in Shanghai Express, in which Dietrich and Wong played a pair of prostitutes, she received $6,000 while Dietrich salary was more than $78,000. Many critics, however, believed that she stole the film from Dietrich with her intense performance, despite playing a supporting role, and the two actresses never worked together again. She toured extensively on the stage throughout Europe and the U.S., including opposite Vincent Price in Princess Turandot , a stage version of Giacomo Puccini`s opera.
In the early 1950s, she starred in her own television series, The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong (using her birth name for the title character).
Couple Profile Source
Hollywood High School, Lincoln High School
Full Name at Birth
Wong Liu Tsong
Page Display = 2 (Legacy)
Wong Sam SIng
Lee Gon Toy
Lu Lu, Mary
Emil Jannings, Lon Chaney, Paul Robeson, John GIlbert, Carl Van Vechten, Warner Oland
Anna May Wong (January 3, 1905 – February 3, 1961) was the first Chinese American movie star, and the first Asian American actress to gain international recognition. Her long and varied career spanned both silent and sound film, television, stage and radio.
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