Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Anna May Wong: First Chinese American Actress

Anna May Wong is a grossly under appreciated actress from the Golden Hollywood era who worked alongside the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Basil Rathbone, George Raft and Douglas Fairbanks to name a few. A personal style icon of mine she was something of a trendsetter using a piano table cloth as a dress that's kinda gal I would of love to have been friends with!

The 'table cloth dress'. I recommend this book.
Not to mention she introduced traditional Cheongsam to Hollywood. Unfortunately in the fifty-five films she starred in she was often subjected to type casting by Hollywood playing the 'Dragon Lady' stereotype, she was never a romantic lead as Hollywood would of not allowed miscegenation on-screen, indeed, in the majority of her films she is killed off by the end of the film. However, Anna was a persistent woman and travelled to Europe to make films and performed on stage. To get a dose of Anna I recommend Piccadilly (1929) a silent film, but she is so captivating even if your preference is for sound!

You can also see her in 'The Toll of the Sea' (1922) an adaptation of Madam Butterfly available on youtube, her first lead part at age seventeen. 


  1. lovely! thanks for sharing ; )


  2. she is wonderful. puccinis madame butterfly is my favorite opera. to see her starring in an adaption of it just feels right.

  3. alexandra - thanks for looking!
    milingmai- yes she is fantastic, let me know what you think of the film!

  4. it's adorable how much she can tell with a single glance. for example when she kisses her husband's picture the way she looks lets you not just feel all the love but gives you a hint of all the pain she's going to suffer.
    i hope i don't sound too corny. it's just that in comparison to many silent movie actors/actresses who nowadays seem a little funny, she is so economic but at the same time much more expressive with her acting. and oh so graceful.

    but it's irritating that in the adaption it's lotus flower who gives away the son and not the man and his american wife who demand the boy, because in my point of view it makes a big difference of the characters personality weither you kill yourself and abandon your son because your husband breaks your heart,
    or your husband breakes your heart and takes your kid away so you're left completely alone and therefore prefer death over life.

    what's your opinion?
    do you know maria callas singing un bel di vedremo?

  5. No you don't sound corny at all, her acting in silent films compared to her peers is very restrained. She say's so much with her hands and eyes without being melodramatic.
    Yeah it is rather annoying that she is the one that gives up her son, but I think that's just the Americanization of the film. But in a way it could be read that she is sacrificing her own happiness so that her son can have a 'better' life in the United States. You should definitely watch Piccadilly if you enjoyed this.

    Yes I know it I am not very well up on opera but it is a beautiful rendition.

  6. i'll definitly check out piccadilly, thanks!

    and to be honest i'm not that much of an opera expert. i just stumbled accross a callas-cd. i loved it so much that it got me into opera, especially into puccini.

    btw, i like your blog a lot! :)

  7. Let me know what you think when you watch it!
    I have been meaning to learn more about Maria Callas perhaps I might buy a CD of hers to broaden my taste in music.

    Thanks so much that means a lot, I am looking forward to more of your blog posts x

  8. This is great! I knew there had to be other talented actresses out there in the 'golden age'- thanks for doing the resaerch for us!

  9. Thank you so glad you enjoyed it, she was an amazing woman. Definitely recommend learning more about her!