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Anna May Wong: From Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend
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Anna May Wong: From Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend

4.0 3
by Graham Russell Gao Hodges
 

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Anna May Wong was perhaps the best known Chinese American actress during Hollywood's golden age, a free spirit and embodiment of the flapper era much like Louise Brooks. She starred in over fifty movies between 1919 and 1960, sharing the screen with such luminaries as Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Marlene Dietrich.

Born in Los Angeles in 1905, Wong was the second

Overview

Anna May Wong was perhaps the best known Chinese American actress during Hollywood's golden age, a free spirit and embodiment of the flapper era much like Louise Brooks. She starred in over fifty movies between 1919 and 1960, sharing the screen with such luminaries as Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Marlene Dietrich.

Born in Los Angeles in 1905, Wong was the second daughter of six children born to a laundryman and his wife. Obsessed with film at a young age, she managed to secure a small part in a 1919 drama about the Boxer Rebellion. Her most famous film roles were in The Thief of Baghdad, Old San Francisco, and Shanghai Express opposite Dietrich. Despite these successes, instances of overt racism plagued Wong's career. When it came time to make a film version of Pearl Buck's The Good Earth, she was passed over for the Austrian-born actress, Luise Rainer. In a narrative that recalls both the gritty life in Los Angeles's working-class Chinese neighborhoods and the glamour of Hollywood at its peak, Graham Hodges recounts the life of this elegant, beautiful, and underappreciated screen legend.

Editorial Reviews

Iris Chang
Graham Russell Gao Hodges' fascinating biography of Anna May Wong is an important contribution to not only film studies but Asian American history and women's history. The facts of Wong's life — her humble origins as laundryman's daughter, her tragic love affairs, her international political activism, and her celebrity status as the nation's first Chinese American movie star — are far more compelling than any of her roles on film.

Yunte Huang
An illuminating, authoritative biography of Anna May Wong—one of the most enigmatic icons in Hollywood and in the history of Chinese America.

Peter Kwong
Through a scrupulous examination of Anna May Wong's life and work, Graham Russell Gao Hodges, a leading African American historian, deploys his keen understanding of American racial matters to transform Wong from merely a tragic figure to a real human being, vulnerable, and longing for appreciation, love and family. The Anna May Wong that comes to life in this definitive biography is admirable because of her honesty, hard work, and true dedication to her craft as an actress, despite repeated denials of opportunities and deserved recognition—due to her race. Her courage and humanity are a lesson to all who strive for a harmonious and just multiracial society.

Helen Zia
Graham Hodges has woven a spellbinding tale that sweeps you into Anna May Wong's star-crossed life, with rich details of the passions and lost loves, conflicts and triumphs, brilliance and frustrations of this daring woman born far ahead of her time. Like a scene with the great diva, this book has nuance, complexity, and drama—and I did not want it to end.

Publishers Weekly
While Wong (1905-1961) has been called "the premier Asian-American actress," controversies surrounding her career have left her life and work largely unexamined. In this groundbreaking biography, Colgate University history professor Hodges reveals this captivating woman, offering readers a sense of the struggle her career represented. Although Wong was a third-generation Californian, she needed permits to re-enter the U.S. after her foreign tours. She could work in the movies, but only in Asian roles, replete with negative stereotypes. Even then, she was barred from roles involving marriage with non-Asians-even with white actors playing Asians. Off-screen romance wasn't much easier; a Chinese husband wouldn't accept her career, but marriage to a non-Asian violated anti-miscegenation laws. Still, Wong persevered, improving what roles she could get by supplying authentic costumes, hairstyles and gestures. When even bad roles disappeared, she turned to the stage or took work in European film productions. Wong's Chinese war relief work and post-WWII TV appearances provided some satisfaction in her last years. Yet her career and life were cut short by a world that simply wasn't ready for an Asian-American star. Hodges summarizes the plots of all of Wong's films, covers the chronology of her career and has done extensive research into Chinese sources. He's particularly adept at viewing Wong through the lens of Chinese culture, interpreting the meaning of her attire or hand movements. He also covers the Chinese and Chinese-American press's reaction to Wong, adding an important dimension to understanding her limbo between two worlds, unacceptable to racist Hollywood and to the conservative Chinese establishment. Illus. not seen by PW. (Jan.) Forecast: Another Wong bio is due out next month (Perpetually Cool: The Many Lives of Anna May Wong by Anthony B. Chan; Rowman & Littlefield, $45 ISBN 0-8108-4789-2), along with a resource guide: Anna May Wong: A Complete Guide to Her Film, Stage, Radio and Television Work by Philip Leibfried and Chei Mi Lane (McFarland & Co., $45 ISBN 0-7864-1633-5). The trio would make a nice display, and Hodges's book could be popular, especially if its illustrations are alluring. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9789888139637
Publisher:
Hong Kong University Press
Publication date:
08/14/2012
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,285,922
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Graham Russell Gao Hodges is professor of history at Colgate University.

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Anna May Wong: From Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Forgot to say my name will be....ethier Shining Shadow or Anyone you want
Guest More than 1 year ago
Politically correct claptrap. As a scholar of African American history, Hodges sees every aspect of Anna May's life through the prism of racism, simultaneously ignoring her own success in spite thereof. Blaming racism for her horrendous choices of lovers is just plain nonsense. At the end, one wonders if there was actually anything interesting about Anna May Wong at all.