Queer Places:
Angelus Rosedale Cemetery Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA

1006055l.jpgAnna May Wong (born Wong Liu Tsong; January 3, 1905 – February 3, 1961) was an American actress, considered to be the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star,[1] as well as the first Chinese American actress to gain international recognition.[2] Anna May Wong, Hollywood’s first Asian-American film star and a popular actress of the silent film era, was one of Carl Van Vechten’s first subjects when he took up photography in earnest in 1932. Van Vechten, in fact, claimed that Wong was his very first subject. Though Van Vechten’s first photographs of Wong are among the most reproduced images of her, she was unsatisfied with them “To tell you the truth,” she wrote to the photographer, “I had much rather pose another time when I am not feeling so happy or when I look more fit. I am afraid I wasn’t particularly interesting as a subject for your new art.”

Hollywood is an American drama web television miniseries about a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers during the Hollywood Golden Age in the post-World War II era trying to make their dreams come true. Michelle Krusiec as Anna May Wong, is a fictionalized version of the Chinese-American actress, whom Raymond Ainsley, a half-Filipino aspiring film director hoping to break boundaries in Hollywood, tries to help.

While in Germany, Wong became an inseparable friend of the director Leni Riefenstahl. Her close friendships with several women throughout her life, including Marlene Dietrich and Cecil Cunningham, led to rumors of lesbianism which damaged her public reputation.[53] These rumors, in particular of her supposed relationship with Dietrich, further embarrassed Wong's family. They had long been opposed to her acting career, which was not considered to be an entirely respectable profession at the time.[54]

by Carl Van Vechten

Anna May Wong by Paul Tanqueray whole-plate glass negative, 1929 Photographs Collection NPG x180036

Wong's varied career spanned silent film, sound film, television, stage, and radio. Born in Los Angeles to second-generation Taishanese Chinese-American parents, Wong became infatuated with the movies and began acting in films at an early age. During the silent film era, she acted in The Toll of the Sea (1922), one of the first movies made in color, and in Douglas Fairbanks' The Thief of Bagdad (1924). Wong became a fashion icon and had achieved international stardom in 1924. Frustrated by the stereotypical supporting roles she reluctantly played in Hollywood, Wong left for Europe in the late 1920s, where she starred in several notable plays and films, among them Piccadilly (1929). She spent the first half of the 1930s traveling between the United States and Europe for film and stage work. Wong was featured in films of the early sound era, such as Daughter of the Dragon (1931), Daughter of Shanghai (1937), and with Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg's Shanghai Express (1932).[3] In 1935, Wong was dealt the most severe disappointment of her career, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer refused to consider her for the leading role of the Chinese character O-Lan in the film version of Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth. MGM instead cast Luise Rainer to play the leading role in yellowface, due to the Hays Code anti-miscegenation rules requiring the wife of a white actor, Paul Muni (ironically playing a Chinese character in yellowface), to be played by a white actress. MGM offered Wong a supporting role of Lotus, the seductress, but she refused on principle.[4] Wong spent the next year touring China, visiting her family's ancestral village and studying Chinese culture. In the late 1930s, she starred in several B movies for Paramount Pictures, portraying Chinese and Chinese Americans in a positive light. She paid less attention to her film career during World War II, when she devoted her time and money to help the Chinese cause against Japan. Wong returned to the public eye in the 1950s in several television appearances. In 1951, Wong made history with her television show The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, the first-ever U.S. television show starring an Asian American series lead.[5] She had been planning to return to film in Flower Drum Song when she died in 1961, at the age of 56, from a heart attack. For decades after her death, Wong was remembered principally for the stereotypical "Dragon Lady" and demure "Butterfly" roles that she was often given. Her life and career were re-evaluated in the years around the centennial of her birth, in three major literary works and film retrospectives.

Among Wong's films, only Shanghai Express retained critical attention in the U.S. in the decades after her death. In Europe and especially England, her films appeared occasionally at festivals. Wong remained popular with the gay community who often claimed her as one of their own and for whom her marginalization by the mainstream became a symbol.[141] Although the Chinese Nationalist criticism of her portrayals of the "Dragon Lady" and "Butterfly" stereotypes lingered, she was forgotten in China.[142] Nevertheless, the importance of Wong's legacy within the Asian-American film community can be seen in the Anna May Wong Award of Excellence, which is given yearly at the Asian-American Arts Awards;[143] the annual award given out by the Asian Fashion Designers group was also named after Wong in 1973.[141]

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