Research Blog 4

Buscher, Rob. “The Untold Story of Asian Americans in Early Hollywood.” Pacific Citizen, 18, August 2017.

This article talks about early Asian Actor/ Actress facing similar problems as of today in Hollywood. Sessue Hayakawa and Anna May Wong are an important part of the Asian American Movement.  Their determination in Hollywood despite racism against Asian are now used as models and lesson of major talents whose career was ended by discrimination in Hollywood.

Sessue Hayakawa (1889) was one of the highest paid Japanese actors in Hollywood in 1910. He starred in “The Typhoon” after being discovered by Thomas H. Ince by chance. Despite landing on a great role important role in Hollywood, especially for an Asian at that time, his character in “The Typhoon” was negatively portrayed. In his role, he strangles a chorus lady from France who he had an affair with. The following year, he lands on another film called “The Cheat” in which Hayakawa plays a similar role as “The Typhoon”. His character brands his lover with a hot iron after she tries to break off their affair. Despite playing the villain in most of his roles, his good looks made him a sex symbol amongst white women across America which made him popular.

Anna May Wong (1905) was born in America as a daughter of laundry owners from China Town. She became an important figure in the Asian American Movement as she was the first Asian American actress to become a major Hollywood sensation. Similar to Hayakawa, she could not escape from the racism against Asian in Hollywood. Despite her talent and capability as an actress, she suffered from the frequent stereotyping of Asian women as ‘China dolls’ or ‘Dragon ladies.’ These terms see Asian women as an object and devalue their worth. Anna May may have been the biggest Asian American movie star during her career, but her career was limited by prejudice and ignorance of Hollywood.




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