Press Release, and links

Press Release 2012:

One sentence:

Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words presents a vivid picture of the first Chinese American movie star – both an architect and a victim of her times.

One paragraph:

Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words, a one-hour documentary by Yunah Hong

Anna May Wong was the first Chinese American movie star. She started out in silent films when she was 17. She went on to make dozens of films in Hollywood, London and Berlin, co-starring with Marlene Dietrich, Anthony Quinn and Douglas Fairbanks. She was glamorous, talented and cosmopolitan. Yet she spent most of her career typecast either as a painted doll or a scheming dragon lady. Filmmaker Yunah Hong paints a vivid portrait of a Hollywood original, narrated in Wong’s own words by actress Doan Ly. Generous excerpts from Wong’s films, archival photographs and interviews enhance this richly detailed picture of a woman and her times.

Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words, a one-hour documentary by Yunah Hong

Anna May Wong (1905-1961) was the first Chinese American movie star. She grew up in L.A.,  daughter of a laundryman. She first starred, at age 17, in Toll of the Sea, a silent version of Madame Butterfly. Her best-remembered film is Shanghai Express with Marlene Dietrich.

She made dozens of films in Hollywood, London and Berlin. She was glamorous; photographers flocked to take her portrait. She was worldly and articulate, with friends like Carl van Vechten, Evelyn Waugh and Paul Robeson. Yet she spent most of her career typecast either as a painted doll or a scheming Dragon Lady.

Anna May Wong could be perceived as a Chinese Stepin Fetchit, someone whose roles reinforced racist stereotypes. But a younger generation of Asian Americans sees her as a pioneering artist who succeeded in a hostile environment that hasn’t altogether changed.

Yunah Hong’s documentary is a thorough and imaginative survey of Wong’s career, with commentary from actors, scholars and biographers, old colleagues and acquaintances.  Tamlyn Tomita, B.D. Wong, James Hong and other stars turn out to have a highly informed appreciation of their Hollywood forebear.

In July 1933, Anna May Wong introduced a cabaret act at the Embassy Club in London. During the next two years she took it across Europe. Behind the scenes she was fighting the biggest fight of her career, for the leading role in MGM’s production of The Good Earth. Her highest hopes and brightest talents were up against a Hollywood that had tagged her as a character actor.

Yunah Hong’s story begins in Wong’s dressing room – London, 1933.  The actress Doan Ly, a veteran of stage and screen on both coasts, reenacts a series of key moments in Wong’s life and narrates the film in Anna’s voice. The commentary is drawn from Wong’s letters, performances and interviews. Yunah Hong draws a complex and ambiguous cultural history from this first-person perspective. Generous excerpts from Wong’s films, archival photographs and interviews contribute to a richly detailed picture of a woman and her times.

Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words had its world premiere at the Pusan International Film Festival in Korea in October, 2010. It makes its American debut at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

Director Yunah Hong moved to New York from Korea to do graduate work. She first saw Anna May Wong in Joseph von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express.  Though she is marginalized in the film as a Chinese and a prostitute, Wong was a beautiful, independent, gutsy American woman unlike anyone Yunah Hong had ever met.  The filmmaker embarked on a seven-year quest to find out what Anna May Wong had been like as a person.

Yunah Hong has made eight films. All of them focus, in one way or another, on Asian American women. Between the Lines: Asian American Women’s Poetry is a one-hour documentary that weaves together autobiographies and readings by 16 poets.  Becoming an Actress in New York (40:00) follows three hopefuls as they trek to auditions, work with coaches, strive to be noticed in workshop productions and labor at day jobs. Yunah Hong has made several experimental films, including Memory/all echo, based on the work of multimedia artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.

Doan Ly has appeared in ten TV series and two films. She has played major Shakespearean roles at New York’s Public Theater and the Classic Stage Company.

“This is a timely documentary about a luminous performer whose talents far exceed even her international fame…offers new archival discoveries and utilizes Anna May Wong’s own words to help illuminate the complicated life of this early twentieth—century star.”

Prof. Anne Anlin Cheng

Department of English, Princeton University

“Indispensible to the film retrospectives with a feminist or Asian-angled slant, this concise 56 minute mini-bio is also accessible for knowledge channels…”

Maggie Lee

The Hollywood Reporter

“(A) must-see… a great film to show you the problems of an Asian American woman actress in the discriminate Hollywood of that era.”

Gerrye Wong

Asianweek

Anna May Wong links:

USAsians — a thorough bio with many links to footage
http://usasians-features.tripod.com/features-am-wong.html

Women Make Movies — dvd of documentary
http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c830.shtml

A fashion-forward bio: Ready for My Closeup: Anna May Wong
http://clothesonfilm.com/ready-for-my-close-up-anna-may-wong/22799/

Internet Movie Database Anna May Wong filmography
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0938923/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Books:
Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend by Graham Hodges
The China Mystique: Pearl S. Buck, Anna May Wong, Mayling Soong, and the transformation fo American Orientalism by Karen J. Leong

Anna May Wong: A Complete Guide to Her Film, Stage, Radio and Television Work by Philip Leibfried and Chei Mi Lane

The Melancholoy of Race by Anne Anlin Cheng

Perpetually cool : The Many Lives of Anna May Wong (1905-1961) by Anthony B. Chan.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: