Hollywood Chinese:

The Chinese in American Feature Films

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Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films presents an intimate look at the Chinese American role and influence in Hollywood, from some of the earliest films set in America’s Chinatowns to the contemporary artists remaking the face of Hollywood. Filled with more than 500 stunning, vintage photographs, movie posters, lobby cards and assorted ephemera based on the author’s extraordinary personal collection, this lavish coffee-table book’s richly illustrated pages show the myths, misconceptions, and memorable moments of the Chinese in American cinema.

“The Cat’s Paw” lobby card, front (l-r):Harold Lloyd and Alyn Warren (1934).

Author and filmmaker Arthur Dong takes the reader on a guided tour of Chinese American film history, from the hyper-stereotyped portrayals of Chinatown Tong Wars to the exoticized romances starring glamorous actresses like Anna May Wong and Nancy Kwan. He highlights the issues and challenges of Hollywood’s history, including the controversial casting of white actors in Asian roles, known as “yellowface.” Richly detailed and comprehensive in scope, Hollywood Chinese shows how the industry has evolved, beginning with War of the Tongs (1917), billed to white audiences as “planned and executed by the Chinese” and ending with Crazy Rich Asians (2018), the first film with an all-Asian cast in a quarter century.

Poster for “China’s Little Devils” (1945)

Throughout the book, Dong unearths hidden gems from film history, documenting the Chinese and Chinese American actors, screenwriters, directors and producers who worked in Hong Kong, Taipei, San Francisco and elsewhere, producing spectacular films in both Chinese and English for global audiences. All but lost to history, those films have been carefully uncovered and presented here. Dong’s narrative is enhanced by extensive interviews with Hollywood actors, directors, and producers, including Ang Lee, Nancy Kwan, Justin Lin, Lisa Lu, James Hong, Joan Chen, Wayne Wang, B.D. Wong and David Henry Hwang, and writer Amy Tan.

Hollywood Chinese also includes revealing interviews with actors who portrayed Chinese, such as Luise Rainer (The Good Earth), Christopher Lee (Fu Manchu), and James Shigeta (Flower Drum Song) to explore their unique perspectives.

Anna May Wong and James B. Leong in “Shanghai Express” (1932).

About the Author:  A San Francisco Chinatown native, Arthur Dong is an Oscar-nominee, a Peabody and Sundance award-winning filmmaker, author, and curator whose work centers on Asian American, and LGBTQ stories. Dong’s films about Asian American history and culture include The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor (2015), Hollywood Chinese (2007), Forbidden City, U.S.A. (1989), and Sewing Woman (1987). Among his films on LGBTQ issues are Coming Out Under Fire (1994) and Licensed to Kill (1997). Dong has curated exhibitions showcasing his extensive archive of cultural ephemera, including Chop Suey on Wax: The Flower Drum Song Album, Forbidden City, USA, and his most recent, Hollywood Chinese, on display at the iconic Formosa Café in West Hollywood. Dong’s first book Forbidden City, USA: Chinatown Nightclubs 1936-1970 received an American Book Award and the Art Deco Historic Preservation Award.