Saturday, July 5, 2008


Born: January 3, 1905
Los Angeles, California
Died: February 3, 1961
Santa Monica, California

Asian American actress

Anna May Wong is chiefly remembered as the first actress of Asian descent to achieve stardom as the “Oriental temptress,” so much a fixture of melodramas in the late 1920s and 1930s.


Born on Flower Street in Los Angeles, California, in 1907, Anna May Wong was named Wong Liu Tsong, which in Cantonese means “frosted yellow willow.” Wong was third-generation Chinese American; her father was born in Sacramento, California, and his father had moved to California during the Gold Rush, where thousands flocked to the state in hopes of striking it rich with gold.

Growing up, Wong and her six brothers and sisters lived in an apartment over the family’s run-down laundry. Her first memories were of constant steam and the strong odor of hot-ironed linen. As a young child, Wong became fascinated with the brand new world of movies. She began skipping Chinese school in the evenings to watch such movies as The Perils of Pauline (1914) at the local theater. By the time she was eleven, Wong decided she was going to be a movie actress. Against all odds, she got her first part at age fourteen when an agent hired three hundred Chinese girls as extras in the 1919 film The Red Lantern. Hardly visible in the film, she went on to get a few more minor roles.


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