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Anna May Wong
Anna May Wong - portrait.jpg
Paramount publicity photo, c. 1935
Born
Wong Liu Tsong

(1905-01-03)January 3, 1905
Died February 3, 1961(1961-02-03) (aged 56)
Occupation Actress
Years active 1919–1961
Parent(s) Wong Sam Sing
Lee Gon Toy
Awards Hollywood Walk of Fame – Motion Picture
1700 Vine Street
Anna May Wong
Traditional Chinese 黃柳霜
Simplified Chinese 黄柳霜

Anna 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, as well as the first Chinese American actress to gain international recognition. Her 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. Wong had been one of the first to embrace the flapper look. In 1934, the Mayfair Mannequin Society of New York voter her the "world's best dressen woman." In the 1920s and 1930s, Wong was acclaimed as one of the top fashion icons.

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).

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.

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. 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.

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