Asian-American Cinema Part IV - The 1950s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 24, 2009 04:58pm | Post a Comment
The fourth of a nine part series on Asian-Americans in front of and behind the camera

During the silent film and Hollywood eras, most Asian-American actors' roles were usually limited to the background and in offensive roles. Two actors, Anna May Wong and Sessue Hayakawa, nonetheless became superstars. They and pioneers like Esther Eng, Marion Wong, and the folks at Grandview Film Company (not to mention numerous actors) gamely attempted to produce and sustain an alternative and viable Asian-American Cinema.

Hawaiian Eye with Poncie Ponce (right)

In the 1950s, Hollywood roles for Asian-American women were usually limited to the objects of war time romance. On the Broadway stage, musicals about the Far East like The King and I, South Pacific and Flower Drum Song were in vogue although Asian characters were usually portrayed by white actors in yellowface. Asian stage performers typically enjoyed more attention on so-called Chop Suey Circuit, an mostly Chinese-American strand of Vaudeville

Roles for Asians were slightly more in number on television. In it's early years, the small screen was a much more diverse place than the big screen. It was there, in 1951, that Anna May Wong became the first Asian-American to star in her own series, The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, which aired on the DuMont Network


                                Aki Aleong                                                 Barbara Yun                                   Beulah Quo              

 Candace Lee 
                                  Bill Saito                                                    Candace Lee                                 Chang Tseng   

                                    Cherylene Lee                                            Dale Ishimoto                                    Edo Mita

             France Nuyen                                             Guy Lee                                               George Matsui     

                            George Takei                                         Gerald Jann                                              Ginny Tiu 

                     Henry Nakamura                                          Hideo Inamura                                     James Hong

         James Shigeta                                       James Yagi                                                   Jaqui Chan  

                  Jerry Fujikawa
                                               Judy Dan                                                 Kam Fong 

                                         Lisa Lu                                                  Lucille Soong                             Mai Tai Sing     

                        Mako (aka  Mako Iwamatsu)                                 Michi Kobi                                    Miiko Taka     

                   Miyoshi Jingu                                      Miyoshi Umeki                                                  Noel Toy

   Paul Togawa                      Pat Suzuki                                                Patrick Adiarte                                            Paul Togawa         

                      Poncie Ponce                                              Reiko Sato                                            Robert Kino 

Shuji Joe Nozawa (aka Fuji)             Shuji Joe Nozawa (aka Fuji)                      Tsai Chin                                                    Victor Wong

            Virginia Ann Lee                                      Yuki Shimoda                                          Warren Hsieh 

                  Willie Soo Hoo

Not pictured: May Takasugi, Robert W. Lee, and William Yokota




Go for Broke
, I Was an American Spy, Korea Patrol, and Peking Express (all 1951); Feng ye qing, Japanese War Bride, and A Yank in Indo-China (all 1952); China Venture, Forbidden, and Target Hong Kong (all 1953); Hell's Half Acre (1954); House of Bamboo, The Left Hand of God, and Love Is a Many Splendored Thing (all 1955); The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956); Battle Hymn, China Gate, and Sayonara (all 1957); The Inn of the Sixth HappinessChina Doll, The Geisha Boy, Ghost of the China Sea, The Quiet American, and South Pacific (all 1958); and Blood and SteelThe Crimson Kimono, and Tokyo After Dark (all 1959)

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.

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Asian-american Cinema History (10), Independent Film (5), Korean-americans (16), Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (58), Asian-american Cinema (12), Asian-american Theater (4), Civil Rights (11), Asian-american Cinema History (10), 1960s (49), Japanese-americans (14), Asian-americans (40), Chinese-americans (15), Asian-americans (40), Hollywood (86), 1950s (25), Minorities (6), Television (50)