Anna May Wong from Stars of the Photoplay (1930)

Anna May Wong (1905–1961) was an American actress of Chinese heritage, who grew up in a culturally diverse neighborhood adjacent to Chinatown, Los Angeles.[1] Her father believed in exposing his family to the creative arts, and often took them to see traditional Chinese stage productions.[2] Young Anna, however, was fascinated by the emerging film industry in the area, and would fantasize herself as a movie actress like Pearl White or Mary Pickford.[3] Her daydreams began to look like an achievable goal when local Baptist minister James Wang, who often worked with the film productions, recommended her as an extra in the Alla Nazimova silent production of The Red Lantern.[4] Wong was only 14 years old, and eventually left school before graduating. While still a teenager, she was cast in the lead role of Lotus Flower in The Toll of the Sea.[5]

Wong worked during an era when Asians were cast in a negative light, and often played in film by non-Asian actors who used yellow make-up on their skin and tape on their eyelids to mimic what the industry believed passed as Asian facial features.[6] In spite of having the starring lead and top billing in the 1931 film Daughter of the Dragon, she was paid only half as much as Warner Oland, a non-Asian actor who played her father (the villain Fu Manchu) and had far less screen time.[7] Oland was often cast as an Asian on screen, most notably in numerous films as Chinese detective Charlie Chan.[8] Feeling like she was stereotyped and limited in the United States, Wong relocated to Germany for a few years. Back in the United States, DuMont Television Network created the short-lived The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong mystery series for her in 1951.[7] From then until her death in 1961, Wong appeared on a handful of American television programs.

She made 60 or 61 films in her career, the first 40 of which were during the silent film era. Biographer Graham Russell Gao Hodges has noted that Just Joe, the final film attributed to her, might have actually been actress Marie Yang, usurping Wong's name for that production.[9]

Wong received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960.[10]


Drifting (1923)
Poster for Daughter of the Dragon (1931)
Anna May Wong by Carl Van Vechten (1932)
Anna May Wong and Philip Ahn in Daughter of Shanghai (1937)
Anna May Wong filmography
Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1919 The Red Lantern Lantern Bearer Uncredited
The Nazimova Productions
1920 Dinty Half Moon Uncredited
First National Pictures
1920 Outside the Law Chinese Girl Uncredited
Universal Pictures
1921 The First Born Hayakawa Feature Play Co. for Robertson-Cole Distributing Corp. [11]
1921 Shame The Lotus Blossom lost film
Fox Film
1921 Bits of Life Toy Sing, Chin Chow's wife lost film
Marshall Neilan Productions
1921 A Tale of Two Worlds Uncredited role Goldwyn Pictures Corp [11]
1921 The White Mouse Uncredited as Chinese wife Selig-Roark [11]
1922 The Toll of the Sea Lotus Flower Preserved at the UCLA Film & Television Archive [5]
1923 Mary of the Movies Herself Uncredited
Columbia Pictures
1923 Drifting Rose Li Universal Pictures [16]
1923 Thundering Dawn Honky-Tonk Girl lost film
Universal Pictures
1924 Lilies of the Field lost film
First National Pictures
1924 The Thief of Bagdad The Mongol slave United Artists [19]
1924 The Fortieth Door Zira lost film
Pathé Exchange
1924 The Alaskan Keok lost film
Famous Players-Lasky Corp
1924 Peter Pan Tiger Lily Famous Players-Lasky [21]
1925 Forty Winks Annabelle Wu lost film
Famous Players-Lasky Corp
1925 His Supreme Moment Harem Girl in play lost film, Uncredited [17]
1925 Screen Snapshots No. 3 Herself [15]
1926 Fifth Avenue Nan Lo lost film
Belasco Productions
1926 A Trip to Chinatown Ohati lost film
Fox Film
1926 The Silk Bouquet Dragon Horse lost film
Fairmount Productions
China Education Film Company
1926 The Desert's Toll Oneta MGM [26]
1927 Driven from Home Chadwick Pictures [27]
1927 Mr. Wu Loo Song MGM [28]
1927 The Honorable Mr. Buggs Baroness Stoloff Short
Pathé/Hal Roach
1927 Old San Francisco A Flower of the Orient
Chinese girl
Preserved at the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Warner Bros.
1927 Why Girls Love Sailors Delamar Pathé Short
scenes deleted
1927 The Chinese Parrot Nautch Dancer lost film
Universal Pictures
1927 The Devil Dancer Sada lost film
Samuel Goldwyn for United Artists
1927 Streets of Shanghai Su Quan lost film
Tiffany Pictures
1928 The Crimson City Su Warner Bros. [33]
1928 Across to Singapore Singapore Woman
dancing girl
1928 Chinatown Charlie Mandarin's sweetheart First National Pictures
Preserved at the UCLA Film & Television Archive
1928 Song Song, a Malaysian dancer Gennan-British International Co. Production [36]
1929 Piccadilly Shosho British International Pictures [36]
1929 Pavement Butterfly Mah aka The City Butterfly
British International Pictures
1930 The Flame of Love Hai-Tang British International Pictures [36]
1930 The Road to Dishonour Hai-Tang US release version of The Flame of Love
BIP Wardour
1930 Hai-Tang Hai-Tang German-language version of The Flame of Love [36]
1930 L’Amour Maitre des Choses Hai-Tang French-language version of The Flame of Love [36]
1930 Sabotage (1930 film) Directed by Erno Metzner [36]
1930 Elstree Calling Herself Cameo
BIP Wardour
1931 Daughter of the Dragon Princess Ling Moy Her first sound film
Preserved at the UCLA Film & Television Archive
1932 Shanghai Express Hui Fei Preserved at the UCLA Film & Television Archive [39]
1933 A Study in Scarlet Mrs. Pyke [40]
1934 Tiger Bay Lui Chang KBS Productions for World Wide Pictures and Fox Film Corp [37]
1934 Chu Chin Chow Zahrat (British production) Gaumont-British; Gainsborough Pictures [41]
1934 Java Head Princess Taou Yuen (British production) [37]
1934 Limehouse Blues Tu Tuan Paramount [42]
1936 Anna May Wong visits Shanghai, China Preserved at the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Stock footage shot for, but never used in, Hearst Metrotone news
1937 Daughter of Shanghai Lan Ying Lin Copyright December 1937; release January 1938 [44]
1938 Dangerous to Know Lan Ying Paramount [45]
1938 When Were You Born Mei Lei Ming (Aquarius) Warner Bros., First National Pictures [46]
1939 King of Chinatown Dr. Mary Ling Paramount Pictures [47]
1939 Island of Lost Men Kim Ling Paramount Pictures [48]
1941 Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery Lois Ling Larry Darmour Productions [49]
1942 Bombs Over Burma Lin Ying Producers Releasing Corporation [50]
1942 Lady from Chungking Kwan Mei Producers Releasing Corporation [51]
1946 Bob Ripley's party Herself Hearst newsreel [52]
1949 Impact Su Lin Cardinal Pictures [53]
1960 Portrait in Black Tawny Universal Pictures [54]
1960 Just Joe Peach Blossom Parkside Productions
Anna May Wong c.1960–1968
Anna May Wong television appearances
Year/date Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1951 The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong Mme. Liu-Tsong DuMont Television Network
Multiple episodes: "The Golden Women", "The Spreading Oak", "The Man with a Thousand Eyes", "Burning Sands", "Shadow of the Sun God", "The Tinder Box", "The House of Quiet Dignity", "Boomerang", "The Face of Evil"
1955 Producers' Showcase Episode: "The Letter" [55]
February 14, 1956 Bold Journey Interview with John Stephenson Episode: "Native Land"
Wong's home movies of her 1836 visit to China
Preserved at the UCLA Film & Television Archive
1958 Climax! Episode: "The Chinese Game"
Episode: "The Deadly Tattoo"
1958 Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Episode: "So That's Who It Was" [55]
1959 Adventures in Paradise Episode: "The Lady from South Chicago"
Episode: "Mission to Manila"
1960 The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp Episode: "China Mary" [55]
1961 Josephine Little Episode: "Dragon By the Tail"
spin off of The Barbara Stanwyck Show
1961 Danger Man May 24: "The Journey Ends Halfway"