Anna May Wong was the first Chinese movie star but her career was destroyed by racism
She born Liu Tsong on January 3, 1905 in Los Angeles, California. Her parents were second-generation Chinese American and she had six siblings. Anna dreamed of being an actress from a young age but her father discouraged her. When she was fourteen she made her film debut in The Red Lantern. She spent the next several years working as an extra. During this time she suffered from an illness called “St. Vitus’s Dance”, which caused jerking movements in the face and extremities. In 1922 she got her first leading role in the drama The Toll Of The Sea. Although her performance got rave reviews there were very few parts for Asian actresses in Hollywood. She was cast as a Chinese “dragon lady” in The Thief Of Baghdad and In Old San Francisco. Anna had romances with directors Marshall Neilan and Tod Browning. These interracial affairs were kept secret because they would have destroyed her career. She created Anna May Wong Productions but the company never made any films. Anna went to Europe in 1928 where starred in the critically acclaimed dramas Song and Picadilly. European audiences loved her and she was called “The World’s most beautiful Chinese girl”. She returned to the US in 1930 to star in the Broadway play On The Spot. Anna signed a contract at Paramount but once again she was cast in stereotypical roles. To make matters worse she was often paid much less than her white costars.