Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong Chinese Star:

She played alongside Marlene Dietrich and is said to have had a relationship not only with her but also with Leni Riefenstahl: Anna May Wong. She was the first Hollywood star with Asian roots.

She was the first American actress with Chinese origins - and thus revolutionized the film industry in the 1920s and 30s when Hollywood was still deeply influenced by racism and Asian personalities rarely made it into larger roles.

But Anna May Wong persistently fought for her dream of becoming an actress - with success. Los Angeles-born Wong Liu Tsong was the second of six children of Chinese immigrants.

She developed her interest in acting in her childhood. She spent a lot of time in cinemas, hanging around in front of film studios and inquiring about possible roles there.

She taught herself to act by practising secretly in front of the mirror after going to the movies. When she was eleven she played her first small role and then changed her name to Anna May Wong.

At the age of 16, she finally dropped out of high school to devote herself entirely to her film career. To the annoyance of her parents.

After a long dry spell and many disappointments with stereotypical roles, she got the leading role in the film Toll of the Sea ("Lotus Flower") in 1922.

This film was a milestone in many respects: it was one of the first colour films in the world, it was Anna May Wong's first leading role, and it was also the first leading role ever to be awarded to an Asian woman.

But the success did not last long: In the United States, the situation became increasingly difficult for Wong, the film studios occupied interesting Asian roles, preferably with white actors.

So Wong went to Europe in the late 20s - and finally landed in Berlin after a short stay in London. The German public loved her and welcomed Wong as a great Hollywood star.

Wong became a Chinese icon in the 1930s film. This was mainly because Chinese - especially Chinese women - had hardly existed in the country's public and media life until then.

For large sections of the German public, Anna May Wong was the first Chinese woman whose personality became visible to her, and Wong's presence on the screen was of great importance for the perception of Chinese women in Germany at the time.

She played her biggest role in the adventure film 'Shanghai Express':

After numerous silent films and their first sound film, the Clou followed: Back in the USA, the film company Paramount concluded a contract with Wong.

In the adventure film "Shanghai Express" (1932) by director Josef von Starnberg, Wong played her biggest role - and that alongside Marlene Dietrich.

With her, Wong is also said to have an affair, which the biographers of Marlene Dietrich even confirmed. However, homosexual affairs and poses were a good thing in Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s.

And so Wong is said to have entered into a love affair with Leni Riefenstahl, who at the time was still close friends with Marlene and who also met Wong in Berlin.

Wong felt very at home in Berlin and travelled with artists and intellectuals. In 1928 she also met the philosopher Walter Benjamin, to whom she is said to have given her most detailed interview.

Anna May Wong's engagement at Paramount marked the artistic highlight of her career.

Encouraged by the sympathy that the Chinese people received from the American public during the Second Sino-Chinese War, films have been made in Hollywood for the first time since the second half of the 1930s that showed the Chinese to be differentiated, human, and personable.

Exactly 60 years ago, her film work - in total she appeared in over 50 films - was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


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