Google Doodle honors Hollywood's first Chinese American actress

Anna May Wong's career took her across the globe in pursuit of non-stereotyped roles.
Image: Anna May Wong
Anna May Wong, famous Chinese-American actress.AP Photo

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By Natasha Roy

Google is honoring Hollywood’s first Chinese American actress nearly a century after her rise to fame.

Today’s Google Doodle slideshow features Anna May Wong, celebrating the 97th anniversary of her first starring role in “The Toll of the Sea.” Artist Sophie Diao depicted the pioneering actress at different points in her life, from time spent in her father’s laundromat to her role in “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong.”

“I knew I wanted to highlight her commanding stage presence, so stylistically I felt a dramatic black-and-white slideshow would be the way to go,” Diao said in a statement.

Wong, whose real name was Wong Liu Tsong, was born in Los Angeles in 1905 to Chinese immigrant parents, according to Google. She moved to Europe in 1928 after facing racial barriers in the United States, as she refused to play to Asian stereotypes.

In Europe, Wong starred in films such as “Piccadilly” and “The Flame of Love,” earning recognition in the U.S. She starred in the Broadway show “On the Spot” before moving to Hollywood to work with Paramount Pictures on “Daughter of the Dragon.”

“She was a second-generation American, but others still saw her as an exotic foreigner,” Diao said. “Despite this, she rolled with the punches, took on lots of roles that gave her practice and notoriety, and stood up for herself when she could (like when she turned down a secondary role in “The Good Earth” when she was passed over for the lead).”

She eventually landed the starring role in her own television show, “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong,” in which she played a Chinese detective. The part was specifically written for her, according to IMDb. Wong was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

“I wish I had known about her when I was a kid,” Diao said. “I was always looking for Chinese American role models in movies and TV shows. Asian American actors are underrepresented even now, so amazingly Anna May Wong was so active right at the beginning of film history, bridging the gap between silent films and talkies.”