Anna May Wong (circa 1930s)
Her resume would be impressive enough for a Caucasian actress. It happened that Anna May Wong was Chinese, at a time when East Asians were no more likely to become Hollywood stars than someone from India or Africa. She knew, from seeing The Perils of Pauline serials with the villainous Wu Fang, or D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms, about a sensitive, opium-sotted “Chink,” that Chinese were portrayed in films as notorious criminals or emotional cripples, and that, anyway, they were almost always played by white actors. Hollywood may as well have had a sign on the studio gate reading No Chinese Need Apply. But Wong did; she was merely following her dream to be a star.
She was too young and ambitious to know it couldn’t be done. So she did it.
-excerpted from That Old Feeling: Anna May Win by Richard Corliss (TIME), a very good profile of Wong & her film career