A beauty and talent by any standard, she was also the first Chinese American movie star, making her way in Hollywood (and internationally) in a world where she faced constant typecasting and discrimination, where she was prevented from becoming a true leading lady by the anti-miscegenation laws that prevented her from sharing an on-screen kiss with any non-Asian actor.
Tired of being both typecast and being passed over for lead Asian character roles in favor of non-Asian actresses, Wong left Hollywood in 1928 for Europe. Interviewed by Doris Mackie for Film Weekly in 1933, Wong complained about her Hollywood roles: “I was so tired of the parts I had to play.” She commented: “There seems little for me in Hollywood, because, rather than real Chinese, producers prefer Hungarians, Mexicans, American Indians for Chinese roles.
In Europe, Wong became a sensation, starring in notable films such as Schmutziges Geld (aka Song and Show Life, 1928) and Großstadtschmetterling (Pavement Butterfly). Of the German critics’ response to Song, The New York Times reported that Wong was “acclaimed not only as an actress of transcendent talent but as a great beauty”.
One more Anna fact (one that delighted me especially): in the mid 1930s her friend/admirer/lover, writer Eric Maschwitz, penned the words to the classic standard “These Foolish Things” after having to leave her in Hollywood and return to England. It’s one of my favorite songs, and a lovely tribute to an incredible woman.
You can, of course, see more details about her work at IMDB, or check out one of the books that has been written about her life and career.