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Butterfly in Amber: The Story of Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong at the height of her career. Images courtesy of The Cinema Museum

Images courtesy of The Cinema Museum.

Throughout a career spanning four decades, Anna May Wong (1905–1961) uncomfortably straddled two cultures. Born in California, she was regularly cast in the stereotypical role of the long-suffering, submissive Oriental woman, from her first starring appearance in the Madama Butterfly-adaptation The Toll of the Sea (Chester M. Franklin, 1922) to parts in Yellow Peril melodramas such as Mr Wu (William Nigh, 1927) and Daughter of the Dragon (Lloyd Corrigan, 1931). While her exotic looks ensured small parts in major titles such as Raoul Walsh’s The Thief of Bagdad (1924) and Peter Pan (Herbert Brenon, 1924), America’s strict anti-miscegenation laws hampered any possibilities of a Chinese actress playing romantic leads against Caucasian actors.

In the late-1920s, she headed to Europe in search of more satisfying roles, resulting in some of the richest appearances of her career in films such Piccadilly (E.A. Dupont, 1929) and Java Head (Thorold Dickinson & J. Walter Ruben, 1934).

At this event, film scholar and Asia House Film Festival artistic director Jasper Sharp will present an illustrated overview of the life and work of Wong whose fascinating screen trajectory continues to raise a host of issues that are just as pertinent almost a century later as they ever were.

Booking information to be released shortly.

On Sunday 15 November the Regent Street Cinema will screen Richard Eichberg’s 1928 silent classic Song in which Wong plays the lead. Silent film pianist Stephen Horne will provide live accompaniment throughout the film.



October 29, 2015
18:45 - 20:30
Event Category:


Asia House


Asia House
63 New Cavendish Street, London, W1G 7LP United Kingdom
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