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Hollywood Chinese

I watched a great documentary on PBS the other night called Hollywood Chinese.

The 90-minute film illuminates a century of Chinese American cinematic history, from rare silent classics such as Marion Wong’s The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916) to the contemporary critical and commercial success of Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005).

Learning about the early history of Chinese Americans in Hollywood was quite fascinating. Their struggles were unique but similar to other minority filmmakers of that time. In the beginning Chinese characters weren't played by Chinese actors, instead white actors did "Yellow Face" and often portrayed them in over exaggerated stereotypical ways. In the 1960s, Flower Drum Song came out, one of the first films that opted to explore the dichotomy between Chinese Americans and recent Chinese immigrants (at least as much as a musical can do). I haven't seen the movie yet but it's on my list! Here's the trailer:

Nancy Kwan was the star of Flower Drum Song and she gave a lot of insightful commentary about the industry in that era.

Bottom line, it's a must-see documentary. Check out for more info.


do you have a flag? said...

I saw the Flower Drum Song revival on Broadway with Lea Salonga, it was so great! Amazing music and a really good story.

Anonymous said...

I saw the documentary and it was FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!! I learned so much and was so sadden at times. One of the favorite books is Good Earth and I never realized that it was once a movie.

I'm also a big fan of musicals, so you know I've seen Flower Drum Song at least 5 times. Love it and so will you, so rent it soon!!( man, I sound like a infomerical...sorry )

Karen said...

Broadway...very cool!

@Yvonne, I'm glad you saw it too! I'm also a big fan of musicals so I can't wait to check it out.

Anh Khoi Do said...

It looks interesting. However, since I don't have PBS I'm wondering if the documentary will be available on DVD.

Karen said...

The PBS site says:

If you would like to purchase Hollywood Chinese on DVD, visit

It's definitely worth the investment!

Noelani said...

Another great documentary that revealed a bit of Hollywood history I knew little about.

I agree about musicals; I love them. Hollywood doesn't make good ones anymore or maybe I just haven't seen them. *lol*

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