Anna May Wong (born Wong Liu Tsong) was an American actress, considered to be the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star, as well as the first Chinese American actress to gain international recognition. Wong became interested in movies at a very young age and decided to pursue a film career. During the silent film era, she acted in The Toll of the Sea (1922), one of the first movies made in color, and in the swashbuckler epic fantasy The Thief of Bagdad (1924). By 1924, Wong had achieved international stardom and became a fashion icon.
Wong spent the first half of the 1930s traveling between the United States and Europe for film and stage work. She was featured in films of the early sound era, such as Daughter of the Dragon (1931), Shanghai Express (1932). In 1935, Wong was dealt the most severe disappointment of her career, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer refused to consider her for the leading role of the Chinese character in the film version of The Good Earth (1937), as she was deemed “too Chinese to play a Chinese” by the studio. Instead, they offered her a supporting role of Lotus, the seductress, but she refused on principle. Wong spent the next year touring China, visiting her family’s ancestral village and studying Chinese culture.
In the late 1930s, she starred in several B movies for Paramount Pictures, portraying Chinese and Chinese Americans in a positive light, including Daughter of Shanghai (1937), King of Chinatown (1939), and Island of Lost Men (1939). Take a look back at the beautiful actress in the 1930s through 30 stunning vintage black-and-white photographs: