Who is Anna May Wong? First Asian To Appear On American Currency

Anna May Wong, a Hollywood pioneer whose films helped challenge preconceptions among white commoners, will be the first Asian American to appear in U.S. Currency. Anna May Wong is the fifth and final lady to be featured in the United States quarter in 2022.

The remarkable former Chinese actress has been selected for inclusion in a programme featuring notable women in American currency. Wong, the most prominent Chinese American film star in Hollywood, will be represented on one side of the coin, while George Washington will be featured on the other. On Monday, the US Mint will begin delivering coins.

On its website, the US Mint stated, “She is revered as a fashion icon, a worldwide film actress, a television trendsetter, and a champion for the representation of Asian Americans in movies. She continues to inspire contemporary actors and directors.”

However, the current generation may not be familiar with Anna May Wong, so we believe it is our duty to expose you to the entertainment entrepreneur so that you may understand why she was selected among other notable figures to appear on U.S. currency.

Who Is Anna May Wong?

Wong Liu Tsong, popularly known as ‘Wong,' was born in Los Angeles to Chinese immigrant parents. Wong's extraordinary career covered both television and the big screen, establishing an enduring legacy for Asian-American women in the entertainment world.

Wong had an extensive acting career, with credits in 60 films, including silent films and stage shows. Wong, the first Chinese-American actress to achieve international prominence, developed an early passion for performing. During the silent film period, she was particularly well-known for her parts in “The Toll of the Sea” (1922) and “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924).

Why Anna May Wong First Asian To Appear On American Currency

1929 marked the release of her final silent picture, “Piccadilly,” in which she played the lead role. In the United Kingdom, its release produced an unprecedented sensation. Gilda Gray was previously considered the leading actress, but Wong dethroned her, prompting Variety to remark that Wong “outshines the star.” Thenceforth, Wong took “Piccadilly” from Gray.

Piccadilly was reevaluated by the British Film Institute decades after its initial premiere. Richard Corliss from Time magazine referred to Piccadilly as Wong's best film and noted that the restoration of the film and Wong's role in it were vital to the actress's rediscovery.

Anna May Wong was named the best-dressed woman in the world in 1934 by the Mayfair Mannequin Society of New York. In the 1920s and 1930s, she was considered one of the most influential fashion icons.

Who is Anna May Wong? First Asian To Appear On American Currency

Anna May Wong's Career before Success

Wong was first relegated to a supporting actress, forcing her to reluctantly pursue an acting career in Hollywood until 1928, when she packed her bags and moved to Europe. In the early 1930s, she spent the majority of her time travelling between the United States and Europe to film and perform on stage.

Anna May Wong's early sound-era films include Daughter of the Dragon (1931), Shanghai Express (1932), Java Head (1934), and Daughter of Shanghai (1937).

Before ‘Wong' became a household name in the entertainment sector, she was severely underutilised by producers. In 1935, Wong wasted one of her best chances to represent the Chinese character O-Lan in the film adaptation of Anna May Wong's The Good Earth, which would have contributed to her early popularity. Who knows if Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who cast Luise Rainer in the part, eventually regretted their decision?

Later, MGM evaluated Wong for the role of Lotus, the seductress, but it is unknown if she declined or was expelled.

How Did Wong make Television History?

The following year, Wong travelled to China to study Chinese culture and visited her ancestral town, where she documented her past experiences on video. Back then, it was difficult to find notable female filmmakers in Hollywood.

Wong returned in the late 1930s to feature in different B films for Paramount Pictures, portraying Chinese and Chinese Americans in a positive light. During World War II, the baron gave little attention to her career, focusing instead on providing crucial aid to the Chinese cause against Japan.

After a lengthy absence, Wong returned to her audience in 1950 and made television history with The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, the first US television programme to have an Asian American lead.

Who is Anna May Wong? First Asian To Appear On American Currency

Anna May Wong Cause of Death

Wong withdrew from the production of Hammerstein and Rodgers' Flower Drum Song due to failing health. Wong died of a heart attack on February 3, 1961, just two days after her final film appearance in “Dragon by the Tail” on The Barbara Stanwyck Show. She passed away in her Santa Monica residence at the age of 56.

Her relatives put her cremated remains in the grave of her mother at Los Angeles' Rosedale Cemetery. Her headstone was inscribed with her Chinese name on the right, her mother's Angelized name on top, and the names of her sisters on the left. Wong's “Dragon Lady” and “Butterfly” roles are still fondly remembered decades after her death.

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