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Yellowface Film Review #11: Ghenghis Khan

Ghenghis Khan (1965)

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Not as hideously embarrassing as the John Wayne version but this rather flatly conceived and directed take on the 12th Century Mongol conqueror is in its own way every bit as bad. It goes without saying that Omar Shariff is far more appropriate casting as the Asian warlord but the script is given minimal thought as in the early part of the film scenes and events are just plonked together with no real care or attention and several occurrences literally happening because people have chanced upon each other in the wilderness.

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Director Henry Levin obviously has a budget but an awful lot of this just looks like hordes of extras riding around in Yugoslavian fields with bombastic music laid on. It gets more exciting in the last half an hour when Levin suddenly seems to want to inject some chutzpah into proceedings but by then it’s all too late. The film follows The Conqueror’s (historically inaccurate approach) by making Jamuga Temujin’s arch enemy (they were blood-brothers in fact and their rivalry only developed later on) and Borte Jamuga’s “woman” who Temujin steals when in fact Borte and the later Khan were betrothed as children and Jamuga it was who helped Temujin rescue her when she was captured by the Merkits. Jamuga incidentally is played by Irish actor Stephen Boyd and the film climaxes with he and Shariff having a bare-chested “Mongol duel” which sadly isn’t as homo-erotic as it sounds.

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Along the way appear the Emperor Of China and the Shah of Khwarezm (Persia) who are portrayed as effete weaklings compared to the warrior Mongols, probably quite accurately in fairness but it does all seem a little crude with them offering fierce neighbours their daughters as if they were giving away tea coasters. Indeed at one point Telly Savalas as Shan proclaims to Temujin before they reach China “If we keep going East we’ll come to a land where I’ve heard they eat dogs”.

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Yellowface watch

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And here’s the rub. Shariff and Savalas aside there’s an awful lot of “ethnicing up” as firstly all the Mongols are portrayed by young actors who look and sound like they’ve not long left RADA and Temujin’s older advisor Geen is played by none other than Michael Hordern in Arab looking garb. 1352062351_genghis_khan_1965.0-20-36.386

Borte is played by Catherine Deneauve’s tragically short-lived sister Francoise Dorleac, who, according to one online reviewer,“doesn’t look remotely Mongolian or Central Asian, and considering she doesn’t really have much to do except be flung about by the men and very occasionally say a dialogue or two, it really wouldn’t have hurt to have an Oriental (sic) actress here

chingiz_han_genghis_khan_1965_dvdrip_1_87gb_1550025 Well, she does get wooed by a man with a doughnut around his neck.

Things get far worse though when Temujin and his band of brothers arrive in China to be greeted by none other than James Mason as Kam Ling who proves once again that there isn’t a screen legend in the history of cinema who wasn’t capable of coming a celestial crocker as one of the true greats of the big screen proceeds to make an almighty tit of himself in chinoiserie.

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Here’s where it gets controversial though because we have heard some argue that no make-up means no yellowface but here’s proof to the contrary as there’s no Lon Chaney-style taped eyelids here. Instead Jimmy simply affects a supercilious grin, pushes his front teeth out so they protrude Benny Hill style, squints his eyes up and spouts twee epigrams in the very highest vocal register he can find. An embarrassing outing for such a normally solid and reliable pro.

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The Emperor Of China on the other hand is portrayed by Robert Morley whose wiki page quotes film critic Leonard Maltin maintaining he was “particularly effective when cast as a pompous windbag“. And that’s exactly how Bob chooses to play the Son Of Heaven, as if he’s organising a particularly troublesome church bazaar rather than the affairs of the Middle Kingdom. Watching him attempting pick up tiny tea cups with his long tapering fingernails has a certain amusement factor but there’s no concealing the fact this is an utter train wreck of a perf and it should be remembered that once upon a time this type of “character” acting would be held up to us “effniks” as an example of a “technique” we obviously didn’t possess.

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Favourite scene? I’m tempted to say the one where the real-life Jamuga declares to Temujin “What use is there in my becoming a companion to you? On the contrary, sworn brother, in the black night I would haunt your dreams, in the bright day I would trouble your heart. I would be the louse in your collar, I would become the splinter in your door-panel….as there was room for only one sun in the sky, there was room only for one Mongol lord” simple because it’s obviously not in this film and with real-life dialogue and relationships like that why write your own?

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But instead I’ll opt for the one where Temujin clouts his oldest brother-in-law around the chops before telling him “You have a strong right-arm, and I like to know it is at my side, but your mouth…is young…and it needs training. With enough training, my brother, you may yet become my strong right-arm…” Dialogue which would surely grace any gay porn film.

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And this, ladies & gentlemen, is the final Yellowface Film Review (at least for the time being) as the Ovalhouse run of The Fu Manchu Complex draws to a close tomorrow. There are though still TWO PERFORMANCES LEFT. BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/the-fu-manchu-complex for the play described as “incredibly guiltily hilarious” (The Public Reviews) and “a boisterous romp through the Yellow Peril canon” (Madam Miaow Says). If you’ve been already we do hope you enjoyed it and we hope you have enjoyed this series of reviews.

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Yellowface Film Review #5: 55 Days At Peking

55 Days At Peking (1963)

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As has been remarked before, yellowface has proved the undoing of many a great director and this barely disguised western in an exotic setting is no exception as one of the all time greats, Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause, Bigger Than Life, Johnny Guitar), comes a serious cropper with this lavishly mounted and reasonably compelling Boxer Rebellion drama that nevertheless trades in dubious stereotypes and poor casting decisions as well as being overlong and more than a little dull. Indeed, Ray is said to have had a premonition that the film would finish his career and so it proved as the great man collapsed on set halfway through shooting, was replaced and never received another directing job again.

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The film boasts handsome photography and stirring action sequences as well as strong performances from Charlton Heston and David Niven (showing much more depth here than his reputation as a light comedian would lead one to expect) but Ava Gardner’s character is something of a bore and Heston apparently found her “unprofessional”. 18822751.jpg-r_640_600-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx The film’s best scenes though come in what is easily the most involving subplot between Heston and Lynne Sue Moon as an orphaned Eurasian girl who Chuck becomes a reluctant father-figure to.

s_82863lynne_sue_moon55days You can all relax though, there’s nothing seedy in it, and the old pro-gun lobbyist gets to show a tender side while Moon is a poignant figure throughout. Incidentally I can find virtually no info on Lynne. She appeared in four films in the 60’s (including the great To Sir With Love) but appears to have vanished afterwards. One can hardly blame her. It’s difficult enough to be an East Asian actor in Britain today let alone then.

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Yellowface watch

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Where the film really falls down though is in its depiction of the Chinese. There are sympathetic East Asian characters – the already mentioned Lynne Sue Moon’s Teresa, an old man (voiced by Burt Kwouk) who Gardner befriends and there are genuine East Asian actors; as well as the previous two, the Japanese film director Juzo Itami appears as a Nippon army colonel and the great martial arts star Yuen Siu Tien (Drunken Master) makes his debut (though he’s uncredited). pekinde-55-gun-55-days-at-peking-1963-dvdrip-dual-tr-dub-bb66-3

In general though the Chinese are portrayed as a bunch of Christian murdering blood-lusters who are also a bit weird. At one point Peking is described as a “backwater” and Niven’s wife breaks down fearing her injured son will be lost in “an endless Chinese limbo”.

18822734.jpg-r_640_600-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx The main Chinese characters are represented by three simply horrendous yellowface performances that make up a triumvirate of naffness. As Empress Cixi, Flora Robson (but of course!) is reasonably restrained, coming over as an old battle-axe in chinoiserie in an end of pier production of Charley’s Aunt.

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Full marks to her though for at least showing some commitment. The same cannot be said unfortunately for Leo Genn as General Jung-Lu who appears to treat the whole idea with contempt, though maybe this is understandable.

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The very worst offender though (indeed, maybe a serious contender for worst yellowface perf of all time IMHO) is the Australian actor Robert Helpmann as Prince Tuan who seems to have make-up several times more ludicrous than either Flora or Genn, the most ridiculous long fingernails I’ve ever seen and an accent that beggars belief.

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It’s worth bearing in mind while watching this fiasco of an interpretation that this man would have been paid quite well for that performance.  I’m sure Robert was a very fine actor in the rest of his career but for this he should hang his head in shame frankly.

Robert Helpmann  55 Days at Peking (1963)     55days_3

My favourite scene? The one where Helpmmans Prince Tuan takes the Empress’s terms to the assembled representatives of the great colonial powers who all sit around looking at this latex-eyebrow’d ,golden finger-nailed cartoon caricature as if they can barely believe what they’re seeing.  Or maybe they’re just relieved it’s not them.

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Yellowface Film Review #6 will see us go forwards or backwards in cinematic history, depending where the fancy takes us. Meanwhile don’t forget to book tickets (if you haven’t already) for the “wildly satirical and steeped in sexual innuendo” (The Upcoming) The Fu Manchu Complex at Ovalhouse http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/the-fu-manchu-complex Some people are saying they want to come and watch it twice. A hilarious evening guaranteed.

8x10_55_days_at_peking_KS00592_L “I COULD’VE BEEN FU!!!!!!!”

Yellowface Film Review #3: The Bitter Tea Of General Yen

The Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1933)

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Proving the case that yellowface is the undoing of many a great director, Frank Capra (It’s A Wonderful Life amongst countless other outstanding films) comes a cropper with this unwittingly (by all accounts) brave and ambitious tale of inter-racial sexual tension between a young American missionary and a man in ludicrous looking make-up during the Chinese Civil War. The acclaimed critic Derek Malcolm named this one of his hundred best films in The Century of Films but, while impressively mounted and with a compelling premise, the film lumbers somewhat, despite its relatively brief running time, and is IMHO undone entirely by the central casting.

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A flop on first release, the film’s female star, Barbara Stanwyck, blamed its poor showing on “racist blacklash”. McBride quotes her as saying, “The women’s clubs came out very strongly against it….I was so shocked. [Such a reaction] never occurred to me, and I don’t think it occurred to Mr. Capra when we were doing it.” The generally sympathetic portrayal of miscegenation proving particularly unpalatable at the time.  The film’s sexuality is palpably conveyed, with Stanwyck appearing in several quite revealing (for the time) costumes and in one scene dreaming she succumbs to Yen,  who she first imagines as a Fu Manchu-type rapist with long tapering nailes, but who then melts into a gentle, courtly suitor. The New York Times described the film as “barely plausible”.

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Yellowface watch

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The film is notable for featuring genuine East Asians, most notably Japanese actress Toshia Mori, who features strongly throughout as the treacherous concubine Mah-Li , Time magazine describing her as a “a sloe-eyed Japanese girl” but praising her performance as “the most noteworthy“ of the film’s female performers. As her partner in duplicity  Chinese-American cinema mainstay Richard Loo is also given reasonable screen-time.

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Yet, proving once again Western media’s curious antipathy towards strong and dominant East Asian male figures, Nils Asther gives one of the famous yellowface performances of all time. Smiling serenely beneath make-up that looks like Botox gone wrong, Asther appears to be attempting some sort of “Oriental” accent as the film plays out King & I style tropes of “civilised white woman and exotically suave brute with a tender side”. Asther (along with Myrna Loy and Warner Oland) is one of several Swedes to have “yellowed up” and proves that, along with Germans Luise Rainer and Curt Jurgens, dusky North Europeans were often Hollywood’s yellowface actors of choice.

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There are several scenes where Asther appears to be talking some strange gibberish that I utterly failed to recognise as any Chinese language I’ve ever heard and his character seems to have been constructed around all-purpose Eastern clichés of vaguely sinister inscrutability and stoic “ honour” with his eventual suicide method (the “bitter tea” of the title) obviously designed to arouse lurid fascination.

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My favourite scene is the one where General Yen is shown to have some human consideration as he yells at his troops who are busily assassinating captured enemies right outside Stanwyck’s bedroom, thereby disturbing poor old Babs’ sleep, to go and do their grisly business elsewhere. A gentleman and a yellowface for sure.

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Our next Yellowface Film Review will follow shortly. Meantime don’t forget to book your tickets for The Fu Manchu Complex http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/the-fu-manchu-complex on now until October 19th

Yellowface Film Review #1: The Hatchet Man

The Hatchet Man (1932)

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This veritable cornucopia of yellowface features Edward G. Robinson as the unlikely named Wong Low Get, a most highly respected “hatchet man” (every Tong gang had one apparently) who, having sworn total allegiance, cannot turn down an order, even one to kill his best friend Sun Yat Ming (named after anyone perhaps?).  Sun accepts his fate (in rather stilted faux-Confucian dialogue) but begs Wong to raise his daughter, Toya (is that like any Chinese name you’ve ever heard?), as his own.

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Wong dutifully obliges (he is an “honourable” hatchet man after all) but, in a somewhat pervy plot development, when she grows older he falls in love with her and proposes. Despite looking somewhat crestfallen , Toya, who we we’ve already seen flirting with dapper young gangster type Harry En Hai (jeez, those names!), agrees to marry Wong. Later, when Wong catches Toya and Flash Harry blatantly post-coital (the film’s portrayal of adultery and narcotics was quite daring for its time) he makes the young man swear an oath to Buddha that he will take care of the fragrant Toya and effectively gives her away.  Later though Wong receives a letter from Toya, who has been deported to a brothel in China after Harry was busted for opium dealing in NYC, begging to be rescued and that it’s the honourable hatchet man she truly loves (somewhat unsurprisingly in light of the fate that’s befallen her). Wong sets out to “Old China” to rescue his young lover/step-daughter.

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Yellowface watch

None of these characters is played by an Asian actor and all wear ludicrous make up in order to appear Chinese, though Robinson’s seems stronger in some scenes than in others. According to Wiki “makeup artists had noticed that audiences were more likely to reject Western actors in Asian disguise if the faces of actual Asians were in near proximity. “ Maybe they were more likely to reject Western actors in Asian disguise ‘cos they look like a bunch of freaks?

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In terms of portrayal, most of the main players don’t even bother to make any concession to the fact they’re meant to be Chinese and it’s easy to forget they are. Robinson sometimes attempts to be slightly portentous in what seems like “honourable Chinaman” acting but merely comes across like he’s in a bit of a daze most of the time. Loretta Young (as Toya) and Leslie Fenton (as Harry En Hai) simply play their roles like regular Americans with taped eyes. Some of the minor characters are hammed up a bit to give a sense of “Chineseness”  and there’s also some rather clumsy attempts at “Eastern” dialogue –my particular favourite being “Love is as useful as wings on a cat” – but it all feels a little half-baked in all honesty. Meanwhile oaths are sworn to Buddha and the oath-swearers are warned that Buddha will hunt them down if they foreswear. Now, I’m no expert on Eastern religions but it doesn’t sound like any practice I recognise.  The names have already been commented on but I’ve saved my personal favourite for last-Lip Hop Fat. I ask you.

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Some very minor characters are played by genuine Asians including the Japanese actress Toshia Mori who was to have a much more central role in the following years yellowface classic The Bitter Tea Of General Yen.

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The Hatchet Man was apparently based on stage-play titled The Honorable Mr. Wong. I shouldn’t expect a revival any time soon.

200px-Poster_of_the_movie_The_Hatchet_Man Our next Yellowface film review will follow very shortly. Meanwhile don’t forget The Fu Manchu Complex opens Tuesday, October 1st and runs till the 19th October. Book tickets here http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/the-fu-manchu-complex

What Is Yellowface?

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In short, “yellowface” is when an actor who is not of East Asian descent portrays a character who is of East Asian descent. This has become associated with make-up and prosthetics though some of the earliest “yellowface” film performances didn’t use make-up at all leaving the “Orientalism” merely to costume and “mannerisms”. Indeed it is sometimes used as a justification in our supposedly more enlightened age, that if the actors aren’t actually taping their eyelids and colouring themselves then this does not constitute yellowface and is therefore acceptable.

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Whatever one’s opinion of this rationalisation there is no doubting that yellowface has proved infinitely more enduring than “blackface” which is now deemed more or less taboo. It is worth bearing in mind though that the last blackface Othello in Britain was Michael Gambon as recently as 1991. In fact in 1979 the BBC pointedly refused to cast a black British actor as the Moor and instead cast Antony Hopkins after Equity had refused to allow the black American actor James Earl Jones to take the role. Leading black actor Rudolph Walker (now a BBC mainstay after a successful classical career) is on record saying how distressing this blanket rejection of the British black acting community was and in this incident we can see clearly all the hallmarks of modern racial appropriation manifested in the extreme reluctance to look outside the accepted “circle” when casting any kind of substantial role. That “circle” will of course consist only of very tokenistic (at best) minority ethnic presence unless some form of risk is taken to open up to the possibilities offered by actors from different backgrounds.

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Theatre, film & TV is, contrary to many peoples’ preconceptions, a deeply conservative medium that time and again has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world.  The age-old justification of course is that there is no one available or good enough.  It is arguable that who is and isn’t allowed on stages is a deeply political decision often made by people who, for whatever reason, are uneasy about allowing the floodgates to open. In Shakespeare’s day there were no women on stage. Was this because it was not in the female DNA to be able to perform at that time? One only has to look at old black & white films to see obviously posh actors portraying working-class characters, acting being at that time a genteel profession and not generally for the “riff-raff”. And then there was the whole struggle in the 70’s and 80’s for black actors to be seen on UK stages. One particular theatre director around the time even attempted to argue that Shakespeare was difficult for black actors as it was “not part of their culture”.

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Yellowface (the last acceptable bastion of racial impersonation) originated in a time (late 19th-early 20th Century) when the combination of two opium wars and an outpouring of cheap labour had made East Asians very possibly the most despised minority group in the Western world. Paradoxically though “Oriental” clothing, décor and ornamentation were very much in fashion in good society, especially London.  There was at one point in the 1920’s five plays running concurrently in the West End that featured Chinese characters (all played by Caucasian actors) though all five prompted complaints from Chinese students about the manner in which the Chinese were portrayed. Something of a running theme developed around this time with the Chinese government actually advising its overseas citizens not to appear as extras in films where the Chinese were shown in a derogatory light (which was practically all of the time in truth).  This controversy has continued since with Mickey Rooney’s legendarily infamous turn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s still causing offence to this day. It’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that this appropriation of identity and culture (sometimes, as in Rooney’s case, for the purposes of “fun”),  whilst not allowing any meaningful contribution from the people whose identity and culture is being appropriated, is in its very essence colonial.

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Despite all this there were East Asian actors in the early days of Hollywood who made a significant impact with the Japanese silent screen star Sessue Hayakawa possibly the first, his brooding good looks and easy charisma earning a sizeable following. Indeed it’s been argued that much “yellowface” casting was down to the establishment’s unease at Sessue’s popularity. Anything but the stereotypical asexual and subservient “oriental” male that Western media seems so fixated on, Hayakawa very much enjoyed the glamorous lifestyle of the early movie stars, throwing lavish parties and wearing expensive clothes and it is said that many were uncomfortable with both this and his evident popularity. His career certainly suffered in 1930’s though he was later nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in The Bridge Over The River Kwai.

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Hayakawa’s Daughter Of Fu Manchu co-star Anna May Wong was another to make a big impression. Glamorous and effortlessly iconoclastic May Wong was the first to break the anti-miscegenation taboo by playing opposite a white a romantic lead in 1922’s Toll Of The Sea. Despite this success, Anna cut a frustrated figure eventually abandoning Hollywood for Europe where she told Film Weekly she was “tired” of the roles she was given and that, there seems little for me in Hollywood, because, rather than real Chinese, producers prefer Hungarians, Mexicans, American Indians for Chinese roles.”  May Wong showed the courage of her convictions in 1935 when she was passed over for the lead role in one of the most famous yellowface films of all time, The Good Earth. The producers elected to cast the Swedish actress Luise Rainer, instead offering Anna the stereotypical “Oriental Dragonlady” role which she bravely declined. It’s a little-noted fact that May Wong was Bertolt Brecht’s first choice to play the title role in his The Good Person Of Setzuan, a play it’s often argued that Brecht didn’t write with Chinese actors in mind. It is however there for all to see that one of the 20th Century’s greatest and most enduring dramatists was clearly far more open to the possibility of East Asian actors performing the play than many of today’s leading theatrical lights have been. In a further bitter footnote, Anna was vilified at the time by the Nationalist Kuomintang government of China where there were demontrations against her for what was perceived as her “unflattering” portrayals of Chinese characters, proving (not for the last time) the enormous difficulty of being an East Asian artist with any kind of integrity in the West, as she was shot mercilessly by both sides .

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The list of Hollywood actors to “yellow up” on screen is an impressive one including Lon Chaney, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Anthony Quinn, Warner Oland, Sydney Toler, Peter Ustinov, Shirley Maclaine, Katherine Hepburn, Rina Morena, Rex Harrion, John Wayne, Mickey Rooney, Marlon Brando, Alec Guiness, Tony Randall,, John Gielgud, Max Von Sydow, Linda Hunt, Jamie Lee Curtis, David Carradine, Joel Grey and many others. The Welsh-American Myrna Loy played Chinese/Eurasian dragon-ladies to such an extent (over a dozen films including Fu Manchu’s daughter in The Mask Of Fu Manchu) that she felt it was a stereotype she actually had to struggle to escape. A savage irony indeed.  Meanwhile Korean-American actor Philip Ahn (who did manage to go on and forge a career in film and television) was turned down for a role in the film of Anything Goes as his English was deemed too proficient, so demeaning was Hollywood’s view of genuine East Asian performers.

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What’s especially interesting is the level of defensiveness and indeed championing  that still exists to this day around yellowface.  As recently as 1985 Joel Grey was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Chiui in the now little-remembered Remo James. A search of the BBC’s Dr. Who website will reveal that John Bennet’s portrayal (in heavy make-up and accent) of Li H’sen Chang in 1977’s The Talons Of Weng-Chiang is considered by the nation’s favourite boradcaster  “faultless” and “so convincing that it is difficult to believe that he is not actually Chinese”.  They also describe Bennet’s character as “inscrutable

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Cameron Macintosh to this day defends and celebrates his casting of Jonathan Pryce in the original production of Miss Saigon, a decision that caused street protests when the play opened on Broadway (though nothing here sadly).  With the Vietnam-set musical due to be revived in 2014 one wonders what approach the producers will take this time. They may defend the casting of Pryce but it’s interesting that there are very few pictures of him online where his (heavily prostheticised)  face is visible and virtually none of his succesors, Nick Colder and Hilton Macrae.  Pryce himself showed how remarkably out of touch much of the establishment acting profession is with diversity issues when he argued in a TV interview that he’d never considered the implication of his taking on the role of The Engineer as he was used to being at the RSC where “colour-blind” casting was the norm. This would be the Royal Shakespeare Company where Jonathan had previously given a very fine performance as Macbeth that contained a grand total of two black actors (one of whom understudied the other).  One less than the number of East Asian actors playing roles described by critics as “minor” in the same company’s production of The Orphan Of Zhao in 2012. And we all know what happened there, don’t we?

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It’s clear there are all sorts of issues with actors of East Asian descent appearing on UK stages and screens. Headlong Artistic Director Rupert Goold has even been muttering darkly on Twitter about “institutional prejudices” that needed to be overcome in order for the recent smash-hit Chimerica to be brought to the stage. David Henry Hwang’s Yellowface also enjoyed a successful run at London’s new Park Theatre recently but only after it was self-produced with no Arts Council support by actor Kevin Shen. The play was refused by several established theatres with the resources to present it. One can only wonder why. Hwang’s previous London produced play, M. Butterfly, in the late ‘80’s, ran for six months at the Shaftesbury Theatre. It’s next to impossible to imagine a black American writer with a similar pedigree to David’s with such a (relatively) inexpensive play with such incendiary, thought-provoking and funny subject matter being ignored in this way by the London mainstream theatre industry. Even without this kind of innate resistance there’s the “perennial foreigner” factor to overcome. The National Theatre Of Scotland in early 2013 defended their decision to have a small majority of Caucasian actors perform in their China plays season on the grounds they wanted to explore the cultural exchange between Chinese and Scottish performers and writers. Yet considering that the East Asian actors they did cast were indigenous home-grown ones are the two “cultures” really so far removed from each other in 2013?

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In the end, though, perhaps it’s sheer economics that have been the biggest barrier to casting East Asian descended actors. In Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet (about the trail-blazing black actor Ira Aldridge) one character asks another how they will feel when the likes of Aldridge are “taking your jobs”.  Asian-American dancer/actor Robert Ito wrote in an article, “With the relatively small percentage of actors that support themselves by acting, it was only logical that they should try to limit the available talent pool as much as possible. One way of doing this was by placing restrictions on minority actors, which, in the case of Asian actors, meant that they could usually only get roles as houseboys, cooks, laundrymen, and crazed war enemies, with the rare “white hero’s loyal sidekick” roles going to the big name actors. When the script called for a larger Asian role, it was almost inevitably given to a white actor.”

Marie Tempest             optimized-katharine-hepburn-dragon-seed      mr-yunioshi2  13_mrmoto4

Soon we will be uploading reviews of actual yellowface films (the ones we could find online that is). But first we will examine Fu Manchu (a yellowface legend if ever there was one) on screen. Do join us and remember to book your tickets for The Fu Manchu Complex http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/the-fu-manchu-complex Oct. 1st-19th. More details (including trailer) here http://www.thefumanchucomplex.com/