Theme One title: "Asian Characters...No Asian Actors Please."
Check out the previous post titled "September's Theme (Our First Theme!)" if you haven't done so by now.
Right now, let's talk about the meaning and purpose of this theme.
"Asian Characters...No Asian Actors Please." is a reference to white actors being cast in Asian (particularly East Asian) roles during the early years of Hollywood as we know it (and sometimes even today).
Why were white actors cast as (East) Asians?
This was done for a lot of reasons as we may know, but the most cited and "main" reason was simply to keep white actors employed as much as possible.
Swedish-American actor Warner Oland as "Charlie Chan"
East Asians (or those of that descent) were cast in a lot of roles in Hollywood, but only in the stereotypical ones (of course): laundrymen, houseboys, cooks, war enemies, sidekicks, and if East Asian women were lucky enough to even get an acting job in early Hollywood--they mainly played the "China Doll" or predatory "Dragon Lady" characters (which is most associated with one actress anyway).
Even if an Asian actor spoke "proper English" and/or was an American--white actors still got the big, important, and non-stereotypical roles to once again, keep them employed--and to also avoid on-screen miscegenation.
American actors of East Asian descent (and probably actors straight from their native country as well) had to "learn" how to speak "broken English"--because who is going to believe that a man/woman from East Asia (or of East Asian descent) is capable of speaking "clear" or "proper" English???
Actor Philip Ahn
A fine example of someone (nearly) being rejected for a role would be actor Philip Ahn--the actor originally turned down for a role in 1936's Anything Goes, but was immediately pulled in when he was overheard imitating a thick Asian accent.
To sum it all up--Chinese/Chinese-American, Japanese/Japanese-American, Korean/Korean-American (etc.) actors--no matter how American or even how talented (which is all that should have mattered/should matter) they were--they were never good enough to play anything outside of cooks, houseboys, or laundrymen. The only actors good enough to play heroic, brave, and/or romantic Asian characters--were white actors.
Lon Chaney, Sr. in the 1927 silent film Mr. Wu.
With all of that said, throughout this month I will be looking at a few films in which white actors were cast as Asian characters and through my own discovery and your suggestions, I will post other bits of information including interesting facts, quotes, photos, and clips from Youtube pertaining to this month's theme.
If you have any questions or concerns--leave comments and I'll get right back to you!
I hope you all have a great day! Eat lots of food and pretend like your job doesn't exist!
If you unfortunately have to work today, I still hope you enjoy yourself and make the best out of it!