Monday, April 29, 2013

"Philip Ahn, you speak English too well."

From LA Times

Philip Ahn was in high school when he visited the set of The Thief of Baghdad. The movie's star--Douglas Fairbanks--offered him a small, uncredited role--thus beginning a career that would span over five decades and give him over 180 acting credits. He was almost rejected for his fifth role for an appalling (but not surprising) reason...

The film was 1936's Anything Goes starring Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman, directed by Lewis Milestone: 

"Director Milestone turned down Philip the very first time they met because Ahn's English was too good. On his way out of their first meeting, Philip, with great humor, mimicked a heavy Asian accent perfectly and got the job immediately." [Source]

What a testament to the workings of Old Hollywood (and even Hollywood today). Throughout the remainder of his career, Mr. Ahn would play a lot of Japanese villains (even though he was Korean-American) and mysterious, speakers of proverbs.

Philip Ahn as Master Kan in the series Kung Fu.

How would you compare the roles of Asian/Asian-American men in Hollywood films? 

Would you say they've gotten better over the past say...70 years? Worse? Or have they pretty much stayed the same?


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