Monday, January 5, 2015

Anna May Wong as "Lotus Flower" (in 'The Toll of the Sea')

January 3, 2015 marked the 110th anniversary of Anna May Wong's birth in Los Angeles, California. Throughout the month of January, I will be honoring the icon as our 'Star of the Month'--POC in Classic Film's first for the year 2015.

One of my favorite photos of Anna May Wong [Source]

Anna May Wong made her screen debut as an extra in 1919's The Red Lantern. She would go uncredited in two more roles and soon began playing credited (but minor) roles only a few years later. Finally, in 1922 she garnered her first lead role as "Lotus Flower" in The Toll of the Sea. According to IMDb, this movie was "the second color feature, the second Technicolor feature, the first color feature made in Hollywood, and the first color feature anywhere that did not require a special projector to be shown." 

Lotus Flower in her garden (screenshot from The Toll of the Sea, 1922)

While the makers of this film were making history, Anna May Wong was busy churning out one of the finest dramatic performances I've ever seen.


In The Toll of the Sea, Anna May Wong manages to evoke both innocence and maturity. Lotus Flower is a young girl bouncing and flouncing about in flowers--then, she's a young woman and mother trying to make sense of her life. At just seventeen years old, Ms. Wong pulled out a dramatic performance that was beyond her years--and it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. I was nearly moved to tears. If the Oscars and Golden Globes were around in 1922/1923, I'm almost certain she would have at least received nominations for her work. Almost certain.

A moving scene (Screenshot from the film)

I highly advise all who are reading this to watch The Toll of the Sea (1922), if you haven't already. It is in the public domain, therefore, it is available on YouTube, the Internet Archive, and even on Wikipedia, as well. 

Also, please check out the documentary, Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words.

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