Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films
by Arthur Dong
Angel City Press. 305 pages, $50.
In 2007, Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Arthur Dong made a feature about how Asians have been represented on screen by America’s dream factory. The result, Hollywood Chinese, was an illuminating examination of how nonwhite ethnic groups have had their identities distorted or simply ignored for decades. From the “yellow-face” performances of white actors like Peter Sellers and Mickey Rooney to the films of director Ang Lee, Dong managed to cover the evolution from a litany of misrepresentations to more recent and realistic characters.
However, having collected more than 2,000 pieces of movie memorabilia related to Asian cinema, Dong could pack only so much into a ninety-minute film; numerous interviews, posters, and stills were left on the cutting-room floor. The solution was to create Hollywood Chinese, a stunning coffee table book that includes interviews with directors Wayne Wang and Ang Lee and actors Nancy Kwan and James Shigeta. Famous for capturing the nuance behind complex subjects like LGBT soldiers facing discrimination in the military (1994’s Coming Out Under Fire) or homophobic murder (1997’s Licensed to Kill), Dong has assembled a fascinating collection of anecdotes and images in Hollywood Chinese, a book that could fill a gap in a serious film buff’s library.