Behind the Elation Over Asian-American Oscars
It's been a long hard trip to overcome the insult of yellowface
Pardon me for piling on, and excuse me if you’ve already read my family story [below] about yellowface in Hollywood, but in light of last Sunday’s historic Oscars honoring so many Asian and Asian-American artists, I thought I’d re-send you the story of my father and aunt Lotus’s trip through Hollywood history. They were among the many talented actors and technicians who were led to believe that their time had come in 1936, when The Good Earth was supposed to feature an all-Asian cast. Most were simply and brutally dropped, edited out, or cancelled before they even had their promised screen test. Those pictured above were some of the “lucky” ones who retained some minimal association with the film. My father was relegated to “technical advisor,” meaning that he worked with writer Frances Marion (who was, herself, uncredited) to authenticate scenes, cultural details, locations, dialogue. My aunt Lotus got a few seconds as a sing-song girl in exchange for her voice being dubbed over the role that was originally hers. This is called adding insult to injury.
So, yes, we celebrate this joyous occasion in 2023. But here is just one of many stories that may help you understand why this is a really, really big deal:
I only just realized you’re here on Substack and so glad to follow you here as well. This film in particular is emblazoned in my memory as even as a naive youngster I knew something was not right. I so much loved the novel. Thank you for continuing to shed light on important matters and especially for your astonishing photos. I’m hoping for the #notapainting book one of these days! Cheers.