Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2003
Race, gender, ethnicity, and power are the major themes of Anthony B. Chan's fifth book. Entitled Perpetually Cool: The Many Lives of Anna May Wong (1905- 1961), it is the first full length biography ever written about the life and times of Anna May Wong, America's most famous film actress of Chinese heritage. Published by Rowman and Littlefield's Scarecrow Press in 2003, the book is unique not only because it is told from the perspective of an Asian American, but also from the view of an experienced scholar, writer, and filmmaker.
Under the editorship of noted film historian, Anthony Slide in his Filmmaker Series, Perpetually Cool tells the multifaceted story of the first Chinese American film star as she grew up in Los Angeles during the time of social and political ferment in which the Chinese revolution touched California. it also tells of Wong's first Hollywood films that would lead to internation fame in Berlin, London, and Paris and a multi picture contract with Paramount studios. Her most famous stage play was in London where her co-star in 1929 was a little known actor named Laurence Olivier.
Since cinema is the purest form of mass communication in its visual and emotional impact, Perpetually Cool resonates with a global audience. Informed by the works of Said, Hall, Wellman, Omi, and Gramsci, the book examines the scope and nature of race and power as they impacted on Wong's personal growth as a Chinese American and cinematic career as an Asian American. There are also extensive textual analyses of Wong's signature films, especially the Toll of the Sea (1922), which was Hollywood's first Technicolor film, the Thief of Bagdad (1924), and her most famous role as Hui Fei in Shanghai Express (1932) opposite Marlene Dietrich.
The biography is a story of roots and identity as Wong ventured to China to discover that part of herself, which was missing during her time in the United States. She was to lose her restlessness and was able to transcend her ethnicity, race, and citizenship. She now understood her place in the universe and began to think and live as a Daoist. This is also the story of the patriotism of Anna May Wong who worked tirelessly against fascism during World War II. Perpetually Cool tells the story of a remarkable Asian American woman whose legendary humor was always filled with pithy philosophical advice. Wong was once overheard to have said,
Pictures of Anna May Wong