Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Perpetually Cool

Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2003
by Anthony B. Chan

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,

Chapter 9 excerpt
Chapter 14 excerpt


1/29/2005 - (Time) Anna May Wong Did it Right

2/19/2004 - (LA Times) The fascination for Anna May Wong continues, perhaps in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of her birth.

2/14/2004 - (NW Asian Weekly) New Anna May biography from Anthony B. Chan traces triumph and tragedy.

2/13/2004 - (University Week) UW prof to open showing of Wong film

2/13/2004 - (Seattle Times) Looking back at 'Piccadilly,' 'Rear Window'

2/13/2004 - (Seattle Weekly) PICCADILLY

2/13/2004 - (HeraldNet) 'Restored silent 'Piccadilly' screening

2/13/2004 - (Seattle PI) Film revivals hit a zenith with this weekend's triple-play reopening of restored foreign films

1/26/2004 - Tony Chan at UCLA Anna May Wong retrospective.

1/25/2004 - UCLA Film and Television Archive And Hugh M. Hefner present "Rediscovering Anna May Wong"

Pictures of Anna May Wong

Dr. Chan with Anna May Wong

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