Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]
Considered to be the first Chinese-American movie star, Anna May Wong acted in a number of iconic movies in the early 20th century. These films included "The Toll of the Sea" (1922), one of the first movies to be filmed in technicolor, and "Shanghai Express" (1932), in which she starred opposite Marlene Dietrich. As an actress of Chinese descent, Wong faced an inordinate amount of discrimination during her career, often being asked to portray stereotypical Asian characters (sometimes in exchange for the promise of a more nuanced role in the future). This injustice inspired her to split her time between Los Angeles, where she was born and raised, and Europe, where she was able to star in a wider variety of roles onstage and onscreen. She ultimately returned to Los Angeles for good in the 1930s, and began to break barriers for all Asian actors. In 1951, Wong was cast as the head detective in "The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong". She was 46 years old and the first Asian American to ever lead a U.S. television show. Unfortunately, her career was cut short when, in 1961, she suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 56.