Happen to catch a film from the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) and it was To Whom It May Concern: Ka shen’s Journey. I must say that in my review, this movie is just great. It’s a tells two parallel stories really. One is the story of Nancy Kwan, the other story was about Asians in Hollywood.
Many of us film fanatics may not know Nancy Kwan, but we know of Nancy Kway. She is the first Asian Woman (person really) to star in a full fledged Hollywood movie. Back in the early days, Asians were normally played by Caucasians in disguise due to the times and cultures back then. It was the equivalent of blackface. I’d like to note it wasn’t really racism, it was just the unfortunate times but not all involved were racists.
Being a dancer and not being a trained actor when she started acting, she eventually did a screentest for and became the star of the movie, The World Of Susie Wong (1960), where she played a prostitute. In the movie William (Bill) Holden is visits Asia and paints people whom he see’s at a bar that he’s staying above. He meets Suzie and realizes she’s a complicated person.. Yada Yada Yada. The movie is great and you have to see it. That’s my film review. Short and sweet.
Nancy Kwan is/was a superstar. Back in the day, she was one of the most important actress’ of her day. Not only did every sailor boy in the US Navy dream about girls like her, but she created that important opening in film for Asian Actors. Even to this day, if she goes to countries such as Hong Kong, she is recognized as a star. Nancy Kwan led the way and immediately after ‘Wong, she played in Flower Drum Song (the first all Asian Musical), Lt. Robin Crusoe, USN. and several other movies. The only thing that stopped her in Hollywood was the lack of roles for Asians.
The movie also delves into Nancy Kwan’s personal life. There is a story about her son, her ex-husbands, her mother, and her father. It is a sometimes tragic story but in the end, it is inspiring. Its even so inspiring that, SPOILER-ALERT — The movie ends on one of the most famous lines from, The World Of Suzie Wong. You’ll have to see it yourself.
Nancy Kwan was at the same screening I was at and She is still a fine person and she is a living piece of film history. She received an award and answered questions from the audience in what turned out to be a spectacular event.