Examples of yellowface
Examples of yellowface include the portrayal of East Asians in American film and theater and other Western media. It used to be the norm in Hollywood that Asian characters were played by white actors, often using makeup to approximate East Asian facial characteristics, a practice known as yellowface.
Media portrayals of East Asians have reflected a dominant Americentric perception rather than realistic and authentic depictions of true cultures, customs and behaviors. Yellowface relies on stereotypes of East Asians.
Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, and Madame Butterfly
- Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were the most common East Asian characters in film and television of the mid-20th century, and they were almost always played by white actors in yellowface. (Swedish actor Warner Oland, the first Charlie Chan in sound films, did not use yellowface. He was considered to look Asian, and was typecast in such roles from early in his career.) An updated film version of Charlie Chan was planned in the 1990s by Miramax; this new Charlie Chan was to be "hip, slim, cerebral, sexy and ... a martial-arts master", but the film did not come to fruition.
- Madama Butterfly, an opera about Japanese woman who falls in love with an American sailor who leaves her, and when he returns with an American wife, the devastated Cio-Cio San commits suicide. This immensely popular opera is often performed with a non-Asian singer playing the role of Cio-Cio San in yellowface.
Before the Civil Rights Movement
|Year||Title||Actor(s) and Role(s)||Director||Notes|
|1915||Madame Butterfly||Mary Pickford as Cio-Cio San||Sidney Olcott||
|1918||The Forbidden City||Norma Talmadge as San San Toy
E. Alyn Warren as Wong Li
Michael Rayle as The Mandarin
L. Rogers Lytton as Chinese Emperor
|1919||Broken Blossoms||Richard Barthelmess as Cheng Huan||D.W. Griffith|
|1919||Mr. Wu||Matheson Lang as Mr. Wu
Meggie Albanesi as Nang Ping
|1922||The Vermilion Pencil||Ann May as Tse Chan's wife
Bessie Love as Hyacinth
Sidney Franklin as Fu Wong
|1923||The Purple Dawn||Bessie Love as Mui Far
Edward Peil Sr. as Wong Chong, the Tong leader
|Charles R. Seeling|
|1927||Mr. Wu||Lon Chaney as Mr. Wu
Renée Adorée as Wu Nang Ping
|1928||The Crimson City||Myrna Loy as Onoto||Archie Mayo|
|1929||The Black Watch||Myrna Loy as Yasmani||John Ford|
|1932||The Hatchet Man||Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young||William A. Wellman||
|1932||Frisco Jenny||Helen Jerome Eddy||William A. Wellman|
|1932||The Mask of Fu Manchu||Myrna Loy as Fah Lo See||Charles Brabin
|1932||Thirteen Women||Myrna Loy||George Archainbaud||
|1933||The Bitter Tea of General Yen||Nils Asther||Frank Capra||
|1934||The Mysterious Mr. Wong||Bela Lugosi||William Nigh||
|1937||The Good Earth||Paul Muni as Wang Lung
Luise Rainer as O-Lan
All of the Lead Roles
|1937||Lost Horizon||H.B. Warner||Frank Capra|
|1937–1939||Mr. Moto film series||Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto film series||
|1938||Shadows Over Shanghai||Paul Sutton||Charles Lamont|
|1939||Island of Lost Men||Anthony Quinn||Kurt Neumann||
|1939||The Mystery of Mr. Wong||Boris Karloff||William Nigh|
|1940||The Letter||Gale Sondergaard||William Wyler|
|1942||Little Tokyo, U.S.A.||Harold Huber as Takimura, American-born spy for Tokyo, June Duprez as Teru||Otto Brower||
|1944||Dragon Seed||Katharine Hepburn, Walter Huston, Aline MacMahon, Turhan Bey, Agnes Moorehead, J. Carrol Naish, and Hurd Hatfield||Harold S. Bucquet and Jack Conway||
|1946||Anna and the King of Siam||Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, and Gale Sondergaard||John Cromwell|
|1946||Ziegfeld Follies||Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer||Lemuel Ayers, Roy Del Ruth, Robert Lewis, Vincente Minnelli, Merrill Pye, George Sidney, Charles Walters||
|1955||Blood Alley||Anita Ekberg, Berry Kroeger, Paul Fix, and Mike Mazurki||William A. Wellman||
|1955||Love is a Many Splendored Thing||Jennifer Jones||Henry King||
|1956||The Conqueror||John Wayne||Dick Powell||
|1956||The King and I||Yul Brynner and Rita Moreno||Walter Lang||
|1956||The Teahouse of the August Moon||Marlon Brando||Daniel Mann||
|1957||Sayonara||Ricardo Montalbán as Nakamura||Joshua Logan||
|1958||The Quiet American (1958 version)||Giorgia Moll as Phuong||Joseph L. Mankiewicz||
|1958||The Inn of the Sixth Happiness||Curd Jürgens and Robert Donat||Mark Robson|
|1961||Breakfast at Tiffany's||Mickey Rooney||Blake Edwards|
|1961||The Terror of the Tongs||Christopher Lee as Chung King and others||Anthony Bushell|
|1961||Flower Drum Song||Juanita Hall||Henry Koster||
|1962||The Manchurian Candidate||Henry Silva||John Frankenheimer|
|1962||A Majority of One||Alec Guinness||Mervyn LeRoy|
|1963||55 Days at Peking||Flora Robson||Nicholas Ray|
|1964||7 Faces of Dr. Lao||Tony Randall||George Pal|
|1964||Bonanza||Marlo Thomas||Don McDougall||
|1965||Pierrot le fou||Anna Karina||Jean-Luc Godard||
|1965||Genghis Khan||Robert Morley, James Mason and others||Henry Levin|
|1965||Gilligan's Island||Vito Scotti||
|1965||Get Smart||Leonard Strong||
|1965||The Return of Mr. Moto||Henry Silva||Ernest Morris||
|1966||7 Women||Woody Strode and Mike Mazurki||John Ford|
After the Civil Rights Movement
Note: This is also after the anti-miscegenation laws were repealed in the United States of America that prevented East Asian actors from playing opposite white actors as love interests.
|Year||Title||Actor(s) and Role(s)||Director||Notes|
|1970||The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go||James Mason as Y.Y. Go||Burgess Meredith|
|1972–1975||Kung Fu||David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine||
|1973||Lost Horizon||John Gielgud as Chang
Charles Boyer as The High Lama
|1975||One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing||Peter Ustinov and others||Robert Stevenson|
|1976||Murder by Death||Peter Sellers||Robert Moore||
|1980||The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu||Peter Sellers||Piers Haggard
|1980||Flash Gordon||Max von Sydow as Emperor Ming||Mike Hodges||
|1981||Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen||Peter Ustinov as Charlie Chan||
|1982||Conan the Barbarian||Gerry Lopez as Subotai||John Milius|
|1982||The Year of Living Dangerously||Linda Hunt as Billy Kwan||Peter Weir|
|1982||Marco Polo (TV miniseries)||Leonard Nimoy as Achmet||Giuliano Montaldo||
|1983||Reilly, Ace of Spies||David Suchet as Inspector Tsientsin||Martin Campbell||
|1984||The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai||Peter Weller as Buckaroo Banzai||W.D. Richter|
|1985||Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins||Joel Grey as Chiun||Guy Hamilton|
|1989||Kickboxer||Michel Qissi as Tong Po||Mark DiSalle, David Worth||
|1993–1997||Kung Fu: The Legend Continues||David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine||
|1994||Sabotage||Adam Yauch||Spike Jonze||
|1996–1999||Tracey Takes On...||Tracey Ullman as Mrs. Noh Nang Ning||
|1997–2002||MADtv||Alex Borstein as Ms. Swan|
|2005||We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year||Chris Lilley as Ricky Wong||
|2006||Cloud 9||Paul Rodriguez as Mr. Wong||
|2007||Balls of Fury||Christopher Walken as Feng||Ben Garant||
|2007||Norbit||Eddie Murphy as Mr. Wong||Brian Robbins|
|2007||Grindhouse||Nicolas Cage as Dr. Fu Manchu||Rob Zombie||
|2007||I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry||Rob Schneider as the Asian minister and photographer||Dennis Dugan|
|2008||My Name Is Bruce||Ted Raimi as Wing||Bruce Campbell|
|2009||Crank: High Voltage||David Carradine as Poon Dong||Neveldine/Taylor||
|2009||Chanel – Paris – Shanghai A Fantasy – The Short Movie||Freja Beha, Baptiste Giabiconi||Karl Lagerfeld||
|2009||Hanger||Wade Gibb as Russell||Ryan Nicholson|
|2012||Cloud Atlas||Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, James D'Arcy, and Keith David||Lana and Lilly Wachowski||
|2013||The Walking Dead: A Hardcore Parody||Danny Wylde as Glenn Rhee||Danny Wylde|
|2013||Pacific Rim||Clifton Collins Jr. as Tendo Choi||Guillermo Del Toro||
|2014||How I Met Your Mother||Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Josh Radnor|
|2015||Aloha||Emma Stone as Alison Ng||Cameron Crowe|
|2016||Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie||Janette Tough as Huki Muki||Mandie Fletcher|
Yellowface worn by a character in a film
In some films, white characters, played by white actors, have played Asians, often as a disguise.
|1945||First Yank into Tokyo||Gordon Douglas||Tom Neal||
|1962||My Geisha||Shirley MacLaine||Jack Cardiff|
|1967||You Only Live Twice||Sean Connery||Lewis Gilbert||
|1978||Revenge of the Pink Panther||Peter Sellers||Blake Edwards||
|1981||Hardly Working||Jerry Lewis||Jerry Lewis|
|1997||The Pest||John Leguizamo||Paul Miller||
|2011||Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows||Robert Downey Jr.||Guy Ritchie||
|2014||Magic in the Moonlight||Colin Firth as Wei Ling Soo||Woody Allen||
- Chung Ling Soo, stage name of white American magician William Ellsworth Robinson
- Ghost Bath, an American black metal band who claimed to be from Chongqing, China.
- Michael Derrick Hudson, a white American poet who was accused of "yellowface" for employing a Chinese female pseudonym
- Portrayal of East Asians in American film and theater
- Whitewashing in film
- Kashiwabara, Amy, Vanishing Son: The Appearance, Disappearance, and Assimilation of the Asian-American Man in American Mainstream Media, UC Berkeley Media Resources Center
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- Basinger, Jeanine (June 16, 2008). "Few female ensemble films". Variety.
- Hall, Mordaunt (January 12, 1933). "Radio City Music Hall Shows a Melodrama of China as Its First Pictorial Attraction". The New York Times.
- "Lost Horizon (1937)". Tcm.com. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
- "The Letter". Variety. December 31, 1939. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
- "Selective Filmography". Archived from the original on July 21, 2009. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- "Movies: About Little Tokyo, USA". The New York Times.
- "At the Palace". The New York Times. August 7, 1942. Archived from the original on July 20, 2012.
- Dargis, Manohla (July 10, 2005). "'Lion of Hollywood': Mogul of Make-Believe". The New York Times.
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