Examples of yellowface
Examples of yellowface includes 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.
Pre Civil Rights Movement
|1915||Madame Butterfly||Mary Pickford as Cio-Cio San
Many of the film's leading roles are white actors donning yellowface to play Asian roles
|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
|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
|1932||The Hatchet Man||Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young||William A. Wellman||
|1932||Frisco Jenny||Helen Jerome Eddy||William A. Wellman||
|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 (an Italian) 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 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.
|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||
|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|
|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||
|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|
|2010||The Last Airbender||Majority of the cast||M. Night Shyamalan|
|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||Season 9, Episode 14 Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Josh Radnor dressed in Asian garb, makeup, and offensive Fu Manchu moustache|
|2015||Aloha||Emma Stone as Alison Ng||Cameron Crowe|
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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