Victor Wong (actor born 1927)

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Victor Wong
Victorwong2.jpg
Wong in 1983
Born Yee Keung Victor Wong
(1927-07-30)July 30, 1927
San Francisco, California
Died September 12, 2001(2001-09-12) (aged 74)
Locke, California
Occupation Actor, Broadcast Journalist
Years active 1984–1998
Spouse(s) Dawn Rose (until his death)
Robin Goodfellow
Carol Freeland
Olive Thurman

Yee Keung Victor Wong (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: 黄自強; pinyin: Huáng Zìqiáng; Jyutping: Wong4 Zi6koeng4; 30 July 1927 – 12 September 2001) was an American character actor of Chinese descent who appeared in supporting roles throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He is widely known for his role as Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter's 1986 film Big Trouble in Little China.

Education[edit]

Victor Wong studied political science and journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and Theology at the University of Chicago under Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Buber. When he returned to San Francisco, Wong resumed his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute under Mark Rothko.[1]

Acting career[edit]

After his news career ended, Wong turned to acting, starting in the local Asian American theatre and later landing larger roles on the stages New York City. In October 1980, Wong made his Asian American Theater Company (AATC) debut in San Francisco by appearing in their production of Paper Angels by Genny Lim. He was on Social Security Disability Insurance at the time.

His stage work led to television work and eventually, into movies. In between film roles, Wong lived in Sacramento, California, where he supported the local performing arts. In 1992, he acted in the Hong Kong film, Cageman (笼民). He later starred as the grandfather, Mori Tanaka (strangely changed to Mori Shintaro for 3 Ninjas Kick Back), in the popular 3 Ninjas franchise, and the cult-classics, Big Trouble in Little China and Tremors.

Film director Wayne Wang called Victor Wong his role model for living life.

Director Bernardo Bertolucci had trouble with Wong on the set of The Last Emperor amid arguments over historical authenticity and cut most of Wong's scenes in the film, which won the Best Picture Oscar for 1987.

He retired from acting in 1998 after suffering two strokes, which also contributed to his death on September 12, 2001 from heart failure.

Association with the Beat Generation[edit]

In the 1950s, while studying art under Mark Rothko, Victor Wong had his first art exhibition at the City Lights Bookstore. During this time, Wong befriended Lawrence Ferlinghetti.[1] He illustrated Oranges, Dick McBride's first collection of poetry, which was handset and printed at the Bread and Wine Mission in 1960.[2] He met Jack Kerouac in the early 1960s, who chronicled their meeting in his novel Big Sur (1962). In the novel, Wong is characterised as "Arthur Ma".[3]

Personal life[edit]

Wong's parents both came from China. His father, Sare King Wong, was born and raised in Guangdong province, and later moved to Shanghai as a news journalist; his mother was a devout Christian. His siblings were Sara Wong Lum, Zeppelin Wong, Shirley Wong Frentzel, Betty Wong. He was fluent with both English and Cantonese, which helped lead his acting career to Hong Kong. Victor Wong lived in Sacramento, California.[4]

Wong was married four times: to Olive Thurman Wong (daughter of civil rights activist Howard Thurman), Carol Freeland, Robin Goodfellow, and Dawn Rose. He had two daughters, Emily and Heather, and three sons, Anton, Lyon, and Duncan. His son, Lyon Wong, died in 1986 after being attacked by a young man while walking home in Sacramento.

Death[edit]

On the morning of September 11, 2001 Wong had turned on the television to watch the news when he learned of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.. He and his wife Rose spent all day watching the news and trying to discern the fate of Wong's sons, who lived in New York and, as they ultimately learned, were unharmed. Rose finally went to bed in the evening, but Wong stayed up and continued to follow the news. The resulting exhaustion and the two strokes he had suffered years earlier took their toll, and Wong died of a heart attack at some point during the morning of September 12.[5] Wong was 74 years old.

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1985 Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart Uncle Tam
Year of the Dragon Harry Yung
1986 Big Trouble in Little China Egg Shen
Shanghai Surprise Ho Chong
Golden Child, TheThe Golden Child The Old Man
1987 Last Emperor, TheThe Last Emperor Chen Pao Shen
Prince of Darkness Prof. Howard Birack
1989 Fatal Vacation Grandpa Alternative Title: An le zhan chang
Eat a Bowl of Tea Wah Gay
Life Is Cheap...But Toilet Paper Is Expensive Blind Man
1990 Tremors Walter Chang
Solo Frank Short film
1991 Mystery Date Janitor
1992 3 Ninjas Grandpa Mori Tanaka
Cageman Sissy Alternative title: Long min
Ice Runner, TheThe Ice Runner Fyodor
1993 Joy Luck Club, TheThe Joy Luck Club Old Chong the Piano Teacher
1994 3 Ninjas Kick Back Grandpa Mori Shintaro
1995 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up Grandpa Mori Tanaka
Da mao xian jia Uncle Nine
Stars Fell on Henrietta, TheThe Stars Fell on Henrietta Henry Nakai
Jade Mr. Wong
1996 Devil Takes a Holiday, TheThe Devil Takes a Holiday Chi Chi
Paper Dragons
1997 Seven Years in Tibet Chinese 'Amban'
1998 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain Grandpa Mori Tanaka
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1975–1976 Search for Tomorrow
1985 Nightsongs Fung Leung Television film
1988 Beauty and the Beast Dr. Wong Episode: "China Moon"
1989 A Fine Romance Lon Mo Wah
1990 Legacy Larry Chow
Forbidden Nights Ho Television film
Midnight Caller Phil Wong Episode: "Language Barrier"
1994 Due South Coo Episode: "Chinatown"
1996 Poltergeist: The Legacy Lee Tzin-Soong Episode: "Fox Spirit"

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Chang, L: Remembering Our Merry Prankster Asian Week, 2001
  2. ^ McBride, R: Oranges - Illustrated by Victor Wong (Handset and printed at the Bread & Wine Press, San Francisco by Wilder Bentley, 1960)
  3. ^ Pulley, M: The last days of Victor Wong Sacramento News & Review, September 18th, 2001
  4. ^ Pulley, Michael (October 18, 2001). "The last days of Victor Wong". Sacramento News & Review. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
    • a "For much of the past two decades—in which he had appeared in nearly 30 Hollywood films—Wong had lived in Midtown Sacramento." — ¶ 3.
    • b "Unlike most Hollywood actors, Wong eschewed the fast life and glamour of Los Angeles and continued to live humbly in his unassuming Midtown Sacramento residence where he could be close to his children. — ¶ 23.
  5. ^ Michael Pulley: "The Last Days of Victor Wong" (Sacramento News & Review, October 18, 2001). Retrieved September 12, 2014 from heart failure.

External links[edit]