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Soo Yong (1903-1984): Hollywood Celebrity and Cultural Interpreter

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

Following Broadway roles in the 1920s and serving as cultural translator for Mei Lanfang's Peking Opera tour of North America in 1930, Soo Yong (1903-84) acted in twenty-three Hollywood films and numerous television shows. Born in Hawaii to Chinese immigrant parents who were supporters of Sun Yat-sen and educated at Columbia Teachers College, Soo Yong combined Chinese and Western values without becoming the type of Westernized "Modern Girl" represented by Anna May Wong. Her roles present a softer Orientalism that allowed ethnic dignity and did not offend her Chinese-American audiences or her Nationalist friends in China. In contrast to the two-year younger Anna May Wong, she was able to balance several worlds and to sustain a position as an off-screen, cultural translator.


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