I’d like to thank everyone who came to CRS Friday night to see the screening of Yunah Hong’s wonderful documentary “Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words.”
Ms. Hong’s film is a powerful, professional and heartfelt look at a true icon of the 20th century, Anna May Wong, the first Asian movie star in Hollywood. Not only did she hold her own on screen with Marlene Dietrich, she possessed the moxie, mind, talent, and poise to travel to Berlin and London by herself in the late 1920’s, create her own stage shows there, and win over many of the greatest artists and intellectuals of the day. She’s a true pioneer and inspiration and she be regarded as such. I did not know until seeing this documentary that Asians were prohibited by the Hollywood Code from kissing white people on screen until 1968.
Ms. Hong is currently in the final days of a kickstarter campaign to raise money to buy the TV rights to various film clips of Anna May Wong so that the documentary may be shown on PBS next year. PBS has already agreed to air the film, pending the acquistion of those rights. If you know anyone who might be interested in supporting this wonderful project (that would I think educate and inspire so many people), please let them know about this.
We had a very good conversation with the audience and director Yunah Hong after the screening, but since none of us knew when the first Asian-Caucasian kiss finally came, I wanted to find out. Here’s what I have found:
In 1968 there was still a strong taboo against interracial dating and interracial marrying. The previous year the United States Supreme Court had ruled that laws that forbade interracial marriage — so-called anti-miscegenation laws — were unconstitutional, but many Americans, primarily but not exclusively Whites, believed that interracial sexual unions, whether formalized with marriage rituals or not, were unnatural, unhealthy, and, maybe violated the will of God. So, a kiss, even a short one, on a popular television show between two well-known actors — one a White man, the other a Black woman — was a significant moment in American race relations.
Star Trek featured other interethnic or interracial kisses, but they did not involve African Americans. In the episode called “Space Seed,” first aired February 16, 1967, Madlyn Rhue (Lieutenant Marla McGivers), a White woman, fell in love with and kissed Ricardo Montalban (Khan Noonien Singh), a dark Hispanic. On December 20, 1968, shortly after the Shatner-Nichols kiss, in an episode called “Elaan of Troyius,” Shatner kissed France Nguyen Van-Nga, whose mother was French and father was Vietnamese. In neither of these episodes did the interracial kiss receive any significant notice.
— David Pilgrim, curator, Jim Crow Museum