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Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival: Classic Movie Night

On November 15 and 16, Fleisher will once again welcome the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival for a series of community screenings in the Sanctuary. All screenings are free and open to the public, but the festival does ask that you RSVP in advance. To get your free tickets and learn more about the festival, visit phillyasianfilmfest.org.

To be screened:
Daughter of Shanghai
5:00-6:15 p.m.
USA, 1937
Director: Robert Florey

Anna May Wong stars as the daughter of a wealthy Chinese American merchant whose father is found dead after refusing to do business with a human trafficking operation. To uncover the truth about her father’s death, Wong goes undercover in a Central American nightclub where she begins to unravel a much larger conspiracy.

Korean American actor Philip Ahn plays a strong supporting role as Kim Lee, a US government agent trying to crack the human trafficking case and love interest to Wong. Born in Los Angeles as the son of influential Korean Independence activist Ahn Chang-ho, Ahn is the first Korean American to achieve mainstream recognition in Hollywood, working well into the 1970s.

Phantom of Chinatown
6:30-7:45 p.m.
USA, 1940
Director: Phil Rosen

Keye Luke (Charlie Chan, Kung Fu, Gremlins) stars as Detective James Lee Wong in this noir-esque murder mystery.

While lecturing about his recent expedition to the Mongolian Desert, explorer Dr. John Benton suddenly collapses and dies. His last words “Eternal Fire” are the only clue Detective Wong and Captain Street of the police department have. Win Lee (Lotus Long), Benton’s secretary, reveals the doctor’s dying words refer to a scroll that divulges the location of rich oil deposits. Wong and Street must search for the killer among Benton’s associates before someone else dies.

Known for his role as “Number One Son” in the Charlie Chan Detective series, this role was Keye Luke’s only chance to play leading man in a Chinese detective film, something usually reserved for white actors in yellowface makeup. An actress of mixed Japanese and Native Hawaiian descent, co-star Lotus Long (Tokyo Rose, Mysterious Mr. Moto) enjoyed a brief but popular career in Hollywood during the 1930s-40s. Remarkably, on account of her ethnic ambiguity and Chinese-sounding surname, Long avoided incarceration as a Japanese American in WWII.

8:00-9:45 p.m.
United Kingdom, 1929
Director: Ewald André Dupont

Actress Anna May Wong stars as a young Chinese woman working in the kitchen at a London dance club. Given the chance to become the club’s main act, she finds herself embroiled in a plot of betrayal, forbidden love, and murder.

Born in Los Angeles, Wong had only acted in a few supporting roles before landing her big break in this British silent film. Although she continued acting in Hollywood films throughout the 1930s-1940s, Wong was unable to secure roles of an equal caliber due to the prevalent racism of that era. Despite her somewhat tragic career, Wong is remembered as the first Chinese American leading lady.