Thank you for Scarlet Cheng’s fine article about Anna May Wong (“An Uneasy Success,” Jan. 4). This enjoyable read, however, got off on the wrong foot by erroneously calling Wong “the first Asian movie star in the West.”
Wong was preceded in the Hollywood limelight by Sessue Hayakawa (1889-1973), a Japanese immigrant who began his acting career in Los Angeles. Despite playing a villain, Hayakawa’s charismatic turn in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Cheat” (1915) catapulted him to stardom.
After sojourning in France during World War II, Hayakawa returned to the U.S., where he began a high-profile career as a character actor, earning an Academy Award nomination for his supporting performance in “Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957). Although the titles of Hayakawa’s silent films are largely forgotten (just like most of that era’s movies), he qualifies as a star, and no comprehensive overview of silent Hollywood is complete without him.
Ironic juxtaposition or mere coincidence? The Sunday Calendar Jan.4 has both the articles “Rediscovering Anna May Wong” and “Wendy is the Hook, Really” by Susan LaTempa. Both are interesting and informative, yet neither mentions that Anna May Wong at the age of 17 played Tiger Lily in the 1924 silent of “Peter Pan.”