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Essays

Marion E. Wong

Lau, Jenny Kwok Wah

The existence of a figure like Marion E. Wong challenges the received narrative of American film industry history in which Anglo-American men started the majority of the first companies and the participation of Asians was limited to providing exoticism on screen as actors or extras. If we were to look to the New York Times as a definitive source, we might conclude that only one Chinese-American company existed in the silent era and that that company was started in 1922 by James B. Leong. According to the Times, Leong financed the Wah Ming Motion Picture Company in order to produce “picture-plays of, by, and for the Chinese” (69). However, five years before and with the same goal in mind, a young Chinese-American woman had started the Mandarin Film Company in Oakland, California. We know now that she was not only president of the company, but also screenwriter, director, and costume designer. Until recently, however, the name Marion E. Wong was known to scholars only from a small note in the back pages of a 1917 issue of the Moving Picture World. The article mentions the Mandarin Film Company and heralds their first multiple-reel feature film, The Curse of the Quon Gwon: When the Far East Mingles with West (1916), as the first and only film made by an all-Chinese cast and an all-Chinese company (63).

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Academic Units
Film
Libraries
Series
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019