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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

from an actress of little note - to one featured in Currency !!

In the Barathiraja film ‘PUthiya Varpugal’  - Bakkiyaraj and Rathi would love in the song ‘thamthana thamthana thalam varum’ – written by Gangai Amaran to the pleasant music of Maestro Illayaraja – the song is remembered for the white gown performers dancing around the hero and heroine – their names would not hit the cast list and some of them would end up leading a miserable life !

Miles away in US – came the movie ‘The Red Lantern’ in  1919 – a  silent drama film starring Alla Nazimova, who plays dual roles, and directed by Albert Capellani. One of the actresses who appeared in a side role in that, rose to prominence and is about to feature in the currency of America !

Wong was working at Hollywood's Ville de Paris department store when Metro Pictures needed 300 female extras to appear in Alla Nazimova's film The Red Lantern (1919). Without her father's knowledge, a friend of his with movie connections helped her land an uncredited role as an extra carrying a lantern.   Wong worked steadily for the next two years as an extra in various movies, while still a student, Wong came down with an illness identified as St. Vitus's Dance which caused her to miss months of school. She was on the verge of emotional collapse when her father took her to a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. The treatments proved successful, though Wong later claimed this had more to do with her dislike of the methods….  .. ..

The United States dollar is the official currency of the US and its territories as set by the US constitution. The US dollar is divided into 100 cents or units with the circulating money consisting of Federal Reserve Notes. The US coins are produced by the US Mint while the banknotes are produced by Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  Most of the coins and bank notes have faces of past prominent people including presidents and statesmen as a recognition and honor for their contribution to the history of the US. 

Presidents dominate the design of paper currency and coins of the United States. The law of the US prohibits the use of faces of living presidents or persons as an image on the banknotes and coins. George Washington, the founding father and the first president of the United States, is on both sides of the one dollar bill. He has been on the one dollar bill since 1869, seven years after the bill was put into circulation. George Washington has also been on the observe side of the quarter coin since 1924.  The first $1 Federal Reserve note was issued in 1963, and its design—featuring President George Washington and the Great Seal of the United States—remains unchanged.

Not a post on US Presidents but on an actress – Wong !  Wong Liu Tsong (1905 – 1961), known professionally as Anna May Wong, was an American actress, considered the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star, as well as the first Chinese-American actress to gain international recognition. Her varied career spanned silent film, sound film, television, stage, and radio. As one of the first women depicted on the reverse of the quarter in the 2022–2025 American Women quarters series, she is also the first Asian American to appear on US currency.

Born in Los Angeles to second-generation Taishanese Chinese-American parents, Wong became infatuated with films and began acting in films at an early age. During the silent film era, she acted in The Toll of the Sea (1922), one of the first films made in colour, and in Douglas Fairbanks' The Thief of Bagdad (1924). Wong became a fashion icon and had achieved international stardom in 1924. In 1934, the Mayfair Mannequin Society of New York voted her the "world's best dressed woman."   In the 1920s and 1930s, Wong was acclaimed as one of the top fashion icons.

Frustrated by the stereotypical supporting roles she reluctantly played in Hollywood, Wong left for Europe in March 1928, where she starred in several notable plays and films, among them Piccadilly (1929). She spent the first half of the 1930s traveling between the United States and Europe for film and stage work. Wong was featured in films of the early sound era, such as Daughter of the Dragon (1931), Java Head (1934), Daughter of Shanghai (1937), and with Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg's Shanghai Express (1932). In 1935, Wong was dealt the most severe disappointment of her career, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer refused to consider her for the leading role of the Chinese character O-Lan in the film version of Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth. In the late 1930s, she starred in several B movies for Paramount Pictures, portraying Chinese and Chinese Americans in a positive light.

She paid less attention to her film career during World War II, when she devoted her time and money to help the Chinese cause against Japan. Wong returned to the public eye in the 1950s in several television appearances. In 1951, Wong made history with her television show The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, the first-ever U.S. television show starring an Asian American series lead.   She had been planning to return to film in Flower Drum Song when she died in 1961, at the age of 56, from a heart attack.

Actress Anna May Wong is set to become the first Asian American to be featured on US currency. She will appear as part of an effort to feature notable women on American quarters. The quarter will enter general circulation on Monday.  It will feature President George Washington on one side and Wong on the other.  Ventris Gibson, director of the US Mint, called Wong "a courageous advocate who championed for increased representation and more multi-dimensional roles for Asian American actors". "This quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments by Anna May Wong, who overcame challenges and obstacles she faced during her lifetime," she said.

Interesting ! – from a side actress to one featured in currency of a Nation. The American Women Quarters Program began this year and will feature five women each year until 2025. Native Hawaiian hula teacher Edith Kanaka'ole has been named as one of the selections for 2023.


With regards – S. Sampathkumar
19th Oct 2022.



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