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Examples of yellowface mainly include the portrayal of East Asians in American film and theater, though this can also encompass other Western media. It used to be the norm in Hollywood that East Asian characters were played by white actors, often using makeup to approximate East Asian facial characteristics, a practice known as yellowface.
American media portrayals of East Asians have reflected a dominant Americentric perception rather than realistic and authentic depictions of true cultures, customs and behaviors. Yellowface relies on stereotypes of East Asians in the United States.
Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, and Madame Butterfly edit
- Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were the most common East Asian characters in film and television of the mid-20th century, and they were almost always played by white actors in yellowface. (Swedish actor Warner Oland, the first Charlie Chan in sound films, did not use yellowface. He was considered to look Asian, and was typecast in such roles from early in his career.) An updated film version of Charlie Chan was planned in the 1990s by Miramax; this new Charlie Chan was to be "hip, slim, cerebral, sexy and ... a martial-arts master", but the film did not come to fruition.
- Madame Butterfly, an opera about a Japanese woman who falls in love with an American sailor who leaves her, and when he returns with an American wife, the devastated Cio-Cio San commits suicide. This immensely popular opera is often performed with a non-East Asian singer playing the role of Cio-Cio San.
Before the Civil Rights Movement edit
|Year||Title||Actor(s) and Role(s)||Director||Notes|
|1915||Madame Butterfly||Mary Pickford as Cio-Cio San||Sidney Olcott||
|1918||The Forbidden City||Norma Talmadge as San San Toy
E. Alyn Warren as Wong Li
Michael Rayle as The Mandarin
L. Rogers Lytton as Chinese Emperor
|1919||Broken Blossoms||Richard Barthelmess as Cheng Huan||D.W. Griffith|
|1919||Mr. Wu||Matheson Lang as Mr. Wu
Meggie Albanesi as Nang Ping
|1922||The Vermilion Pencil||Ann May as Tse Chan's wife
Bessie Love as Hyacinth
Sidney Franklin as Fu Wong
|1923||The Purple Dawn||Bessie Love as Mui Far
Edward Peil Sr. as Wong Chong, the Tong leader
|Charles R. Seeling|
|1927||Mr. Wu||Lon Chaney as Mr. Wu
Renée Adorée as Wu Nang Ping
|1928||Spione (Spies)||Lupu Pick as Doctor Akira Masimoto||Fritz Lang||
|1928||The Crimson City||Myrna Loy as Onoto||Archie Mayo|
|1929||The Black Watch||Myrna Loy as Yasmani||John Ford|
|1931–1949||Charlie Chan film series||Warner Oland as Charlie Chan|
|1932||The Hatchet Man||Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young||William A. Wellman||
|1932||Frisco Jenny||Helen Jerome Eddy||William A. Wellman|
|1932||The Mask of Fu Manchu||Myrna Loy as Fah Lo See||Charles Brabin
|1932||Thirteen Women||Myrna Loy||George Archainbaud||
|1933||The Bitter Tea of General Yen||Nils Asther||Frank Capra||
|1934||The Mysterious Mr. Wong||Bela Lugosi||William Nigh||
|1936||Broken Blossoms||Emlyn Williams as Cheng Huan||John Brahm||
|1937||The Good Earth||Paul Muni as Wang Lung
Luise Rainer as O-Lan
All of the Lead Roles
|1937||Lost Horizon||H.B. Warner||Frank Capra|
|1937–1939||Mr. Moto film series||Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto film series||
|1938||Shadows Over Shanghai||Paul Sutton||Charles Lamont|
|1939||Island of Lost Men||Anthony Quinn||Kurt Neumann||
|1939||The Mystery of Mr. Wong||Boris Karloff||William Nigh|
|1940||The Letter||Gale Sondergaard||William Wyler|
|1942||Little Tokyo, U.S.A.||Harold Huber as Takimura, American-born spy for Tokyo, June Duprez as Teru||Otto Brower||
|1943||Batman||J. Carrol Naish||Lambert Hillyer|
|1944||Dragon Seed||Katharine Hepburn, Walter Huston, Aline MacMahon, Turhan Bey, Agnes Moorehead, J. Carrol Naish, and Hurd Hatfield||Harold S. Bucquet and Jack Conway||
|1946||Anna and the King of Siam||Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, and Gale Sondergaard||John Cromwell|
|1946||Ziegfeld Follies||Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer||Lemuel Ayers, Roy Del Ruth, Robert Lewis, Vincente Minnelli, Merrill Pye, George Sidney, Charles Walters||
|1955||Blood Alley||Anita Ekberg, Berry Kroeger, Paul Fix, and Mike Mazurki||William A. Wellman||
|1955||Love is a Many Splendored Thing||Jennifer Jones||Henry King||
|1956||The Conqueror||John Wayne||Dick Powell||
|1956||The King and I||Yul Brynner and Rita Moreno||Walter Lang||
|1956||The Teahouse of the August Moon||Marlon Brando||Daniel Mann||
|1957||Sayonara||Ricardo Montalbán as Nakamura||Joshua Logan||
|1958||The Quiet American (1958 version)||Giorgia Moll as Phuong||Joseph L. Mankiewicz||
|1958||The Inn of the Sixth Happiness||Curd Jürgens and Robert Donat||Mark Robson|
|1961||Breakfast at Tiffany's||Mickey Rooney||Blake Edwards|
|1961||The Devil's Daffodil||Christopher Lee as Ling Chu||Ákos Ráthonyi|
|1961||The Terror of the Tongs||Christopher Lee as Chung King and others||Anthony Bushell|
|1961||Flower Drum Song||Juanita Hall||Henry Koster||
|1962||The Manchurian Candidate||Henry Silva||John Frankenheimer|
|1962||A Majority of One||Alec Guinness||Mervyn LeRoy|
|1963||55 Days at Peking||Flora Robson||Nicholas Ray|
|1964||7 Faces of Dr. Lao||Tony Randall||George Pal|
|1965||Pierrot le fou||Anna Karina||Jean-Luc Godard||
|1965||Genghis Khan||Robert Morley, James Mason and others||Henry Levin|
|1965||Gilligan's Island||Vito Scotti||
|1965||Get Smart||Leonard Strong and Joey Forman||
|1965||The Return of Mr. Moto||Henry Silva||Ernest Morris||
|1966||7 Women||Woody Strode and Mike Mazurki||John Ford|
|1968||Bewitched||Richard Haydn||R. Robert Rosenbaum||
After the Civil Rights Movement edit
Note: This is also after the anti-miscegenation laws were repealed in the United States of America that prevented East Asian actors from playing opposite white actors as love interests.
|Year||Title||Actor(s) and Role(s)||Director||Notes|
|1970||The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go||James Mason as Y.Y. Go||Burgess Meredith|
|1972||The Paul Lynde Show||Ray Walston as Mr. Temura||George Tyne||
|1972–1975||Kung Fu||David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine||
|1973||Lost Horizon||John Gielgud as Chang
Charles Boyer as The High Lama
|1974||Arabian Nights||Salvatore Sapienza as Prince Yunan||Pier Paolo Pasolini|
|1975||One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing||Peter Ustinov and others||Robert Stevenson|
|1976||Murder by Death||Peter Sellers||Robert Moore||
|1977||Doctor Who||John Bennett as Li H'sen Chang||David Maloney||Serial: The Talons of Weng-Chiang|
|1980||The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu||Peter Sellers||Piers Haggard
|1980||Flash Gordon||Max von Sydow as Emperor Ming||Mike Hodges||
|1981||Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen||Peter Ustinov as Charlie Chan||
|1981||Raiders of the Lost Ark||Malcolm Weaver as "The Ratty Nepalese"||Steven Spielberg||
Malcolm Weaver plays a Nepalese man at 36:56 in.
|1982||Conan the Barbarian||Gerry Lopez as Subotai||John Milius|
|1982||The Year of Living Dangerously||Linda Hunt as Billy Kwan||Peter Weir|
|1983||Reilly, Ace of Spies||David Suchet as Inspector Tsientsin||Martin Campbell||
|1984||The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai||Peter Weller as Buckaroo Banzai||W.D. Richter|
|1985||Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins||Joel Grey as Chiun||Guy Hamilton|
|1986||Short Circuit||Fisher Stevens as Ben Jabituya||John Badham||
|1988||Short Circuit 2||Fisher Stevens as Ben Jahveri||Kenneth Johnson||
|1991||Twin Peaks||Piper Laurie as Mr Tojamura (a disguise worn by Catherine Martell)||Mark Frost, David Lynch||
|1994||Sabotage||Adam Yauch||Spike Jonze||
|1996–1999||Tracey Takes On...||Tracey Ullman as Mrs. Noh Nang Ning||
|1997–2002||MADtv||Alex Borstein and Guest Star Role Susan Sarandon as Ms. Swan|
|1998||Something Stupid||Magda Szubanski as Chu Yang Phat||
|1999-2002||Ushi & Van Dijk||Wendy van Dijk as Ushi Hirosaki||Dutch TV show in which Dutch actress Wendy van Dijk plays Ushi Hirosaki, a Japanese journalist. The show had local versions in Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Hungary.|
21st century edit
|2003||Micukó: A világ ferde szemmel||Judit Stahl as Micukó||Hungarian version of Ushi & Van Dijk. Canceled after Hungarian TV channel TV2 received protest letters from the Embassy of Japan in Budapest, claiming the program was discriminatory towards the Japanese people.|
|2003||Oumi||Mi Ridell as Oumi||Swedish version of Ushi & Van Dijk|
|2004||Noriko Show||Outi Mäenpää as Noriko Saru||Finnish version of Ushi & Van Dijk|
|2005||Little Britain||Matt Lucas as Ting Tong Macadangdang||Declan Lowney||
|2005||We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year||Chris Lilley as Ricky Wong||
|2006||Cloud 9||Paul Rodriguez as Mr. Wong||
|2007||Balls of Fury||Christopher Walken as Feng||Ben Garant||
|2007||Norbit||Eddie Murphy as Mr. Wong||Brian Robbins|
|2007||Grindhouse||Nicolas Cage as Dr. Fu Manchu||Rob Zombie||
|2007||I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry||Rob Schneider as Morris Takechi||Dennis Dugan|
|2008||My Name Is Bruce||Ted Raimi as Wing||Bruce Campbell|
|2009||Crank: High Voltage||David Carradine as Poon Dong||Neveldine/Taylor||
|2009||Chanel – Paris – Shanghai A Fantasy – The Short Movie||Freja Beha, Baptiste Giabiconi||Karl Lagerfeld||
|2009||Hanger||Wade Gibb as Russell||Ryan Nicholson|
|2009||Ushi & Dushi||Wendy van Dijk as Ushi Hirosaki||Spin-off from Ushi & Van Dijk|
|2010–2011||Come Fly with Me||David Walliams and Matt Lucas as Asuka and Nanako||Paul King||
|2010||Ushi & Loesie||Wendy van Dijk as Ushi Hirosaki||Spin-off from Ushi & Van Dijk|
|2011-2012||Ushi & The Family||Wendy van Dijk as Ushi Hirosaki||Spin-off from Ushi & Van Dijk|
|2011||Angry Boys||Chris Lilley as Jen Okazaki||
|2012||Cloud Atlas||Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, James D'Arcy, and Keith David||Lana and Lilly Wachowski||
|2012||Wrong||William Fichtner as Master Chang|
|2013||Ushi Must Marry||Wendy van Dijk as Ushi Hirosaki||Paul Ruven||
|2013||The Walking Dead: A Hardcore Parody||Danny Wylde as Glenn Rhee||Danny Wylde|
|2014||Baby Geniuses and the Treasures of Egypt||Jon Voight as Moriarty||Sean McNamara|
|2014||How I Met Your Mother||Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Josh Radnor|
|2015||Aloha||Emma Stone as Alison Ng||Cameron Crowe|
|2015||Fu Manchu Ch. 13 Watch Your Step||Michael McQuary as Fu Manchu||Kyle Kelley||A short Independent film about Fu Manchu|
|2016||Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie||Janette Tougt as Huki Muki||Mandie Fletcher||Movie based on the TV series Absolutely Fabulous where Janette Tough plays Japanese fashion designer Huki Muki|
|2017||Ghost in the Shell||Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi||Rupert Sanders||The film was criticized in the United States for casting Johansson (who is not of Japanese descent) as Motoko Kusanagi. However, some fans in Japan pointed out that Motoko Kusanagi has an artificial (cyborg) body, and thus, does not have to be ethnically Japanese. Pilou Asbæk also plays the villain Hideo Kuze, a role that is ethnically Japanese in the source material.|
Yellowface worn by a character in a film edit
In some films, white characters, played by white actors, have played East Asians, often as a disguise.
|1945||First Yank into Tokyo||Gordon Douglas||Tom Neal||
|1962||My Geisha||Shirley MacLaine||Jack Cardiff|
|1967||You Only Live Twice||Sean Connery||Lewis Gilbert||
|1978||Revenge of the Pink Panther||Peter Sellers||Blake Edwards||
|1981||Hardly Working||Jerry Lewis||Jerry Lewis|
|1987||Snow White||Diana Rigg||Michael Berz||
|2008||Be Kind Rewind||Jack Black||Michel Gondry|
|2011||Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows||Robert Downey Jr.||Guy Ritchie||
|2014||Magic in the Moonlight||Colin Firth as Wei Ling Soo||Woody Allen||
Books about yellowface edit
- Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era (2022) by Esther Kim  - provides history and examples of yellowface
See also edit
- Chung Ling Soo, stage name of white American magician William Ellsworth Robinson
- Ghost Bath, an American black metal band who claimed to be from Chongqing, China.
- Michael Derrick Hudson, a white American poet who was accused of "yellowface" for employing a Chinese female pseudonym
- Portrayal of East Asians in American film and theater
- Yellowface (novel)
- Whitewashing in film
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