A GREAT ACTOR AND PIONEER
Philip Ahn was cast
in dozens of propaganda films that stirred up hate for the Japanese during World War II. He played many roles as the cruel Japanese officer who tortured American flyers and soldiers for information. He once said making people hate the Japanese was a way for him to actively participate in the Independence Movement of Korea, in which his father had been a great leader against imperialism. He played his roles so well that he was personally attacked by people who took the movies seriously. Hate mail, threats on his life, and other manifestations of his unpopularity soon convinced Ahn one way to stop it was to quit acting and join the Army. He served the United States with distinction.
Ahn was asked many times
It wasn't always the heavy role
In the late 1950s,
Philip Ahn was very involved
During Tom Bradley's era
By the 1960s,
Ahn was asked many timesabout his playing the role of Japanese "heavies." People who interviewed him wondered about how the death of his father at the hands of the Japanese in 1938 affected his emotions during his portrayal of a Japanese character. "True I hated the Japanese, but I told myself that if I was going to play the enemy, I was going to play him as viciously as I could. In Back to Bataan (RKO, 1945) I slapped little children and went so far as to hang a teacher from an American flagpole. I took pride in being the most evil man alive."
It wasn't always the heavy rolefor Philip Ahn. His role of Ping, the sympathetic assistant to Gary Cooper in The Story of Dr. Wassell, the romantic lead opposite beautiful Anna May Wong in Daughter of Shanghai, which he said was his most favorite film, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing with William Holden and Jennifer Jones, Around the World in Eighty Days, Thoroughly Modern Millie with Julie Andrews and Carol Channing, and Paradise Hawaiian Style with Elvis Presley offered him roles of compassion, humor, and warmhearted wisdom. Philip also made an appearance in an episode of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone."
In the late 1950s,along with his movie career, he helped his sister Soorah Ahn open a Chinese restaurant in Panorama City. The restaurant was in business at 8632 Van Nuys Boulevard for thirty years. It was one of the very first Chinese restaurants in the San Fernando Valley. Philip's popularity and naming it "Phil Ahn's Moongate" brought in the crowds for three decades. On the weekends there would be a long line to get a table. A lot of kids thought he was a real bad guy and were scared to meet him. But many happy customers got a great meal and an autographed photo. The food was very well prepared and even received a good comment from famous taste tester Elmer Dills. Today many people still have fond memories of the Moongate.
Philip Ahn was very involvedin the community's affairs as well as entertaining them. In May of 1962 at the first annual Panorama City Chamber of Commerce Day, Philip Ahn was installed as Honorary Mayor of Panorama City. Philip had always found a way to cross lines that others could not. He used his confidence and intelligence to gain acceptance. this appointment added great esteem to the Chamber because of Philip's stature as a well-known international motion picture and television actor. Members from the State Assembly, the County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles City Council, and Mayor Sam Yorty's office participated in this event to welcome Philip to the political community. Actually, Philip Ahn was a great diplomat and liked to be involved with lots of people. The political community was another stage on which Philip found it comfortable to perform.
During Tom Bradley's eraof running Los Angeles, Philip gave his assistance. He was responsible for giving Korean Americans and the Korean nation some visibility and identity. Two the projects he led were the establishment of Los Angeles as a sister city to Pusan, Korea, and the Korean Friendship Bell. Among Philip's belongings were hundreds of letters from politicians, both Republican and Democratic, and community leaders from all ethnic and mainstream communities thanking him for his participation and support for a wide variety of causes. Philip Ahn definitely gave more than he took.
By the 1960s,Philip Ahn had worked with many great stars such as Bing Crosby, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Key Luke, Richard Loo, Madeline Carroll, Anna May Wong, Ethel Merman, Julie Andrews, Shirley Temple, and Mae West, to name a few. He had worked for Desilu, Four Star, Screen Gems, Warner Brothers, MGM, Universal International, Paramount, 20th Century, RKO, Columbia, and all the other major studios. Ahn got to travel the world to filming locations in Hawaii, Fiji, Hong Kong, and Europe, to list a few. He worked hard at developing his skills. He played his parts well. His great success was a product of his determination to be one of the best.
Any questions regarding the content, contact Asian American Artistry