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Films between 1919 & 1939
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Films between 1960 & 1969
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IMPORTANT & NOTEWORTHY FILMS
FEATURING ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICANS

Between 1960 and 1969 
 

SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
(1960)
Directed by Terence Annakin
Cast: John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James MacArthur, Janet Munro, Sessue Hayakawa

One of the most popular family adventure stories of all time is this novel by Johann Wyss about a shipwrecked nineteenth-century family's survival on a desert island. Filmed on a low budget for RKO in 1940, it was redone by Walt Disney 20 years later in typically pleasing Disney style. Combining charm, suspense, and ingenuity, The Swiss Family Robinson became a popular and enduring film. It was produced in Great Britain and starred the fatherly British actor John Mills as the Robinson patriarch. Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran were among the young actors who used the film as a springboard to careers in film and television. ~ Michael Betzold, All Movie Guide

In the film's final act, the Robinsons' unlikely defense against the wretched pirates entirely takes the foreground. Fortunately, things remain as tightly plotted and watchable as ever for this action- packed sequence. The pirates aren't really well defined; the viewer merely comes to associate the mere sight of the Asian leader (Sessue Hayakawa, so memorable in Bridge on the River Kwai) and his larger- than-life thugs as a source of fear-instilling badness. So, while there isn't much depth or resonance to the battle finale against the pirates, we root for the Robinsons, who have triumphed in the face of hardship and we genuinely know and like.  

 

Click HERE to purchase the movie Portrait in Black

PORTRAIT IN BLACK
(1961)
Directed by Terence Young
Cast: Lana Turner, Anthony Quinn, Richard Basehart, Sandra Dee, John Saxon, Ray Walston, Virginia Grey, Anna May Wong, Dennis Kohler, Lloyd Nolan, Elizabeth Chan, John Wengraf, John McNamara, George Womack, Paul Birch, Robert P. Lieb, James Nolan, Richard Norris

One of the few things noteworthy about this film is that it was one of the last films that Anna May Wong participated in. Ms. Wong, one of the first Chinese American stars of the film industry, was trying to revive her career her career before she died in 1961. For further information on the great Anna May Wong, please click HERE!

The film's plot is a scheming wife and her doctor lover do away with her rich husband. Just when it seems that they've gotten away with the crime, they get an anonymous letter from somebody who knows all about their nasty little deed. Will the murderers be brought to justice? Just another original story that has been played again and again and again, with the last example being the Michael Douglas film with the lead character plays an amoral character wandering through life making people's lives miserable. In other words, just another Michael Douglas film. (see Wall Street, Fatal Attraction, etc.)

FLOWER DRUM SONG
(1961)
Directed by Henry Koster
Cast: Nancy Kwan, James Shigeta, Benson Fong, Jack Soo, Juanita Hall, Reiko Sato, Patrick Adiarte, Kam Tong, Beulah Quo, Soo Yong, Victor Sen Yung, Ching Wah Lee, Arthur Song, James Hong, Miyoshi Umeki, Spencer Chan

Looking for a realistic, incisive view of 1960s Chinatown? Forget it! This Rodgers & Hammerstein musical is all fluff. But it's also Hollywood's only (almost) all-Asian movie. (Juanita Hall, who plays Madame Liang, is African American. She originated the role on Broadway and replaced Anna May Wong, who was originally set to play the role in the movie but died before filming began.) Ignore the sitcom plot, the corny jokes, and the silly musical numbers (including the embarrassing "I Enjoy Being a Girl") and relish the sight of some veteran Asian American talent taking the spotlight. Jack Soo (in a role played in "Yellowface" on Broadway) is not to be missed.

Some interesting notes: There is a website devoted to fans of this movie that is located HERE and did you know that Anna May Wong was scheduled to be in the movie before she died.

YOJIMBA
(1961)
Directed by Henry Koster
Cast: Toshir˘ Mifune, Eijir˘ Tono, Kamatari Fujiwara, Takashi Shimura, Seizabur˘ Kawazu, Isuzu Yamada, Hiroshi Tachikawa, Kyu Sazanka, Tatsuya Nakadai, Daisuke Kat˘, Ikio Sawamura, Ko Nishimura, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Y˘ko Tsukasa, Susumu Fujita, Eisei Amamoto

This semi-comic 1961 film by legendary director Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, Ran) was inspired by the American Western genre. Kurosawa mainstay Toshir˘ Mifune (The Seven Samurai) plays a drifting samurai for hire who plays both ends against the middle with two warring factions, surviving on his wits and his ability to outrun his own bad luck. Eventually the samurai seeks to eliminate both sides for his own gain and to define his own sense of honor. Yojimbo is striking for its unorthodox treatment of violence and morality, reserving judgment on the actions of its main character and instead presenting an entertaining tale with humor and much visual excitement. One of the inspirations for the "spaghetti Westerns" of director Sergio Leone and later surfacing as a remake as Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis, this film offers insight into a director who influenced American films even as he was influenced by them. --Robert Lane (note: Just another case that Western films and their directors has indeed been influenced by talented artists from Asia!

BRIDGE TO THE SUN
(1961)
Click HERE to know when you can purchase this very 
interesting film about racism
Directed by ╔tienne PÚrier
Cast: Carroll Baker, James Shigeta, James Yagi, Tetsuro Tamba, Hiroshi Tomono, Yoshiko Hiromura, Sean Garrison, Ruth Masters, Lee Payant, Nori Elisabeth Hermann, Emi Florence Hirsch

This is the true story of Gwen Terasaki who married a Japanese diplomat before World War Two and then returned with him to Japan after Pearl Harbor. It tells the story of the war from an entirely new perspective, and is the first film to depict the racial nature of the Pacific war, and to depict the suffering of the common Japanese people.

Click HERE to purchase - Picture courtesy of Olivia SiuInteresting tale that very rarely gets told once in light of the current state of so-called harmony between the races and the fear of not being always "political correct!?!?" Based on her book that takes the chance to portray a factual picture of the world during WWII that won't be seen to often. Movie deserves to be made again to allow a greater audience to witness reality! Click HERE to purchase the film.

THE UGLY AMERICAN
(1963)
Directed by George Englund
Cast: Marlon Brando, Eiji Okada, Sandra Church, Pat Hingle, Arthur Hill, Jocelyn Brando, Kukrit Pramoj, Judson Pratt, Reiko Sato, George Shibata, Yee Tak Yip, Judson Laire, Carl Benton Reid, Philip Ober, Simon Scott, Frances Helm, James Yagi, John Day, Leon Lontoc, Bill Stout, Stefan Schnabel

Click HERE to purchase the movie The Ugly American This is a moving political commentary on the 1960's. It actually puts the American in a bad light as they deal with and/or in an Asian country. The plot goes as follows: The American ambassador is sent to the strife-torn nation of Sarkhan during the Cold War to keep the communists at bay. From his arrival, Brando is met with suspicion and hatred and begins to realize the even deeper political problems involved. As can be expected, this film was shot during the turbulent 60's! I don't know if this kind of film could be made now, considering the political atmosphere that prevails in the 90's. This production does allow some good performances by Asian / Asian Pacific Americans to be seen to a very large audience.

Poster to FATE IS THE HUNTER

FATE IS THE HUNTER
(1964)
Director:
Ralph Nelson
Writing Credits: Ernest K. Gann (book)
Script by Harold Medford
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Distributors: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Production Company: Areola Pictures
Original music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography by Milton R. Krasner
Film Editing by Robert L. Simpson
Art: Hilyard M. Brown, Jack Martin Smith
Set Decoration: Stuart A. Reiss, Walter M. Scott
Costume Design by Moss Mabry
Second Unit Director: Ad Schaumer
Special Effects: L.B. Abbott, Emil Kosa Jr.
Cast: Nancy Kwan, Glen Ford, Rod Taylor, Jane Russell, Wally Cox

Interesting movie where the first ten minutes (including credits) and the film's final ten minutes are very important to the plot. These segments tells the story of a man refuses to believe that pilot error caused a fatal crash, and persists in looking for another reason. Picture of Nancy Kwan & Glenn Ford (courtesy of Olivia Su)

SIDE NOTES: Even though Nancy Kwan gets second billing, the film is really about the friendship between Glenn Ford and Rod Taylor. But she has a good supporting role as a scientist (an ichthyologist), which must have been a pretty unusual part for an Asian woman back then. She also contrasts nicely with Rod's fiancee, who is totally vain, fickle and White! It was good to see that Nancy (at that time, she was very popular with the studios!) Picture of Nancy Kwan - courtesy of Olivia Su

More details on the movie: Glenn Ford is a tenacious airline executive, leading an investigation, determined to clear the name of his WWII pilot friend. Rod Taylor is the seeming careless pilot, whose true character is revealed through conversations with his closest friends. Nancy Kwan is the pilot's scientist friend, whose brave smile hides an overwhelming sense of loss. And Suzette Pleshette is the flight attendant who must overcome her fear to help discover the truth. An aviation 'howdunnit' that will leave you guessing until the very end.

The movie was runner up for best motion picture of the year by the Mystery Writers of America, and that it was nominated for one Academy award. Milton Krasner was nominated in 1965 for an Oscar for "Best Cinematography" and Harold Medford was nominated for "Best Pictures" in the Edgar Allen Poe Awards! This in addition to the very talented Jerry Goldsmith. Witness his artistry as one of his amazing 251+ films that he has placed his composing skills upon!

The plot is that Britt Reid, daring young owner/publisher of "The Daily Sentinel," dons a mask and fights crime as The Green Hornet. While the police and public believe the Hornet to be a ruthless criminal, the District Attorney knows Reid's secret identity, and welcomes his assistance in fighting racketeers and criminals.

Also assisting Reid in his crusade are his secretary, Lenore Case, and his faithful valet, Kato (Bruce Lee), who is a kung fu expert and who drives Bruce Lee and the Green Hornet the sleek "Black Beauty," the Hornet's well armed car.

Click on the logo and you will discover that this tape contains three episodes from the campy, cartoonish 1960s TV series "The Green Hornet," featuring martial-arts legend (Bruce Lee (1940-1973) as the masked hero's Asian sidekick, Kato. The tape also includes (Bruce Lee's screen test, which led to his casting in the show. Although his kung fu stole all Bruce Lee and the Green Hornet of the action scenes (establishing the pattern that Jet Li followed recently in "Romeo Must Die" with great success) from the title character (Williams), (Bruce was still forced to play Kato as either a white-jacketed "houseboy" or a masked chauffeur--in other words, as a subordinate!?!?!?! (Visit the Articles Section for more examples!?!?!)

Watching "The Green Hornet" today, it's fascinating to see (Bruce's lithe, lightning-like martial-arts moves. But at the same time, it's infuriating to see such a potential star cooped up in a subservient role. Still, this video is a good opportunity to see some of Bruce's work before his rise to kung fu stardom in Hong Kong. And judging by the title of the tape, it looks like Bruce gets the last laugh. (Interesting tidbit: Burt Ward, of Batman T.V. Show fame, thought that he could "beat-up" on (Bruce during an episode where Batman and Robin team up with the Green Hornet & Kato. Burt, after witnessing Bruce's skills, was petrified during the shoot in the fear that he would be severly injured!?!?!

Elvis film with the great James Shigeta!

James Shigeta plays Elvis' partner in a helicopter tour company and an excuse to hear Elvis sing his many drab songs in this tired plot that is typical of many of Elvis' movies. Besides the many women (many of them are Asians), we see Mr. Shigeta being portrayed as an equal and not as the "token" Asian/Asian Pacific American! The 1960's have treated him well and in many roles that Asian Pacific Americans are not receiving today.

This movie is not significant because of the film's merits, but as the result of James Shigeta receiving billing (obviously below Elvis), with a White wife, comparable screen time with Elvis and in a prominent film during that time!

 

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