The Weirdest Portrayals of Asians In Movie History

Categories: Film

Hollywood used to have a habit of putting slanty-eye makeup on non-Asian stars and passing them off as from "the Orient."

Here are some of the more egregious examples:


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Mickey Rooney as the buck-toothed Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961. "Miss Go-rightry!" Oy.

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Jennifer Jones as a Eurasian doctor in Hong Kong in Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, 1955. The movie is so cloying, it's like one big crumbling fortune cookie.

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Katharine Hepburn as a very mannered Chinese woman named Jade in 1944's Dragon Seed, based on the Pearl S. Buck novel. Guess Who's Coming to Chinese Dinner?

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Luise Rainer and Paul Muni as a Chinese farming couple in 1937's The Good Earth, also based on a Buck book. Shoot me, but I actually liked their performances, despite the obvious problems. Rainer copped the Oscar.

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Rex Harrison, a Brit with a Thai noodle, in Anna and the King of Siam

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Russian-born Yul Brynner in the musical version, The King and I. He won the Oscar and made hairlessness (and drop earrings) hot.

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Latina spitfire Rita Moreno in the same Thailand-via-Hollywood epic. East Side Story?

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John Gielgud as Chang, who came from the "lamasery" in the musical Lost Horizon, 1972. He should have stayed there. And Charles Boyer should have, too; he played the High Lama!

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Robert Donat (left) gave his last screen performance, sadly, as the mandarin in Inn of the Sixth Happiness, 1958. He was better remembered for Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

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Jerry Lewis in 1981's Hardly Working. I love Jerry, but this thing hardly worked. And the teeth outdid Mickey Looney's, I mean, Rooney's!

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Peter Sellers in 1980's The Fiendish Plot of Fu Man Chu. The plot was fiendish, all right. I was hungry again an hour later.

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John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror. Filmed near a nuclear testing site. Almost everyone in the movie died of cancer years later.

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Charlie Chan. And don't forget his "number-one son."

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African-American Juanita Hall starred in Flower Drum Song and played Bloody Mary in South Pacific. She was the all-purpose ethnic for Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.

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Before The Odd Couple, Tony Randall was the odd septet in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. Oscar winner for Best Makeup.



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