Willie Fung

Willie Fung was an early Hollywood film actor who played supporting roles in 138 American films between 1922 and 1944 with a nice trunk load of genre films in the mix. Fung made his film debut in 1922 with ‘Hurricane’s Gal’ starring Dorothy Phillips, Robert Ellis and Wallace Beery and his first Genre role was in 1926 with ‘The Blackbird’ starring Lon Chaney and directed by Tod Browning. He appeared with Lon Chaney in three more films, ‘The Road to Mandalay’ also directed by Browning, ‘Tell It to the Marines’ and ‘Where East is East’ which is again directed by Browning. And as should be expected from Hollywood during this period, he also appeared with Anna May Wong a couple times in ‘Old San Francisco’ and the uber-hit ‘Shanghai Express’. It’s truly amazing how many times the word “Chinese” is used when his characters part is listed at all. For example, at various times he’s billed as Chinese Bartender, Chinese Headwaiter, Chinese Merchant, Chinese Sailor with Rifle, Chinese Cook, Chinese Laundry Man, Chinese Man in Jail Cell, Chinese Restaurant Proprietor, Chinese Man in Junk or at times simply Chinese Man or just plain Chinese. And sometimes even when his character had a name, the powers that be would still insist on adding Chinese to the billing. Such as in ‘Ruggles of Red Gap’ where he’s Willie – Chinese Servant, ‘The Girl and the Gambler’ where he’s Yen, the Chinese Laundryman and ‘Tarzan’s New York Adventure’ where he’s Sun Lee, the Chinese Tailor. And this is just a sampling. Oh well, it was what it was. And still, sometimes, it is what it is. But we still love him due to that trunk load of genre films mentioned earlier where the rest of these roles were in ‘The Hatchet Man’, ‘The Mask of Fu Manchu’, ‘College Holiday’, ‘Lost Horizon’, ‘Wee Willie Winkie’, ‘Buck Benny Rides Again’, ‘Badlands of Dakota’, ‘The Gay Falcon’, ‘North to the Klondike’, ‘Captains of the Clouds’, ‘Flying Tigers’ and ‘They Got Me Covered’. His swan song was ‘The Adventures of Mark Twain’ as…wait for it…Chinese Man. Sadly Fung died at the young age of 49 from a coronary occlusion.

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