Anna May Wong Must Die! by Anna Chen

A 60-minute multimedia-illustrated journey through the life and crimes of Hollywood legend Anna May Wong. Featuring comedy, music and poetry from performer Anna Chen.


Anna May Wong Must Die! is Anna Chen’s one-woman show about Hollywood’s first Chinese movie star.

This personal journey through the life and crimes of Anna May Wong grew from a half-hour programme about the actress, A Celestial Star In Piccadilly, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in January 2009, written and presented by Anna.

“I discovered her at an early age when, growing up in the far East of London, I was the only Chinese kid in my school. I often wondered where everyone else was who looked like me.

“In the streets, men of a certain vintage would yell, ‘Oy, you! Anna May Wong!’ I thought, ‘Blimey! How do they know my name’s Anna?’ And then I saw her. She was in an old black and white film on the telly. The tall Chinese screen goddess in Shanghai Express, blowing the blonde Teutonic Marlene Dietrich off the screen and blasting her way into my respect

“Up until then, my only role models had been Madam Mao and Imelda Marcos. I didn’t know whether to start a revolution or steal a handbag. Now I could add stabbing villains to my options.”

Part comedy, part social critique, this funny, fascinating look at the movie icon dismantles Chinese stereotypes and reveals the human side of the dragon lady of dragon ladies.

Also available as an Anna May Wong themed evening with an introduction by film historian Jasper Sharp and a screening of Piccadilly, Shanghai Express or Java Head.

Preview at the St Ives Literature Festival, 2009:

At the Roxy Bar in London, introduced by Jasper Sharp:


Glamour, sex, beauty, fame – Hollywood legend Anna May Wong had it all. She was the most famous Chinese woman in the world during the 1920s and 30s, and yet she struggled to get decent parts while white actors played the juiciest Chinese roles in “yellowface”.

Born in Los Angeles in 1905, during the height of the Yellow Peril fears about the Chinese, she overcame prejudice and racism enshrined in US law to become Hollywood’s first Chinese screen legend, making more than 60 movies.

Artists painted and sculpted her, photographers immortalised her, composers and songwriters were inspired by her, philosophers wrote of her. And yet she all but disappeared for nearly half a century since her death in 1961 at the early age of 56.

She’s now recognised as the mitochondrial Eve of the Chinese diaspora and is influencing a whole new generation. Who was she? And why do we need her now?


Born in Hackney to a British Chinese father and a British Dagenham mother, Anna was the first British Chinese performer to take her own show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Suzy Wrong — Human Cannon in 1994. She was the first Chinese Brit comedian to appear on British TV in Stewart Lee’s Fist Of Fun on BBC2 in 1996. Since then she has written and presented for BBC radio including: A Life In Flux, a profile of Yoko Ono for Radio 3 (1999); a groundbreaking ten-part series about the Chinese In Britain for Radio 4 (2007); and A Celestial Star In Piccadilly, a profile of Anna May Wong broadcast on Radio 4, 2009. She also writes, produces and presents her arts series for Resonance FM, Madam Miaow’s Culture Lounge. She has performed stand-up and has been known to read her poetry in public.


“Charming, witty and sophisticated … I am entranced, won over.”
The Sunday Times

“Hard hitting and often hilarious … arresting … engrossing and provoking.”
The Scotsman

“… sensitive, intelligent … insistent and illuminating.”
The Herald

“It’s the stuff of brilliant satire … riveting.”
The List

Anna May Wong Must Die! Rap by Anna Chen at the Roxy Bar and Screen in London:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *