AFI FEST 2016: The Three Trailblazers

The programming lineup of AFI FEST 2016 highlighted three female trailblazers: African-American Dorothy Dandridge (“Carmen Jones”), Chinese-American Anna May Wong (“Piccadilly“) and London-born Ida Lupino (“The Hitch-Hiker”).

Cleveland, Ohio-born Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965) was the first African-American actress to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in the 1954 “Carmen Jones.”

Los Angeles-born Anna May Wong (1905-1961) was a third-generation Chinese American who became famous during the silent movie era but was mostly restricted to playing stereotypes of East Asian women.

Both Dandridge and Wong died young, 42 and 56, respectively and are represented on the Hollywood Walk of Fame gateway sculpture, Four Ladies of Hollywood.  Lupino (1918-1995), however, lived to be 77 and, in 1953, she became the first woman to direct a film noir: “The Hitch-Hiker.

By that time, Lupino had already acted in two movies opposite Humphrey Bogart: “They Drive by Night” and “High Sierra.” Although she directed her last feature movie in 1965 (a Haley Mills vehicle called “The Trouble with Angels”), she continued directing for TV series including “Bonanza,” “The Wild, Wild West,” “Columbo,” “The Streets of San Francisco and “Charlie’s Angels.” She was the only woman to direct an episode of the original “The Twilight Zone” (“The Masks”) and she also appeared as an actress desperate to re-live her glory days in the 1959 “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine.” Both are exceptional episodes of the TV series and are available on Hulu and Netflix.


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