One the fellow campers I met and kept in touch with was a dancer, an Asian-American high school student named Cherylene Lee. She was a show biz kid so, of course, I loved chatting with her. When we all returned from camp, she was planning to audition for a musical slated to play the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the L.A. Music Center. Cherylene had a movie to her credit. She was in FLOWER DRUM SONG, Universal's film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway hit musical comedy. In this number, Cherylene was littlest one in the trio of kids.
What about 1961's FLOWER DRUM SONG? Oscar winner Miyoshi Umeki repeated her Broadway leading lady role. She'd won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her dramatic performance in 1957's SAYONARA. She'd add a hit sitcom to her credits thanks to ABC's THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER. FLOWER DRUM SONG also featured the versatile and vivacious Nancy Kwan, handsome actor James Shigeta and fabulous comic actor Jack Soo (years later, a member of the BARNEY MILLER hit sitcom ensemble on ABC.)
Is there work for people of color in Film and TV? That topic is still active today. Recently, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in Los Angeles released findings -- disappointing findings -- on the current state of Hollywood's embrace of diversity and inclusion. In areas of Underserved Groups in Films, Films Without Any Characters and Percentage of Speaking Characters, the Asian-American community is last under woman, characters with disabilities, LGBT characters, Black and Latino characters. That is why CRAZY RICH ASIANS is such a big deal. People who have been overlooked will be getting close-ups on the big screen come August 15th.
Now watch BLUE JASMINE. There's not one single role done by an Asian-American actor. I was dumbfounded. The characters played by Peter Sarsgaard and Louis C.K., and the dentist played by Michael Stuhlbarg could have been played by Asian-American actors. And, if they had been, BLUE JASMINE would've had a more accurate representation and feel of the San Francisco so many of us know. To a degree, with his characters played by Andrew Dice Clay and Bobby Cannavale coupled with the way they played them, Woody Allen shipped the 1970s/80s Brooklyn vibe of his previous New York City-based films to San Francisco.
BLUE JASMINE is on Netflix. Check it out and see what I mean. And, again, I wish all the best the cast of CRAZY RICH ASIANS.