Actor Ed Skrein’s recent departure from the reboot of the film “Hellboy” because of “whitewashing” concerns is the latest controversy over Hollywood’s casting mentality of using white faces to play Asian characters.
In reality, the practice has been going on for nearly a century in cinema. As early as 1919, D.W. Griffith, in his film “Broken Blossoms,” cast white actor Richard Barthelmess to play a Chinese immigrant who eventually develops an interracial relationship with a troubled woman, played by Lillian Gish.
In the 1930s, Charlie Chan surfaced on the big screen, a Chinese detective solving crimes around the world. The character had slanted eyes and a thin mustache, speaking broken but fluent English, boasting of numerous Chinese sons. The role was actually played by three Caucasian actors — Warner Oland, Sidney Toler and Roland Winters — over two decades.
In the 1970s, David Carradine was cast in the TV hit “Kung Fu,” playing a peace-loving Shaolin monk….
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