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Six degrees

Mark Peters

 

Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American film star, passed away 52 years ago yesterday. Born in Los Angeles' Chinatown in 1905, Wong (left) began acting in the silent-film era and appeared, aged 17, in The Toll of the Sea, one of the first movies to be made in Technicolor. Frustrated she was offered only stereotypical Asian roles, Wong - who was also a fashion icon - declared in song, "I'm Anna May Wong. I come from old Hong Kong. Now I'm a Hollywood star". Wong played the lead role in 1924's The Thief of Bagdad, opposite Douglas Fairbanks …

Fairbanks, one of the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - and married at the time to "America's Sweetheart" Mary Pickford - hosted the very first Oscars ceremony, in 1929. Ten years later, while trying to regain his once trim figure, the "King of Hollywood" suffered a fatal heart attack. The original silver screen swashbuckler was the main inspiration for the lead role in 2011's award-winning movie The Artist, played by Jean Dujardin …

Dujardin has been tagged as France's answer to George Clooney. The dashing Parisian actor became a box office sensation in 2005's Brice de Nice, as a yellow-clad surfer dude - a comic character created by Dujardin in his early days as a stand-up comedian. Despite all the awards and accolades for his unforgettable performance in The Artist, Dujardin was almost left chewing the scenery by the hairiest member of the cast, the scene-stealing Jack Russell Uggie …

Uggie's early puppyhood followed a narrative that would not be out of place in a Hollywood script - he was abandoned by his first two owners for being too wild. Thankfully, he was saved from a life in the pound by an animal trainer who recognised his potential. Despite an online campaign for the dog to receive an award, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts declined to allow him a nomination, "as he is not a human being and … his unique motivation as an actor was sausages". This didn't stop the thespian canine guesting on a BBC television chat show hosted by Graham Norton …

The flamboyant Irish presenter was the victim of a vicious gang mugging in 1988. As he neared his London home the "King of Camp", a student at the time, was beaten over the head and stabbed in the chest. Bleeding heavily and battling for his life, Norton managed to stumble to a house and get help. Performing at his 40th birthday celebrations were cabaret act Kitty La Roar and Nick Of Time, a jazz burlesque duo who also played at the 80th birthday shindig for Hugh Hefner …

Hefner, who recently married Crystal Harris, a mere 60 years his junior, is a strong supporter of same-sex marriage. The 86-year-old lord of Playboy Mansion, who described his own man-on-man encounter as "an interesting experience", stated that a fight for gay marriage is "a fight for all our rights. Without it, we will turn back the sexual revolution and return to an earlier puritanical time". An admirer of the female form, Hefner sponsored a 2004 lecture and film series held at the University of California, Los Angeles Film and Television Archive titled "Rediscovering Anna May Wong".

 

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