Friday, May 2, 2008

Television Mandarine

This poster reminded me of an actor who has turned the bit part into an art form. Since Television is celebrating some sort of anniversary this weekend, it's the perfect time to celebrate the career of the great James Hong.

James Hong has been working for more than fifty years in television. He has a way of making himself stand out in any small part. Born in Minnesota, he learned he had to be assertive to get what he wanted out of life. People expected Asians to be quiet and meek, and he decided that got you nowhere. Hong did stand up comedy in the 1940s, got an engineering degree and moved to Los Angeles.

You see him everywhere ~ (in old episodes of Seinfeld, The Bob Newhart Show, Law & Order, The King of Queens, The X Files, Ellen, Sisters, Miami Vice, Chicago Hope, Taxi, Bat Masterson, Sky King, Zorro, Home Improvement, Charmed, Dynasty, Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, Dallas, Soap, Cagney & Lacey, The A Team, Magnum PI, The Outer Limits, Harry O, I Dream of Jeannie, The Rockford Files, All in the Family, Kung Fu, The Rookies, The Streets of San Francisco, Nancy Drew, Charlie's Angels, Perry Mason, Donna Reed, Maude, Starsky and Hutch, Baretta, Sugarfoot, Rin Tin Tin, Fantasy Island, Hart to Hart, Diff'rent Strokes, St. Elsewhere, Dragnet, Ben Casey, Airwolf, The Fugitive, Who's the Boss, Have Gun ~ Will Travel, The Man from UNCLE, The West Wing, Doogie Howser MD, Gomer Pyle USMC, Monk, Friends, Family Affair, Malcolm in the Middle, The Drew Carey Show, Murphy Brown, China Beach, Here's Lucy... the list goes on and on!)

He portrayed three different Asian men on the TV show, Hawaiian Eye in 1960, and thirty years later he would play three different characters on MacGyver. Hong was Hop Sing's cousin on Bonanza, and played Billy Joe Fong on The Duke's of Hazzard.

He enjoyed recurring roles on several shows, acted in early television playhouse productions, appeared on variety shows, and acted in countless made for TV movies. His first recurring TV role was in the 1950's as number one son on The New Adventures of Charlie Chan.

In addition to television, Hong made films (starting in 1955 with Clark Gable.) Hong played the Japanese General in the movie Airplane! A drug addicted PI in Black Widow with Debra Winger, Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China, and had memorable parts in The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen, Love is a Many Splendored Thing with William Holden, and Chinatown with Jack Nicholson. He was hysterical in Wayne's World 2. He played the Dalai Lama on television, as well as one of Karen's concerned doctors in The Karen Carpenter Story. He's voiced television cartoons and has appeared in children's shows and daytime soaps.

He's totally amazing.