A charming and nostalgic look at the early acting career of asian-american actor Keye Luke (imdb link here), best known for his roles as Kato in the Green Hornet – although many will most likely recognize him from a much later cameo in Gremlins as Mr Wing. Part television show reconstructons and part stage-set monologue, this short black and white film (facebook page here) looks at Keye Luke’s early career. Directed by Timothy Tau and starring Feodor Chin as the titular Keye Luke, this is an entertaining, informative and fun short film.
Whilst highlighting the problems that asian-american actors faced in the ’40s and ’50s in the US film and television industry, Keye Luke (the short film) avoids having its representation of the actor complain. Instead the narrative simply states that it was difficult for an asian-american to get anything other than a sidekick role. (Even Charlie Chan wasn’t played by asian-americans, apart from very early outings, whereas his numerous sons and daughters were.) Keye Luke, then, was something of a pioneer for asian-american actors and this film celebrates that fact.
As a Brit who grew up in a different era, I’ve naturally had very little exposure to the television series and films recreated in the short film (The Green Hornet, Charlie Chan). I have to give credit to the filmmakers for deftly clueing me in to these unfamiliar shows and making them recognizable. The nostalgia-tinged recreations, little more than brief snapshots, are a lot of fun and the short film zips along merrily.
A brief, well constructed and poignant look at an actor at a certain period of his life. A lot of film biographies could learn useful lessons from this short.
Dave is the Editor of TLFR and a freelance writer. As well as a guest on BBC radio and regular appearances on the television show Reel Review, he has written for The Guardian, We Got This Covered, the International Political Forum and more.