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PHILIP AHN - A SHINING STAR
A GREAT ACTOR AND PIONEER
Written by Philip (Flip) Ahn Cuddy


In 1934, Philip Ahn resumed his education and attended USC after realizing that acting might not provide a secure future. Ahn majored in foreign commerce and took a minor in speech. Philip was interested in the possibility of going into importing and exporting between the United States and China, but during his time at USC he took as many courses in the motion picture business as possible. He took courses in cinematography and in the dramatic field. He appeared on stage in "Merrily We Roll Along." This role took him on a tour to San Francisco. Even with his awareness of the slim chance to make it in Hollywood his heart was set on acting. Philip Ahn's father, mother, brothers and sisters - except for the youngest brother who wasn't born at the time of the picture

At USC, Philip was also president of the Cosmopolitan Club, chairman of the All University Committee on International Relations, and assistant to Dr. Francis M. Bacon, the dean of men, as advisor for foreign student affairs. He was chairman of planning for many multicultural events, including an international dinner which hosted thirty-two different countries at the USC campus in October 1934.

Philip organized many guest speakers from foreign countries such as Princess Der Ling of the Imperial Manchu dynasty, Chaman Lal, Indian journalist and special correspondent of the Hindustan Times, and British explorer and Mayan archaeologist Robert B. Stacey-Judd, among others, in his attempt to give students opportunities to learn about foreign people and their customs. With all these added responsibilities and work for the Hollywood studios, it was hard for Philip to concentrate on his foreign commerce studies. But, he did find time to give lectures on Korea and foreign relations. At the end of his sophomore year, he went to work in the motion picture industry full time.

Philip worked on his first motion picture in 1936 in Anything Goes, a picture directed by Lewis Milestone starring Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. Director Milestone turned down Philip the very first time they met because Ahn's English was too good. On his way out of their first meeting, Philip, with great humor, mimicked a heavy Asian accent perfectly and got the job immediately. Mae West had also noticed Philip's talent and gave him a part in her movie Klondike Annie.

In a March 31, 1936 interview Philip Ahn gave a statement about one of his motivations to be an actor. "The screen is not restricted to one class of people," he said, "and through bringing the customs of one country to another it creates understanding among the peoples; thus eventually international relations will be brought about."

Philip's work in "Anything Goes" made way for Milestone to hire him to play Oxford in The General Died at Dawn. During his early years as an actor he made successful appearances on the screen in Hollywood classics like The Good Earth, Anything Goes, The General Died at Dawn, Thank You, Mr. Moto, and Charlie Chan in Honolulu. He played the lead opposite Anna May Wong in King of Chinatown and Daughter of Shanghai.

Anna May Wong His role with Anna May Wong led to Hollywood gossip columns in 1937 predicting their marriage. Ahn was in love with Anna May, but they never married. He played Ping, the Chinese assistant doctor to Gary Cooper, in Cecil B. DeMille's The Story of Dr. Wassell. One of his famous lines was to Shirley Temple in Stowaway: "May your shadow lengthen always in the sun of happiness." Philip Ahn's acting career was very distinguished as well as very successful.

In 1945 a November 2, 1944, copy of Philip's illustrated character by Peg Murray appeared in the nationally syndicated newspaper section "Seein' Stars" as a postcard released as the first day issue of an American postage stamp of the Korean flag. The postcard was addressed:

    R.K.O.rea STUDIOS
    Hollywood, Calif.

A copy of this card also appeared in the Mexico City print of "Seein' Stars" section on April 15th, 1945.

Around February 1945, Philip Ahn joined the United States Army. He served until September 1945. He attended Officer Candidate School, was washed out because of a bad ankle, and then unwittingly passed up an offer to be a diplomatic officer for the OSS. He went to Special Services. While Philip was assigned to School Troops, he produced and directed a play for the Fort Benning Theatre Guild, "You Can't Take It With You." By 1946 Philip had already played about 110 Chinese and 71 Japanese roles.


To continue the article, click HERE

    Part 1: His early years and parents
    Part 2: Education background and beginning years in the film industry
    Part 3: Details on his movie career, restaurant and community involvement
    Part 4: His commitment to the U.S. troops, his last roles and his concern for APA actors
    Part 5: Legacy of his achievements



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