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Is Raymond Ainsely’s Angel of Shanghai a Real Movie?

May 2, 2020
3 min read
Hollywood Season 2

Ryan Murphy’s ‘Hollywood’ is a reimagination of the 40s Hollywood. It follows the story of a group of young people who want to become the next big thing in the film industry, while also ready to break some rules in the process. Of all these people, young director Raymond Ainsley becomes the pivot for a defining change in Ace Studios and hence in the Hollywood of ‘Hollywood’. His ideas are not received well by the producers, but he clings to his ideals and becomes the change that he wants to see in the film industry. Was there a torch-bearer like him at that point in Hollywood? Here’s the answer.

Is Raymond Ainsley based on a real Hollywood director?

No, Raymond Ainsley was not a real-life film director in the 40s Hollywood. The thing that sets him apart from his colleagues, who have to face struggles either due to their sexual or racial identity, is that he is privileged in the sense that he can pass off as a white man. He is half-Asian, but no one would suspect that if he didn’t come out himself. This gives him an edge in the film industry, which he otherwise wouldn’t have had he looked more “Asian”.

Ryan Murphy added this detail for Ainsley from actor Darren Criss, who is also half-Filipino. “Ryan wanted to make it more true to who I was, as he did with a lot of the actors. Raymond is scared of being other-ed, that’s what it boils down to for everyone,” explained Criss.

The purpose of Raymond’s character is to bring the person at the helm who feels responsible for others. Despite being of Asian descent, he has a privilege that other Asians don’t. He recognizes that, especially in the case of Anna May Wong, and accepts his responsibility as the precursor of bringing about that change. “What Ryan did with Darren’s character is he talked about a really complex situation and subject matter in a very concise way, just by putting these two people together,” said Michelle Krusiec, who plays Anna May Wong. “One doesn’t believe that the other is interested in helping her. And the other is really, really trying to say, ‘No, I don’t look like I connect, but I do.’ and that’s a conversation that people within my community do have.”

Is ‘Angel of Shanghai’ a real film?

The practice of using “white pass” as an advantage was used by actresses like Merle Oberon, who didn’t want to be limited in Hollywood due to the racial bias, which was so heavily experienced by Anna May Wong. It is to break this mold that Raymond comes up with the idea of ‘Angel of Shanghai’. He wants to give the opportunity to Wong, which was stolen from her in ‘The Good Earth’.

As opposed to his expectations, he doesn’t get to make that film on the first go. But after ‘Meg’ becomes a hit, and ‘Dreamland’ is greenlit, in the future of Murphy’s ‘Hollywood’, Ainsley would have eventually received the backing for the film. In reality, however, no director gave this chance to Anna May Wong. By the late 40s, her career had started to lose its shine. No breakthrough like ‘Meg’ came for her, and she never got her ‘Angel of Shanghai’.

Read More: Who is Anna May Wong?

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