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                            Fred Piegonski, Executive Assistant to the President  
               Los Angeles City College, 855 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029 
                           (323) 953-4000  ext. 2243      piegonfg@lacitycollege.edu                            

                      For Immediate Release:  December 1, 2006

Actress Irene Tsu, an LACC Alum, Talks to LACC Cinema Students
About
her Film Career

Photo: Irene Tsu


The Chinese-Born Actress--a Frequent TV Guest Star, Appeared with John Wayne in “The Green Berets”

Actress Irene Tsu, who was a student in the Cinema program at LA City College in the early 70s, was a guest speaker in Professor Tom Stempel’s “History of Motion Pictures” class earlier this week.  The class saw a screening of “Comrades, Almost a Love Story,” a 1996 film from Hong Kong that Ms. Tsu appeared in, and afterwards she talked about her career and answered students’ questions.

Ms. Tsu’s first speaking role was in “Take Her, She’s Mine,” a 1963 film in which she had a scene with Jimmy Stewart, but because she had not grown up seeing movies, she did not know who he was, she said.  She appeared in director John Ford’s last film, “Seven Women,” and like most actors found Mr. Ford terrifying and intimidating. She was similarly intimidated, she said, by actor John Wayne when she appeared in the 1968 film “The Green Berets,” which Mr. Wayne both starred in and directed. 

Ms. Tsu also worked with Elvis Presley in the 1966 film “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” but discovered that Elvis hated to rehearse, so the scenes you see with them in the film are the first time they ever went through the scene.


She said that she enjoyed making “Comrades, Almost a Love Story” even though it was a low-budget film, with no trailers or dressing rooms.  As opposed to playing an “Asian doctor” or “Asian mother,” as she does in American films and television, she had a chance to play a real character, in this case, the aunt of the lead male character.

She often works in American television, most recently in the Lifetime series “The Division.”   She’s found, she said, when she takes on a role as a guest star that she has little time to create a character, since the directors focus mostly on the stars.  However, Mr. Stempel pointed out that “Ms. Tsu acted the stars off the screen” when a clip of her scenes from “The Division” episode were screened.

Born in Shanghai, China, Ms. Tsu began her screen career as an uncredited dancer in the 1961 film version of the musical “Flower Drum Song.”

The cinema history class students had many questions about her work and what it was like as an Asian-American actress in American movies and television.  Ms. Tsu also said that she enjoyed working most with directors who would communicate with her.

 

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