We start with the imitable Charlie Chan, ably contrasted with a buncha real Chinese.
Of course these films were full of stereotypes, but the essence of Charlie Chan was that he was a Chinese American man who was brave, smart, and honorable. So, of course, he couldn't be played by an actual Chinese man.
The Good Earth of course, with its cast of thousands ... of white people ... had not a single Asian in a leading role. You HAVE to watch this trailer though. It's awesome, especially the Chinese characters they use to suggest the title, one of which means "big" and the other of which doesn't look like a real character to me.
And to play ubermanly winner Genghis Khan? Why John Wayne, natch.
Jennifer Jones gets to play Han Suyin in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing and speak some of the best hapa lines in history, including, "I'm Eurasian. The word itself seems to suggest a certain moral laxity in the minds of some people." For a film so conscious of its heroine's race, it didn't seem conscious of its leading lady's race.
Tony Randall, of all people, plays magical Chinaman Dr. Lao in The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. Why not, I guess.
As we all know, for Kung Fu Bruce Lee was roundhouse-kicked out of a role they gave to a white guy. Not sure if they made the character Eurasian because David Carradine is just so not Asian looking, or because that made the character more acceptable.
And, looking ahead to this year we'll see the release of Dragonball: Evolution a live-action American film made from a popular Japanese manga based on the Chinese epic Journey to the West. The American flick transforms the Japanese character Son Goku into a ... what? ... yes, that's right, a white American teenager schooled by Chow Yun Fat. Yep, that's right, they rewrote the entire thing. The rewriting of source material has become par for the course -- racial hijinks or not -- but it almost never ends well.