Philip Ahn

Philip Ahn (born Pil Lip Ahn (안필립), March 29, 1905 February 28, 1978) was a Korean American actor. He was the first Korean American film actor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Philip Ahn
Ahn on the television series Bonanza
Pil Lip Ahn

(1905-03-29)March 29, 1905
DiedFebruary 28, 1978(1978-02-28) (aged 72)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
Years active1935–1978
Korean name
Revised RomanizationAn Pil-lip
McCune–ReischauerAn P`il-rip


Ahn was born in Highland Park, Los Angeles, California. His parents emigrated to the United States in 1902.[1]

Ahn's father, Dosan Ahn Chang-ho, was an educator and an activist for Korean independence while Korea was under Japanese rule.[2]

When he was in high school, Ahn visited the set of the film The Thief of Bagdad, where he met Douglas Fairbanks. Fairbanks offered him a screen test, followed by a part in the movie. However, his mother told him, "No son of mine is going to get mixed up with those awful people."

Ahn graduated from high school in 1923, and went to work in the rice fields around Colusa, California. The land was owned by the Hung Sa Dan, or Young Korean Academy, a Korean independence movement that trained Koreans to become leaders of their country once it was free from Japanese rule. Since Koreans could not own land in California, the Academy put the property in Ahn's name. Unfortunately, the rice crops failed because of heavy rains, and Ahn found himself deeply in debt. He went to work as an elevator operator in Los Angeles to pay back the debt and help support his family.

It was not until 1934 that he could afford to attend the University of Southern California. His father told him if he really wanted to be an actor, he had to be the best actor he could and convinced him to take acting and cinematography courses. While still a student, he appeared in a stage production of Merrily We Roll Along, which toured the western United States.

Ahn served as president of the USC Cosmopolitan Club, was chairman of the All University Committee on International Relations, and was assistant to the dean of male students as advisor for foreign student affairs. He organized visits by foreign dignitaries, including Princess Der Ling of China, Indian journalist Chaman Lal and archeologist-explorer Robert B. Stacey-Judd. After completing his second year, however, Ahn dropped out to act full-time.

Film career

Ahn's first film was A Scream in the Night in 1935. He appeared in the Bing Crosby film Anything Goes, though director Lewis Milestone had initially rejected him because his English was too good for the part. His first credited roles came in 1936 in The General Died at Dawn and Stowaway, opposite Shirley Temple. He starred opposite Anna May Wong in Daughter of Shanghai (1937) and King of Chinatown (1937).

During World War II, Ahn often played Japanese villains in war films. Mistakenly thought to be Japanese, he received several death threats. He enlisted in the United States Army, having served in the Special Services as an entertainer. He was discharged early because of an injured ankle and returned to making films.

Ahn appeared in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Around the World in Eighty Days, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Paradise, Hawaiian Style, with Elvis Presley. He played Korean characters in Korean War movies such as Battle Circus (1953) and Battle Hymn (1956).

Television roles

In 1952, Ahn made his television debut on the Schlitz Playhouse, a series he would make three additional appearances on. Ahn would also be cast in four episodes of ABC's Adventures in Paradise, four episodes of the ABC/Warner Brothers crime drama Hawaiian Eye, and the CBS crime drama Hawaii Five-O. He made three appearances each on Crossroads, Bonanza, and M*A*S*H. He would also appear in two television movies.

Ahn's most notable television role was as "Master Kan" on the television series Kung Fu. A Presbyterian, Ahn felt that the Taoist homilies his character quoted did not contradict his own religious faith.


In 1984, Ahn was posthumously inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a motion pictures star for his contributions to the film industry. His star is located at 6211 Hollywood Boulevard.[3]

Personal life

Ahn was actively involved in the Korean community of Los Angeles. He worked to make Los Angeles a sister city of Pusan, Korea. He also helped to bring the Korean Bell of Friendship to San Pedro, California. The Bell of Friendship has been seen in many subsequent movies. He served for twenty years as honorary mayor of Panorama City, California.

He worked to have his father and mother buried together in Seoul. His father had been buried far from the city because the Japanese hoped to play down his independence work. His mother had died in California. They had not seen each other from the time Dosan returned to Korea in 1926, before the birth of his youngest son. Working with the Korean government, Ahn helped to establish a park to honor his father and was able to have his parents buried there.

Ahn's younger brother, Philson, had a minor acting career. He was best known as "Prince Tallen" in the twelve-episode serial Buck Rogers, featuring Buster Crabbe.

Ahn's sister, Susan, was the first female gunnery officer in the United States Navy, eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant and working for both Naval Intelligence and the fledgling National Security Agency.

In the 1950s, Ahn opened a Chinese restaurant with his sister, Soorah. "Phil Ahn's Moongate Restaurant" was one of the first Chinese restaurants in Panorama City in the San Fernando Valley, and lasted for more than thirty years before finally closing.

In 1968, Ahn made a USO tour of Vietnam, visiting both American and Korean troops in South Vietnam.

Ahn died on February 28, 1978, due to complications from surgery.



  • Schlitz Playhouse 4 episodes (Souvenir from Singapore) (1952) (Murder in Paradise) (1955) (Dealer's Choice) (1956) (East of the Moon) (1958)
  • Fireside Theatre 1 episode (The Traitor) (1953)
  • Captain Midnight 1 episode (Sutoc in The Arctic Avalanche) (1955)
  • TV Reader's Digest 2 episodes (Mr. Pak - interpreter in Mr. Pak Takes Over) (1955) (Wang Tsu in The Brainwashing of John Hayes) (1955)
  • Crossroads 3 episodes (Major in The Good Thief) (1955) (Lung Chan in Chinese Checkers) (1955) (Ah Hiu in Calvary in China) (1956)
  • Four Star Playhouse 2 episodes (Chang in Stuffed Shirt) (1955) (Capt. Shu Gat in Wall of Bamboo) (1956)
  • Jungle Jim 1 episode (Karja in Power of Darkness) (1956)
  • Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok 1 episode (Ho San in Jingles Wins a Friend) (1956)
  • Hey, Jeannie! 1 episode (Wong in The Proprietor) (1956)
  • Navy Log 2 episodes (General Chen in Operation Typewriter) (1956) (Korean soldier in The Commander and the Kid) (1957)
  • The New Adventures of Charlie Chan 1 episode (Mr. Kim in The Secret of the Sea) (1957)
  • The Alcoa Hour 1 episode (Major Pak in The Last Train to Pusan) (1957)
  • Telephone Time 1 episode (Patriarch in Pit-a-Pit) (1957)
  • Dragnet 1 episode (Gerald Quon in The Big Jade) (1958)
  • The Eve Arden Show 1 episode (Liza Meets Young Korea) (1958)
  • The Californians 1 episode (Choo in Death by Proxy) (1958)
  • Jefferson Drum 1 episode (Charles Wong in The Cheater) (1958)
  • Lawman 1 episode (Wong in The Intruders) (1958)
  • Have Gun, Will Travel 2 episodes (W. Chung in Hey Boy's Revenge) (1958) (Hoo Yee in The Hatchet Man) (1960)
  • The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin 1 episode (Hop Sing in The Ming Vase) (1959)
  • Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond 1 episode (Song in The Dead Part of the House) (1959)
  • Alcoa Theatre 1 episode (Boo Soon in Day the Devil Hid) (1959)
  • General Electric Theatre 1 episode (Rahm Sing in The House of Truth) (1959)
  • Adventures in Paradise 4 episodes (Ling in The Bamboo Curtain) (1959) (Ling Wan in One Little Pearl) (1960) (Reverend Yen in Command at Sea) (1961) (Mr. Chee in Build My Gallows Low) (1962)
  • The Islanders 1 episode (Governor Galli in The Generous Politician) (1960)
  • The Gale Storm Show 1 episode (Lee Sing in Made in Hong Kong) (1960)
  • Tightrope (TV series) 1 episode (Quon Lee in The Chinese Pendant) (1960)
  • The Rebel 1 episode (Quong Lee in Blind Marriage) (1960)
  • Wanted: Dead or Alive 1 episode (Tom Wing in Pay-Off at Pinto) (1960)
  • Richard Diamond, Private Detective 1 episode (East of Danger) (1960)
  • Checkmate 1 episode (Mr. Lu in Face in the Window) (1960)
  • The Brothers Brannagan 1 episode (Howard Mai in The Key of Jade) (1960)
  • Pete and Gladys 1 episode (Mr. Suki in No Man is Japan) (1960)
  • Mr. Garlund 2 episodes (Po Chang in The X-27 and To Double, Double Vamp) (1960)
  • Hawaiian Eye 4 episodes (Mr. Kwong in The Lady's Not for Traveling) (1960) (Mr. Sun in The Blue Goddess) (1960) (Li in The Manchu Formula) (1961) (Florist in The Broken Thread) (1962)
  • Bonanza 3 episodes (Mr. Lee Chang in The Fear Merchants) (1960) (Dr. Kam Lee in Day of the Dragon) (1961) (Wang Sai in A Pink Cloud Comes From Old Cathay) (1964)
  • Hong Kong 2 episodes (Feng in The Dragon Cup) (1960) (Hyung in Lady Godiva) (1961)
  • Alcoa Premiere 1 episode (Chinese major in The Fortress) (1961)
  • Follow the Sun 2 episodes (Dr. Kwai in Cry Fraud) (1961) (Han Lee in Ghost Story) (as Phillip Ahn) (1962)
  • The New Breed 1 episode (Joe Ohoshi in Echoes of Hate) (1962)
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1 episode (The Fork in the Road) (1962)
  • Perry Mason 1 episode (James Wong in The Case of the Weary Watchdog) (1962)
  • Ensign O'Toole 1 episode (Low Kong in Operation Intrigue) (1963)
  • The Third Man 1 episode (Easy One Seng in A Calculated Risk) (1963)
  • Stoney Burke 1 episode (Zen Master in The Weapons Man) (as Phillip Ahn) (1963)
  • Make Room for Daddy 1 episode (Wong Chow, the launderer in Sense of Humor) (1964)
  • The Rogues 1 episode (Magician in Our Men in Marawat) (1965)
  • I Spy 2 episodes (Charlie Huan in Carry Me Back to Old Tsing-Tao) (1965) (Tu Po in An American Empress) (1967)
  • The Wild Wild West 1 episode (Quong Chu in The Night the Dragon Screamed) (1966)
  • The F.B.I. 2 episodes (Police Chief Henry Nakamura in The Hiding Place) (1966) (Mr. Kwong in Dark Journey) (1972)
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E 2 episodes (High Lama of Ghupat in The Abominable Snowman Affair) (1966) (Dr. Sazami Kyushu in The Five Daughters Affair: Part II) (1967)
  • The Time Tunnel 1 episode (Dr. Nakamura in Kill Two By Two) (1967)
  • Laredo 1 episode (Capt. Wong Lee in The Bitter Yen of General Ti) (1967)
  • The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. 1 episode (Wu in The Fountain of Youth Affair) (1967)
  • Hawaii Five-O 4 episodes (Attorney General in Pilot) (1968) (Attorney General in Cocoon: Part I) (1969) (Quon Li in Sweet Terror) (1969) (Lin Mai-Lu in Journey Out of Limbo) (1972)
  • The Big Valley 1 episode (Chen Yu in The Emperor of Rice) (1968)
  • My Three Sons 1 episode (Uncle George Wong in Honorable Guest) (1968)
  • Mannix 1 episode (Mr. Rhee in Shadow of a Man) (1969)
  • Mission: Impossible 1 episode (Dr. Liu in Doomsday) (1969)
  • It Takes a Thief 1 episode (Owner in Mad in Japan) (1969)
  • Ironside 1 episode (Nam Feng in Love My Enemy) (1969)
  • The Streets of San Francisco 1 episode (Mr. Wu in The Year of the Locusts) (1972)
  • Love, American Style 1 episode (Chow Lee in segment Love and the Golden Worm) (1974)
  • The Magician 1 episode (Chao Liu in The Illusion of the Lost Dragon) (1974)
  • Judgment: The Court Martial of the Tiger of Malaya - General Yamashita (TV movie) (1974)
  • Kung Fu 39 episodes (Master Kan) (1972-1975)
  • The Killer Who Wouldn't Die (TV movie) Soong (as Phillip Ahn) (1976)
  • M*A*S*H 3 episodes (The father in Hawkeye) (1976) (Korean grandfather in Exorcism) (1976) (Mr. Kim in Change Day) (as Phillip Ahn) (1977)
  • Sanford and Son 1 episode (Chinese man in The Defiant One) (1977)
  • Wonder Woman 1 episode (Colonel Minh in The Man Who Made Volcanoes) (1977)
  • Police Woman 2 episodes (Quon in Deadline: Death) (1977) (Mr. Won in The Human Rights of Tiki Kim) (1978)
  • Switch 1 episode (Charlie Kuang in The Tong) (1978)

See also


  1. "Matinee Classics - Phillip Ahn biography/filmography". Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  2. Davé, Shilipa; Nishime, Leilani; Oren, Tasha G. (2006). East Main Street: Asian American popular culture. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  3. "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Philip Ahn". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.