Esther Lee Johnson: Actress & Hollywood Extra | KCET
Esther Lee Johnson: Actress & Hollywood Extra
Esther Lee Johnson grew in Old Chinatown in the 1930's and sold flowers to tourists to help her mother make ends meet. From early on, she learned how to smile and act cute, and it payed off; a Caucasian man - as she calls him - began to recruit extras for the Hollywood movies and one day asked her to come along. Similar to day laborers waiting along Home Depot, Chinese kids would wait to be rounded-up and taken to the studios to act. The first movie Esther ever "acted" in was none other than The Good Earth. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Pearl S. Buck in 1931, set almost two decades before the Revolution of 1949, The Good Earth tells the story of a Chinese village. Ironically, the only Chinese actors in the film were its extras. Esther, along with a handful of Chinatown residents, continued her Hollywood career thanks to the popularity of war movies during the 1940's.
Growing Up in Old Chinatown
"Esther Lee Johnson recalls the working spirit of her mother and the accomplishments she experienced throughout childhood."
Working in the Movies
"Demographics and struggles of working in the movies during the war, Esther talks about her first and most memorable experiences."