Timothy Tau’s short film, Keye Luke, is an examination and celebration of the life and career of Keye Luke, an Asian American pioneer in Hollywood entertainment. Starting his career as a commercial artist in Hollywood, creating posters and the like, Luke eventually found his way in front of the camera, appearing in over 200 films and television programs. While he was probably most well-known as Number One Son in the Charlie Chan series, or as the original Kato in The Green Hornet, most folks my age will likely know him from his appearance in the Gremlins films as Mr. Wing. Though, considering the sheer size of his entertainment resumé, you probably encountered him on-screen, whether you knew it or not, in far more programs than those mentioned.
Luke is portrayed here by Feodor Chin in a mix of stage play, Hollywood re-enactment and historical lesson. Shot in black and white, for a visual aesthetic consistent with the majority of programs Keye Luke appeared in, the film takes a whimsical look at an important man in the history of Asian Americans in the field of entertainment. Thus, you get some education while, at the same time, are thoroughly entertained.
And I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’ll admit I was as ignorant of Keye Luke as they come, so the short film truly opened my eyes. The idea to present the film as a visual homage to the programs in Keye Luke’s early career was a nice touch, and the pace of the short is perfect. The film finds that balance between information and entertainment that is so easy to get wrong, and sticks to its sweet spot, getting out in just the right amount of time. A quality short film, period.
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