Our Brother: Philip — Dedicated to His Father
The year was 1925 when his father, Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, sat with his twenty year old son and described to his son his feeling of remorse as he was preparing to leave his family and home. He was packed and ready to depart for Shanghai to continue his efforts for Korean Independence.
The father, being a man of faith, revealed his feeling that he was committing a sin for leaving the responsibilities of sustaining his family to his young son. But young Philip understood his parents’ love for their country and their mission to work for Korea to regain her independence. His admiration and love for his father resulted in a life long endeavor of loving and caring for his mother, a fourteen year old brother, two sisters, eleven and nine years of age, and a younger brother of whose conception at the time his father was not aware.
In a previous conversation with his father, Philip told of his ambition to go into motion picture acting which took his father aback since the father’s culture at the time, placed acting at a lower level means of livelihood. However, after a period of research, his father advised that he learned that in the Western world, acting was an art, thus approved of his son’s goal and counseled that Philip should devote his best effort to the craft.
Though an acting career in the US for Asians was very little in demand at the time, Philip achieved an extraordinary career of playing leading character parts and was a trail blazer for other Asian actors. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
During the 1930’s Philip, in support of his father’s goal, organized the first second generation youth group of Koreans in the US. Philip had a remarkable ability to acculturate to the host culture where Asian children were a rarity. Later, this gave Philip the idea to help his fellow Korean Americans who were coming into Los Angeles from the farm communities. He organized the first second generation organization named the 2-8 Club. They held theatre parties, had ballroom dancing seminars, attended cultural locations in Los Angeles, and other activities but above all, supported the meetings of their parents regarding the quest for Korean Independence.
He acted with valor during the 1932 Shanghai arrest of his father. At twenty seven year of age, the responsibility to coordinate the parties that might be able to obtain his father’s release fell upon Philip. He had to arrange for legal counsel for his father in Shanghai, requested help from the US Consul in Shanghai, and petitioned for aid from US Congressmen in the US.
Though assuming the responsibilities of caring for his mother, brother and sisters, Philip, with his gifted charisma, was able to attend USC on a work/scholarship program where he majored in Foreign Relations.
Always needing extra funds, Philip joined a call for students to perform background work for a movie production at Paramount Studios. When he got there, the casting office announced they had all the background people they needed. being disappointed, Philip was leaving the studio lot when a casting person approached Philip saying there was another production that was looking for a young Asian,(Oriental, was the term used then,). Philip followed the directions of the Samaritan to the directors office, where he got the part and was the start of his dreamed of career.
His career started with a comical bit part in a Bing Crosby/Ethel Merman show called “Anything Goes”. The director, Lewis Milestone, was later to direct a movie portraying the war lord abuses in China titled, “The General Died at Dawn”, and cast Philip in a featured role. Philip was highly pleased when he learned that his father was able to see the movie during one of his father’s probationary released from Japanese prison in Korea.
A significant period of his career took place when he was cast with his childhood friend, and famous actress Anna May Wong. Philip was cast with her as her romantic lead in two productions.
During this time, the Japanese Empire was brutalizing people in Northern China and relief funds for China were sorely needed. Ms Wong took a leadership role in fund raising events and asked Philip to accompany her on a number of events. Their celebrity status would attract a large attendance to the events. He would appeal for support for the independence of Korea as the two spoke to then unaware American audiences of the brutalities of the Japanese Empire. The two people were instrumental in bringing the US Korean and Chinese communities together in fighting the Japanese enemy.
When World War II broke out, Philip received some of his more notable acting roles. However, Philip longed for military service in spite of being over the age of enlistment. Through some manipulation of documents to lower his actual age, he enlisted in the Army and was accepted for Officer Candidates School. When he was near the end of training to be commissioned, the war was over — so not to be obligated for a four year service hitch, he dropped out and went into a Special Services Division at the Fort Benning, Georgia, Army base, He was appointed to direct stage plays for the base and was able to cast commanding officers’ wives in the production. Needless to say, this gave him unusual privileges and had very pleasant duty until his discharge.
After the war, one of his acting roles took place in London. When the production was over, he got a visa from the London Korean Consulate to visit Korea, where he was able to renew acquaintances with relatives. Also, he received an audience with President Syngman Rhee. Philip remembered, President Rhee stating, “If your father were alive today, Korea would not be divided!” Also, the President encouraged him to come to Korea and be involved in motion Picture production.
In his later years, Philip joined his sister Soorah to fulfill her vision of a family restaurant business which developed into a thirty six year successful operation.
His acting career reached a new high as he performed for three years in the Warner Brother’s television series, “Kung Fu”.
In 1963, his desire to remove his father’s remains from a remote region to a more accessible Memorial Park was initiated. With the endorsement to President Park Chung Hee and support of leading entrepreneur, Park Chung Hee, Philip started the project. As the Dosan Memorial Park was developing, Philip had his mother remains delivered from the US to the Park so that his mother and father would be together. The Park was finally completed, but regrettably, after Philip’s death. Though the Park is known as Dosan Memorial Park, the family knew it to be “Philip’s Project.”