Forbidden City, U.S.A.
Documentary | 2002 | 76 mins | Study Guide
Art & Performance, History
San Francisco’s internationally renowned Forbidden City was the nation’s premiere all-Chinese nightclub in the swinging 1930s and the big band era of the ’40s. Through original footage and interviews with the performers in later years, this revealing documentary looks at the history of Charlie Low’s nightclub and some of the most accomplished and spirited musicians and dancers of their time. Meet the “Chinese Fred Astaire,” the “Chinese Sophie Tucker” and the “Chinese Sally Rand” – just a few of the talented performers that take you back to a nostalgic era.
FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A. looks beyond the cartoon characters of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical, 'Flower Drum Song' (which was loosely based on the Forbidden City nightclub), to show a generation of Asian American pioneers who fought cultural barriers and racism to pursue their love of American song and dance.
The Collector’s Edition DVD presents previously unseen archival and original footage with galleries showing over 200 pieces of fascinating memorabilia and photos from the era.
“DELIGHTFUL! It brims over with nostalgia for a more glamorous and innocent show business era, yet is a commentary on racial stereotyping and on the insidiousness of discrimination.”
- Los Angeles Times
“This program SWINGS!”
CINE Golden Eagle
Blue Ribbon, Best Ethnic Studies Film, American Film Festival
Gold Apple Award, Best Ethnic Studies Film, National Educational Film Festival
Best Documentary of the Decade (shared award) Hawai’i International Film Festival
National PBS Broadcast, American Experience