Peter Chong



  • Birth Name: John Kohnie Kuh
  • Date of Birth: 2 December 1898
  • Place Of Birth:  Miu, China


World War II produced an influx of Hollywood espionage tales and battleground dramas during the 1940s and, as there were only a small supply of Japanese actors working in Hollywood at the time, a number of Asian character actors found steady employment, albeit undistinguished, as various Chinese allies and Japanese enemies. Benevolent-looking Chinese-American Peter Chong from the Broadway stage and radio was one of those fortunate actors. Placed in the secondary ranks along with Victor Wong, Harold Fong and Luke Chan, etc., the top-ranked Asian talent at the time included Keye Luke, Philip Ahn Victor Sen Yung, Richard Loo and Benson Fong. While most of Peter’s parts were quite undernourished, a couple of film roles did allow the actor a brief spot of attention before his final fadeout in the mid-1960s. Born John Kohnie Kuh on December 2, 1898, in Jersey City, New Jersey (various birth years (1994 and 1895) and birth places (China, Honolulu) are still floating about), he was the son of Chinese immigrants Fong Long Kuh and Det Ann Lye. In New York he made an obscure Broadway debut with “Bridge of Distances” (1925), but then managed to continue for the next decade or so with a stream of theatre roles. Billed as Peter Goo Chong (aka Goo Chong), his theatre credits include “Twelve Miles Out” (1925), “Fast Life” (1928), “These Few Ashes” (1928), “House Unguarded” (1929), “Inspector Kennedy” (1929), “Luana” (1930), “As You Desire Me” (1931), “The Social Register” (1931), “Border-Land” (1932), “Jamboree” (1932), “Hotel Alimony” (1934), “Petticoat Fever” (1935), in which he had on of his best stage roles, “Run Sheep Run” (1938), “They Knew What They Wanted,” “Beverly Hills” (1940), “The Admiral Had a Wife” (which actually closed before it opened in December 1941 due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor) and “Little Darling” (1942). Eventually Peter moved into radio and film. In the former medium he was, among many others, the voice of Charlie Chan. As for the latter, he started things off with an unbilled part in the Jeanne Eagels starrer The Letter (1929), which presented a Singapore setting. He wasn’t able to focus strongly on the large screen, however, until the U.S. involvement in World War II. Chong then went on to play a number of benevolent Asian types, both Chinese and Japanese, primarily cheerful or dignified in nature but occasionally villainous. The parts themselves were small in size for the most part but throughout the WWII years, he added, if nothing else, an element of authenticity to such dramatic efforts as Mission to Moscow (1943), The Purple Heart (1944), Betrayal from the East (1945)_, and _First Yank in Tokyo (1945), as well as the Danny Kaye vehicle Up in Arms (1944). War films continued to be in demand in the aftermath of WWII and Peter kept busy, less in uniform than before, and in roles that usually generated kindness and wisdom. Barely seen as a Japanese officer The Beginning or the End (1947) and an editor in Intrigue (1947), MGM employed him for a few of their films — he played a valet in Easter Parade (1948), a bartender in On the Town (1949), and another bit part in The Reformer and the Redhead (1950). While a number of his roles were servile in nature such as his manservant Wong in Francis Goes to the Races (1951) and a dining car steward on Peking Express (1951), he did manage a couple of significant parts before he left films — in James Cagney’s Tribute to a Bad Man (1956) and alongside Ingrid Bergman in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) in which he played Wang, the bilingual Chinese cook. Peter’s last movie roles were in This Earth Is Mine (1959) and The Mountain Road (1960), playing a Chinese colonel in the latter. By this period he had started focusing on TV and appeared primarily in crime dramas (“The Thin Man” and “Richard Diamond”) and westerns (“Johnny Ringo” and “Bonanza”). He retired from acting in the mid-1960s. Music and composing became a large part of his life in later years. He died at age 86 in Los Angeles, on January 15, 1985, of a heart attack.