Philip Ahn was one of the best-known Asian character actors in Hollywood.
In a career that spanned 40 years, Ahn played more than 270 character roles, often appearing as the hated Japanese officer in World War II movies.
Ironically, he was the son of a Korean patriot, Chang Ho Ahn, who spent most of his life resisting Japanese domination in his country. In 1932, the elder Ahn, then serving as Korea's chief political and educational leader, was arrested after he was implicated in a bombing that killed prominent Japanese officials. He died in a Japanese prison camp six years later.
Over Philip Ahn's career, he seldom played Koreans and in his later years was best-known for his work as the wise old Chinese patriarch in the TV series "Kung Fu."
Ahn's first brush with the movie world came when swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks spotted Ahn waiting by his car for his his teenage sweetheart, actress Anna May Wong, then working on her first big movie.
Fairbanks insisted Ahn make a screen test.
"I'll never forget that day," he said decades later. "Still wearing my makeup, I proudly came home to tell mymother the great news. 'No son of mine is going to get mixed up with those awful people,' she shouted. I wasn't allowed out of the house for the next three days."
Later when he was a USC student, director Lewis Milestone was looking for extras but turned Ahn down when he found he spoke with perfect diction.
"But when I got to the door I thought, this is silly, of course I could speak pidgin English. So I turned to him and said, 'Oh so sollie, honorable sir. Me no talkie light lay. So good-by, chop, chop,' " he said. "I got the part."