Long Story Short: A Film by Christine Choy and Jodi Long 2008
Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016; 202-808-4980
Produced by Film News Now and Wahini Dakini Productions
Directed by Christine Choy
DVD, color, 88 min.
College - Adult
Asian American Studies
Date Entered: 11/18/2009Reviewed by Sheila Intner, Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA
Pervading this unusual family story narrated by Jodi Long, daughter of an Asian American show business couple Larry and Trudie Long (originally Leong), is the dark thread that runs through American life: racial prejudice. In this bittersweet memoir, Ms. Long describes how it affected her family.
Father Larry Leong, an Australian-born Chinese, was a song-and-dance man blessed with talent, brashness, and determination. Mother “Trudie”—her real name is Kim—was a Japanese-American showgirl, a pretty young woman able to execute the simple dance steps it required. After marrying, they become a comedy/song/dance act, and meet with success playing the Chinese nightclub circuit. First, they change their name to Long, to Americanize it, but, entrenched in Oriental showbiz, they change it to Leung, to appear more Chinese.
After establishing the act, daughter Jodi is born, as she says, in a backstage trunk. Larry and Trudie play the clubs, but demand for such acts wanes. Then, they get a big break: a spot on the Ed Sullivan show. Despite limited opportunities for Asians in showbiz, their star is on the rise. When Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song is cast, Larry lands a role, although not the lead he wants. Later, he has a fight with management and is fired. Banished from Broadway, although he plays for years in touring companies of Flower Drum Song, Larry’s career slides, the Longs divorce, and Larry leaves show business to be a golf pro. Kim, who dropped out of showbiz much earlier, works for the American Bible Society.
Jodi grows up with Kim. She loves her mother, but she is her father’s daughter. She follows in his footsteps, eventually landing a starring role on Broadway in a revival of Flower Drum Song. Opening night brings her family together—Kim, Larry, stepmother Minnie, a half-brother. Larry suffers a heart attack during the post-performance party and they all pull together for him, achieving a closeness that is missing from Jodi’s life. Kim reminisces about her youth, speaking for the first time about being interned during World War II and suffering intense discrimination. She and Larry talk about the plight of Asian American entertainers, who couldn’t find work in the mainstream. Caucasians were preferred, even being cast as Orientals, which Jodi discovered when she played a child role in Flower Drum Song.
Long Story Short is technically appealing and moves well, offering viewers an entertaining as well as informative, eyewitness history of Asian Americans in U.S. show business. That the story ends without rancor may be due solely to the plucky storyteller—Jodi Long—but that won’t diminish its value for academic collections supporting Asian American studies and general studies of discrimination against minorities in the U.S. Recommended.