cover image Erased: An Actor of Color’s Journey Through the Heyday of Hollywood

Erased: An Actor of Color’s Journey Through the Heyday of Hollywood

Loo Hui Phang and Hugues Micol, trans. from the French by Edward Gauvin. NBM, $24.99 (200p) ISBN 978-1-68112-338-7

Phang (The Smell of Starving Boys) and artist Micol spin a glittering tale of Old Hollywood centered on fictional “phantom actor” Maximus Wyld. Born in 1921, the handsome and outspoken Wyld finds that his “chaotic genealogy” (Indigenous, Black, and Chinese) enables him to play all the “exotic stereotypes” of American movies, including a Tibetan monk in Lost Horizon, an enslaved man in Gone with the Wind, and Native Americans in a panoply of westerns. Among other exploits, Wyld discusses civil rights with Hattie McDaniel and Paul Robeson, beds Ava Garner and Rita Hayworth, and hangs out at the pool with Cary Grant. But despite his personal magnetism, his roles wind up uncredited or on the cutting-room floor. Micol’s loose-lined, graceful art evokes both the glamor and bigotry of the film industry, and impressionistic sequences of Wyld’s inner conflicts dazzle. The creators take pains to document the historical background and political context of Wyld’s adventures, and though some readers may question the focus on a Zelig-like composite character rather than a real figure, it serves as a metatextual commentary on erasure. Readers interested in entertainment history and the long arc of social justice will be drawn to this glimpse of Hollywood as it almost was. (July)