Philip Ahn
Philip Ahn
Philip Ahn (shown here in a 1970s screenshot) made a guest appearance as a Chinese man in the gift store Fred and Esther, who are shackled together, enter, as Fred tries to get the man to interpret the instructions to the trick handcuffs that Grady bought from the store, which are written in Chinese in "Chinese Torture" in Season 6.
Vital Information
Gender: Male
Birthplace: Highland Park, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Deathplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Family/Personal information
Character/series involvement
Appeared on/
Involved with:
Sanford and Son
Episodes appeared in: "Chinese Torture (a.k.a. "The Defiant One")The Defiant One" (Season 6)
Character(s) played: Chinese Man in Gift Store
Sanford and Son retro Wiki Script

Philip Ahn (sometimes credited as Phillip Ahn; born March 29, 1905-died February 28, 1978) appeared as the Chinese Man in the gift / magician's store where Fred goes to to get the instructions to use of the handcuffs, where Grady bought them, which were in Chinese, to loose he and Esther, who were shackled together in the "Chinese Torture (a.k.a. "The Defiant One")" in Season 6 (episode #16).

A veteran character actor in Hollywood film and TV, Philip's acting career spanned five decades, from the mid-1930's until the late 1970's; he was the first Asian American film actor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Life and careerEdit

Film rolesEdit

Ahn's first film was A Scream in the Night in 1935. He appeared in the Bing Crosby film Anything Goes, though director Lewis Milestone had initially rejected him because his English was too good for the part. His first credited roles came in 1936 in The General Died at Dawn and Stowaway, opposite Shirley Temple. He starred opposite legendary Asian-American actress Anna May Wong in Daughter of Shanghai (1937) and King of Chinatown (1939).

During World War II, Ahn often played Japanese villains in war films. Mistakenly thought to be Japanese, he received several death threats. He enlisted in the United States Army, having served in the Special Services as an entertainer. He was discharged early because of an injured ankle and returned to making films. Ahn also appeared in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Around the World in Eighty Days, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Paradise, Hawaiian Style, with Elvis Presley. He got to play Korean characters in Korean War movies such as Battle Circus (1953) and Battle Hymn (1956).

Television rolesEdit

In 1952, Ahn made his television debut on the Schlitz Playhouse, a series he would make three additional appearances on. Ahn would also be cast in four episodes of the ABC-TV series Adventures in Paradise, four episodes of the ABC/Warner Brothers crime drama Hawaiian Eye, and the CBS crime drama Hawaii Five-O. He made three appearances each on Crossroads, and Bonanza, and M*A*S*H. He would also appear in two television movies.

Philip's most notable television role was as "Master Kan" on the ABC-TV series Kung Fu. A Presbyterian, Ahn felt that the Taoist homilies his character quoted did not contradict his own religious faith.

Personal lifeEdit

Ahn was actively involved in the Korean community of Los Angeles. He worked to make Los Angeles a sister city of Pusan, Korea. He also helped to bring the Korean Bell of Friendship to San Pedro, California. The Bell of Friendship has been seen in many subsequent movies. He served for twenty years as honorary mayor of Panorama City, California.

He worked to have his father and mother buried together in Seoul. His father had been buried far from the city because the Japanese hoped to play down his independence work. His mother had died in California. They had not seen each other from the time Dosan returned to Korea in 1926, before the birth of his youngest son. Working with the Korean government, Ahn helped to establish a park to honor his father and was able to have his parents buried there.

Philip's younger brother, Philson, had a minor acting career. He was best known as "Prince Tallen" in the twelve-episode serial Buck Rogers, featuring Buster Crabbe.

In the 1950s, Ahn opened a Chinese restaurant with his sister, Soorah. "Phil Ahn's Moongate Restaurant" was one of the first Chinese restaurants in Panorama City in the San Fernando Valley, and lasted for more than thirty years before finally closing.


Ahn died on February 28, 1978, due to complications from surgery.

External linksEdit