Chan Is Missing - 1981
Credit: Nancy Wong/New Yorker/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Wood Moy, star of the 1982 film Chan Is Missing, has died. He was 99.

Moy’s family placed a death notice in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday.

Moy starred as a cab driver helping his nephew locate missing money in San Francisco’s Chinatown in Chan Is Missing, widely considered to be the first Asian-American independent film to break through to mainstream audiences, as well as an important milestone in the depiction of Asian-Americans on screen.

The film, directed by Wayne Wang, is a noir tale of a man and his nephew (played by Marc Hayashi) attempting to locate a missing friend and the money he had with him. Though the title refers to the missing man, Chan, it is also a satirical reference to the fictional Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan, long played by white actors in makeup.

Moy was born in Canton, China, in 1918 and first came to the United States in 1921. During World War II, he returned to the U.S. and received his bachelor’s degree from New York University. After serving in the war, Moy and his future brother-in-law, Henry Louie, moved to San Francisco with the aim of expanding East West, their magazine chronicling the Chinese-American experience. Once there, they founded East Wind Printers in Chinatown.

Moy began his acting career as a member of the pioneering Asian American Theatre Company in 1972. He went on to appear in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Howard the Duck (1986), Class Action (1991), and Final Analysis (1992), as well as several television series and made-for-TV movies.

Moy’s wife of 60 years passed away in 2007. He is survived by three children and five grandchildren.