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Philip Ahn papers

Identifier: 3007

Scope and Contents

The Philip Ahn papers, 1935-2001 (bulk 1935-1978), consist of film and television stills, scripts and teleplays, biographical materials, certificates, awards, realia, and photographs created and collected by Philip Ahn as well as by family members after his death. The materials document Ahn's career as a film and television actor, as well as his armed service history and many commitments to the Korean community.

Photographs make up the bulk of the papers, both in the form of film and television stills as well as personal and family related items. There are numerous headshots, portraits, and family events, as well as materials collected after Ahn's death, including photo albums from his funeral and his posthumous induction into Hollywood Walk of Fame. The papers also include certificates of Ahn's achievements, such as his multiple appointments as honorary mayor of Panorama City, receipt of the Heart Service Award, and his acceptance as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Awards and realia (mainly in the form of plaques) are also prevalent within the collection and largely relate to Ahn's armed service history and contributions, as well as his local involvement in the Korean community. The remainder of the collection consists of scripts and teleplays, articles and clippings, some correspondence, and various publications and programs, including a program and invitation for the 46th Annual Academy Awards.


  • 1935 - 2001
  • Majority of material found within 1935 - 1978


Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of the Korean Heritage Library. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Korean Heritage Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.


Philip Ahn, born March 29, 1905 in Los Angeles, was a Korean American film and television actor (despite his portrayal as Japanese in many roles) and USC alum. He was discovered for his first film role ("The General Died at Dawn", 1936) while on campus and subsequently dropped out after completion of his second year in order to seriously pursue acting.

Ahn was the son of Dosan Ahn Chang-ho and Helen Lee Ahn; his family was reportedly the first of Korean descent to settle in Los Angeles, emigrating to the United States in 1902. His father was an activist and educator during the colonial period of the Korean Independence movement and returned to Korea in the 1920s to continue his efforts there. Ahn was the oldest of two brothers and two sisters, one of whom was Susan Ahn Cuddy, the first ever Asian-American woman to join the U.S. Navy.

Ahn revealed his desire to be involved in society by the young age of 13, selling war bonds for which he received commendation of his excellence. This drive extended into Ahn's academic career at USC, where he was the member of multiple honor societies, assistant to the Dean of Men, president of the USC Cosmopolitan Club, and chairman of the All University Committee on International Relations.

Despite his active film career during the 1930s and 1940s, wherein he worked with such actors as Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple and Anna May Wong, Ahn found the time to assist during World War II as a member of the U.S. Infantry. Ahn continued his armed services involvement during the Vietnam War, visiting American and Korean soldiers at the invitation of the U.S. Government, for which he received a number of awards and accolades. Ahn was also an instrumental part of establishing the Do San Memorial Park in Seoul, Korea and worked to make Los Angeles a sister city of Pusan, Korea. He helped bring the Korean Bell of Friendship to San Pedro, California and served as honorary mayor of Panorama City, California for twenty years.

Philip Ahn died on February 28, 1978 due to complications from surgery. He was 72. On November 14, 1984, he posthumously became the first-ever Korean American actor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


4 Linear Feet (4 bankers boxes)

Language of Materials



Philip Ahn was a Korean American actor, WWII veteran, and USC alum. This small collection comprises primarily personal and family photographs, film and television stills, and awards and realia documenting Ahn's professional career, personal life, and his numerous involvements within the Korean community. It also contains scripts, teleplays, and some biographical materials.


The Philip Ahn papers have been organized into the following series: 1. Film and TV stills; 2. Scripts and teleplays; 3. Biographical materials, awards, and realia; 4. Personal and family photographs.

The original arrangement of the film and TV stills was primarily chronological; this organization has been kept intact and applied to the remainder of the series excluding the scripts and teleplays series, which has been arranged alphabetically, as documented in the separated materials note.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Ahn family.

Related Archival Materials

Related materials pertaining to Philip Ahn's father can be found within USC's Korean-American Digital Archive under An Chang Ho, as part of the Korean American Private Records subcollection.

Separated Materials

This collection includes correspondence between USC and the Ahn family regarding the processing of Philip Ahn's papers, specifically that the scripts would be housed as part of USC's Cinematic Arts library. There is an inventory within the collection (compiled by Ahn's family members) of the scripts that were given to the Cinematic Arts library, as well as a listing of the film and tv stills that were to be kept within this current collection and housed at the Korean Heritage Library. As the Ahn scripts in the Cinematic Arts library have yet to be processed, please consult Box 1, Folder 40 for a complete list of their holdings. It should also be noted that some scripts and teleplays, many incomplete and that were not featured on the inventory, remained loose within Box 1 of this collection; these have now been organized into their own series and arranged alphabetically.

Finding aid for the Philip Ahn papers
Sarah Cassone
2018 January
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 August: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub: created new container records (listed under "Unprocessed material") using container lists from a collections move managed by Backstage Library Works.

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries East Asian Library Repository

Doheny Memorial Library
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-1825 United States