Sessue Hayakawa

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Kintaro Hayakawa (早川 金太郎 ; June 10, 1886 – November 23, 1973), known professionally as Sessue Hayakawa (早川 雪洲), was a Japanese actor and a matinée idol. He was one of the most popular stars in Hollywood during the silent film era of the 1910s and early 1920s. Hayakawa was the first actor of Asian descent to achieve stardom as a leading man in the United States and Europe. His "broodingly handsome" good looks and typecasting as a sexually dominant villain made him a heartthrob among American women during a time of racial discrimination, and he became one of the first male sex symbols of Hollywood.

He made his breakthrough in The Cheat (1915), and thereafter became famous for his roles as a forbidden lover. Hayakawa was a highly paid star of his time, earning $3,500 a week in 1919 and $2 million through his own production company from 1918 to 1920. Because of rising anti-Japanese sentiment and business difficulties, Hayakawa left Hollywood in 1922 and performed on Broadway and in Japan and Europe for many years before making his Hollywood comeback in Daughter of the Dragon (1931).

Of his talkies, Hayakawa is probably best known for his role as Kuala, the pirate captain in Swiss Family Robinson (1960 film) and Colonel Saito in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), for which he earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Hayakawa starred in over 80 feature films, and three of his films (The Cheat, The Dragon Painter, and The Bridge on the River Kwai) stand in the United States National Film Registry.

Sessue Hayakawa's Argyle Castle; 1904 Argyle Avenue, Los Angeles

Sessue Hayakawa was the first and one of the few Asian American/Asian actors to find stardom in the United States and Europe and was also the first leading Asian male actor in the United States. He became the first male sex symbol of Hollywood long before and the precursor to Rudolph Valentino. His fame rivaled that of Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin. His fame began during the silent film era, leading into sound pictures in his later life. He became a film actor in a somewhat reluctant and accidental manner when the famous producer Thomas Ince saw his theatre play The Typhoon and wanted to turn it into a silent film and when it was released the film was an instant hit. With rising stardom he was eventually offered film contract by Famous Players-Lasky now Paramount Pictures. His second film with the production company, The Cheat (1915), was a success and made him a romantic hit with U.S. female audiences. He became a leading man of romance films, considered a heartthrob and a sex symbol; many actresses wanted to work with him in films, in which he was often cast as the exotic male Asian lover that women desired. After years of being typecast as a villain and exotic Asian lover that white women could not have, he decided to start his own production company, where he eventually made 23 films; he produced, starred in, and directed them, and contributed to their design, writing and editing. His films also influenced the way the United States viewed Asians. He personally chose American actress Marin Sais to appear opposite him in his films such as The City of Dim Faces and His Birthright. Hayakawa's collaboration with Sais ended with the film Bonds of Honor (1919). In 1919, Hayakawa made what is generally considered one of his best films, The Dragon Painter. After some bad business, he left the United States and for the next 15 years he worked in Europe and Japan where he made many popular films and plays such as the films The Great Prince Chan and the play Samurai which he performed for the king and queen of the United Kingdom at that time King George V and Queen Mary and a stage play version of The Three Musketeers. His fame in France came from France's fascination with anything Asian. In the 1930s with the rise of Talkies and growing Anti-Japanese sentiment due to World War II. During the war, he tried to perform in Europe but eventually became trapped by the Germans and for years was not able to work as an actor until Humphrey Bogart tracked him and down and offered him a role in his film Tokyo Joe (1949) which became a hit and afterwards he did another successful film Three Came Home (1950). After the war his image in films this time was as the honorable villain which he became typecasted as and from it he starred in what is considered to be his most famous film of his entire career The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) for which he was nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award. On February 8, 1960, in a joint ceremony with Anna May Wong,

Hayakawa became the first Asian American actor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Hayakawa and his wife Tsuru Aoki (1892-1961), were born in Japan but following different paths had, in 1913, both joined a Japanese theater group in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. There they were discovered and put under contract by the pioneering motion picture producer Thomas Ince, who was recruiting “exotic” performers for his new film studio in Santa Monica. (For instance, Ince had also negotiated with the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Wild West Show, which included a troupe of actual Sioux, to appear in his Westerns in exchange for winter grazing rights). After appearing in a couple of short films, Hayakawa and Aoki made their first feature, The Wrath of the Gods, released in May of 1914 just weeks after their marriage.



Late TV Appearances

  • 1963 Route 66 (TV Series)
    • Two Strangers and an Old Enemy (1963) ... Takasuka
  • 1958 The Geisha Boy as Mr. Sikita
  • 1958 Wagon Train (TV Series) as Sakae Ito
    • The Sakae Ito Story (1958) ... Sakae Ito
  • 1958 The Red Skelton Hour (TV Series) as Japanese Officer
    • Bolivar and the Lost Patrol (1958) ... Japanese Officer
    • Episode #7.27 (1958) ... Japanese Officer
  • 1958 Studio One (TV Series) as Dr. Sato
    • Kurishiki Incident (1958) ... Dr. Sato
  • 1958 Kraft Theatre (TV Series) as Japanese soldier
    • The Sea Is Boiling Hot (1958) ... Japanese soldier

Late Films

  • Junjô nijûsô (1967) as Tajima (final film role)
  • The Daydreamer (1966) as The Mole (voice)
  • The Big Wave (1961) as The Old Man
  • Swiss Family Robinson (1960) as Kuala, Pirate Chief
  • Hell to Eternity (1960) as Gen. Matsui
  • Green Mansions (1959) as Runi
  • The Geisha Boy (1958) as Mr. Sikita
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) as Colonel Saito
  • House of Bamboo (1955) as Insp. Kita (dubbed by Richard Loo)
  • Nihon yaburezu (1954)
  • Kurama Tengu to Katsu Kaishû (1953) as Awanokami Katsu
  • Onna kanja himon - Akô rôshi (1953) as Sakon Tachibana
  • Re mizeraburu: kami to jiyu no hata (1950)
  • Re mizeraburu: kami to akuma (1950)
  • Harukanari haha no kuni (1950) as Joe Hayami
  • Three Came Home (1950) as Col. Mitsuo Suga
  • Tokyo Joe (1949) as Baron Kimura

European, American and Japanese Films (1922-1947)

  • 1947 Quartier chinois as Tchang
  • 1946 Le cabaret du grand large as Professeur Wang
  • 1943 Le soleil de minuit as Matsui
  • 1943 Malaria as Saïdi
  • 1942 Gambling Hell as Ying Tchaï
  • 1942 Patrouille blanche as Halloway
  • 1938 Tempête sur l'Asie as Le prince Ling
  • 1937 The Cheat as Prince Hu-Long
  • 1937 Yoshiwara as Ysamo, Kuli (France)
  • 1937 Atarashiki tsuchi as Iwao Yamato (German-Japanese)
  • 1935 Kuni o mamoru mono: Nichiren as Nichiren (Japan)
  • 1935 Tôjin Okichi as Townsend Harris (Japan)
  • 1934 Bakugeki hikôtai (Japan)
  • 1932 The Sun Rise from the East as Kenji
  • 1932 Running Hollywood (Short) as Sessue Hayakawa
  • 1931 Daughter of the Dragon as Ah Kee (USA)
  • 1929 Sessue Hayakawa in 'the Man Who Laughed Last' (Short)
  • 1924 Have Killed as Hideo - l'antiquaire japonais
  • 1924 Sen Yan's Devotion as Sen Yan
  • 1924 The Great Prince Shan as Prince Shan
  • 1924 The Danger Line as Marquis Yorisaka
  • 1923 The Battle as Le Marquis Yorisaka
  • 1922 The Vermilion Pencil as Tse Chan / The Unknown / Li Chan (USA)
  • 1922 Five Days to Live as Tai Leung

Haworth Pictures 1919-1921

  • A Heart in Pawn (1919) as Tomaya
  • The Courageous Coward (1919) as Suki Iota
  • His Debt (1919) as Goto Mariyama
  • The Man Beneath (1919) as Dr. Chindi Ashutor
  • The Gray Horizon (1919) as Yamo Masata
  • The Dragon Painter (1919) as Tatsu - the Dragon Painter
  • Bonds of Honor (1919) as Yamashito / Sasamoto
  • The Illustrious Prince (1919) as Prince Maiyo
  • The Tong Man (1919) as Luk Chen
  • The Beggar Prince (1920) as Nikki / Prince
  • The Brand of Lopez (1920) as Vasco Lopez
  • The Devil's Claim (1920) as Akbar Khan / Hassan
  • Li Ting Lang (1920) as Li Ting Lang
  • An Arabian Knight (1920) as Ahmed
  • The First Born (1921) as Chan Wang
  • Black Roses (1921) as Yoda
  • Where Lights Are Low (1921) as Tsu Wong Shih
  • The Swamp (1921) as Wang

Famous Player Lasky Films (1915-1918)

  • After Five (1915) as Oki - the Valet
  • The Famine (1915) as Horisho
  • The Chinatown Mystery (1915) as Yo Hong
  • The Clue (1915) as Nogi
  • The Secret Sin (1915) as Lin Foo
  • The Cheat (1915) as Hishuru Tori (original release) / Haka Arakau
  • Temptation (1915) as Opera Admirer
  • Alien Souls (1916) as Sakata
  • The Honorable Friend (1916) as Makino
  • The Soul of Kura San (1916) as Toyo
  • The Victoria Cross (1916) as Azimoolah
  • Each to His Kind (1917) as Rhandah
  • The Bottle Imp (1917) as Lopaka
  • The Jaguar's Claws (1917) as El Jaguar
  • Forbidden Paths (1917) as Sato
  • Hashimura Togo (1917) as Hashimura Togo
  • The Call of the East (1917) as Arai Takada
  • The Secret Game (1917)
  • The Hidden Pearls (1918) as Tom Garvin
  • The Honor of His House (1918) as Count Ito Onato
  • The White Man's Law (1918) as John A. Genghis
  • The Bravest Way (1918) as Kara Tamura
  • The City of Dim Faces (1918) as Jang Lung
  • His Birthright (1918) as Yukio
  • Banzai (1918) as The American General
  • The Temple of Dusk (1918) as Akira

Thomas Ince Films (1914)

  • 1914 The Typhoon as Tokorama
  • 1914 The Wrath of the Gods as Lord Yamaki
  • 1914 The Sacrifice

Early Work (1914)

  • 1914 The Last of the Line (Short) as Tiah - Gray Otter's Son
  • 1914 Mother of the Shadows (Short) as Running Elk
  • 1914 The Vigil (Short) as Kenjiro
  • 1914 Nipped (Short) as Taro Kamura
  • 1914 The Hateful God (Short) (unconfirmed)
  • 1914 The Death Mask (Short) as Running Wolf
  • 1941 Star of the North
  • 1914 The Village 'Neath the Sea (Short) as Red Elk
  • 1914 The Curse of Caste (Short) as Kato Matsumoto
  • 1914 A Relic of Old Japan (Short) as Koto
  • 1914 A Tragedy of the Orient (Short) as Kato
  • 1914 The Ambassador's Envoy (Short) as Kamuri
  • 1914 The Geisha (Short) as Takura
  • 1914 The Courtship of O San (Short) as Shotoku
  • 1914 O Mimi San (Short) as Yorotomo