Sessue Hayakawa

Sessue Hayakawa

Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom

  • Author: Miyao, Daisuke
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Serie: a John Hope Franklin Center Book
  • ISBN: 9780822339588
  • eISBN Pdf: 9780822389828
  • Place of publication:  Durham , United States
  • Year of digital publication: 2007
  • Month: March
  • Pages: 400
  • DDC: 791.4302/8092
  • Language: English
While the actor Sessue Hayakawa (1886–1973) is perhaps best known today for his Oscar-nominated turn as a Japanese military officer in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), in the early twentieth century he was an internationally renowned silent film star, as recognizable as Charlie Chaplin or Douglas Fairbanks. In this critical study of Hayakawa’s stardom, Daisuke Miyao reconstructs the Japanese actor’s remarkable career, from the films that preceded his meteoric rise to fame as the star of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Cheat (1915) through his reign as a matinee idol and the subsequent decline and resurrection of his Hollywood fortunes.

Drawing on early-twentieth-century sources in both English and Japanese, including Japanese-language newspapers in the United States, Miyao illuminates the construction and reception of Hayakawa’s stardom as an ongoing process of cross-cultural negotiation. Hayakawa’s early work included short films about Japan that were popular with American audiences as well as spy films that played upon anxieties about Japanese nationalism. The Jesse L. Lasky production company sought to shape Hayakawa’s image by emphasizing the actor’s Japanese traits while portraying him as safely assimilated into U.S. culture. Hayakawa himself struggled to maintain his sympathetic persona while creating more complex Japanese characters that would appeal to both American and Japanese audiences. The star’s initial success with U.S. audiences created ambivalence in Japan, where some described him as traitorously Americanized and others as a positive icon of modernized Japan. This unique history of transnational silent-film stardom focuses attention on the ways that race, ethnicity, and nationality influenced the early development of the global film industry.

  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Part One: Emperor, Buddhist, Spy, or Indian The Pre-Star Period of Sessue Hayakawa(1914–15)
    • A Star Is Born: The Transnational Success of The Cheat and ItsRace and Gender Politics
    • Screen Debut: O Mimi San, or The Mikado in Picturesque Japan
    • Christianity versus Buddhism: The Melodramatic Imagination in The Wrath of the Gods
    • Doubleness: American Images of Japanese Spies in The Typhoon
    • The Noble Savage and the Vanishing Race: Japanese Actorsin “Indian Films”
  • Part Two: Villain, Friend, or Lover Sessue Hayakawa’s Stardom at Lasky-Paramount (1916–18)
    • The Making of an Americanized Japanese Gentleman:The Honorable Friend and Hashimura Togo
    • More Americanized than the Mexican: The Melodramaof Self-Sacrifice and the Genteel Tradition in Forbidden Paths
    • Sympathetic Villains and Victim-Heroes:The Soul of Kura San and The Call of the East
    • Self-Sacrifice in the First World War: The Secret Game
    • The Cosmopolitan Way of Life: The Americanization ofSessue Hayakawa in Magazines
  • Part Three: “Triple Consciousness” Sessue Hayakawa’s Stardom at Haworth Pictures Corporation (1918–22)
    • Balancing Japaneseness and Americanization: Authenticityand Patriotism in His Birthright and Banzai
    • Return of the Americanized Orientals: Robertson-Cole’s Expansionand Standardization of Sessue Hayakawa’s Star Vehicles
    • The Mask: Sessue Hayakawa’s Redefinition of Silent Film Acting
    • The Star Falls: Postwar Nativism and the Decline ofSessue Hayakawa’s Stardom
  • Part Four: Stardom and Japanese Modernity Sessue Hayakawa in Japan
    • Americanization and Nationalism: The Japanese Reception of Sessue Hayakawa
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Filmography
  • Bibliography
  • Index


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