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Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom (John Hope Franklin Center Books)


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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

While the actor Sessue Hayakawa (1886andndash;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 Hayakawaandrsquo;s stardom, Daisuke Miyao reconstructs the Japanese actorandrsquo;s remarkable career, from the films that preceded his meteoric rise to fame as the star of Cecil B. DeMilleandrsquo;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 Hayakawaandrsquo;s stardom as an ongoing process of cross-cultural negotiation. Hayakawaandrsquo;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 Hayakawaandrsquo;s image by emphasizing the actorandrsquo;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 starandrsquo;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.


Critical biography of Sessue Hayakawa, a Japanese actor who became a popular silent film star in the U.S., that looks at how Hollywood treated issues of race and nationality in the early twentieth century.

About the Author

“Fascinating . . . an exceptionally rich and provocative study of race and national imagery at the beginnings of the Hollywood film industry.”—Richard Peña, Program Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center, and Professor of Film Studies, Columbia University
“Sessue Hayakawa has not received the attention he deserves as one of the most popular and prolific stars of the American silent screen, and this book brings a wealth of material to light. Without replicating existing research, Daisuke Miyao makes an important contribution to three developing areas within film studies: new approaches to the history of early silent film, studies of the impact of Asian Americans on Hollywood, and studies of transnational links among various film industries around the world.”—Gina Marchetti, author of From Tian’anmen to Times Square: Transnational China and the Chinese Diaspora on Global Screens, 1989–1997
“This is the definitive work on Sessue Hayakawa. It is a work of great originality, a truly unique attempt not only to give a thorough account of the career of one of the first and most unusual stars of silent cinema but also to approach Hayakawa from the perspective of his identity as an ethnic Japanese gaining worldwide stardom. That Daisuke Miyao is able to interrogate not only Japanese sources but the Japanese-language newspapers in the United States makes this perhaps the most thorough—and complex—treatment of the ethnicity of a movie star ever offered by a film historian. And Miyao’s placing of Hayakawa’s stardom within the context of the political and cultural relations between the United States and Japan is nothing less than masterful.”—Tom Gunning, author of The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity

Table of Contents

List of Illustration ix

List of Abbreviations xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

PART ONE: Emperor, Buddhist, Spy, or Indian: The Pre-Star Period of Sessue Hayakawa (1914-15)

1. A Star Is Born: The Transnational Success of The Cheat and Its Race and Gender Politics 21

2. Screen Debut: O Mimi San, or The Mikado in Picturesque Japan 50

3. Christianity versus Buddhism: The Melodramatic Imagination in The Wrath of the Gods 57

4. Doubleness: American Images of Japanese Spies in The Typhoon 66

5. The Noble Savage and the Vanishing Race: Japanese Actors in andldquo;Indian Filmsandrdquo; 76

PART TWO: Villain, Friend, or Lover: Sessue Hayakawaandrsquo;s Stardom at Lasky-Paramount (1916-18)

6. The Making of an Americanized Japanese Gentleman: The Honorable Friend and Hashimura Togo 87

7. More Americanized than the Mexican: The Melodrama of Self-Sacrifice and the Genteel Tradition in Forbidden Paths 106

8. Sympathetic Villains and Victim-Heroes: The Soul of Kura San and The Call of the East 117

9. Self-Sacrifice in the First World War: The Secret Game 127

10. The Cosmopolitan Way of Life: The Americanization of the Sessue Hayakawa in Magazines 136

PART THREE: andldquo;Triple Consciousnessandrdquo;: Sessue Hayakawaandrsquo;s Stardom at Haworth Pictures Corporation (1918-22)

11. Balancing Japaneseness and Americanization: Authenticity and Patriotism in His Birthright and Banzai 153

12. Return of the Americanized Orientals: Robertson-Coleandrsquo;s Expansion and Standardization of Sessue Hayakawayandrsquo;s Star Vehicles 168

13. The Mask: Sessue Hayakawaandrsquo;s Redefinition of Silent Film Acting 195

14. The Star Falls: Postwar Nativism and the Decline of Sessue Hayakawaandrsquo;s Stardom 214

PART FOUR: Stardom and Japanese Modernity: Sessue Hayakawa in Japan

15. Americanization and Nationalism: The Japanese Reception of Sessue Hayakawa 235

Epilogue 261

Notes 283

Filmography 333

Bibliography 337

Index 365

Product Details

Miyao, Daisuke
Duke University Press
Miyao, Daisuke
Film & Video - History & Criticism
Hayakawa, Sesshu
Film - History & Criticism
Film and Television-History and Criticism
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
John Hope Franklin Center Books
Publication Date:
23 illustratons
8.88 x 6.13 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Actors » Biographies
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Music » General

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Product details 400 pages Duke University Press - English 9780822339694 Reviews:
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Critical biography of Sessue Hayakawa, a Japanese actor who became a popular silent film star in the U.S., that looks at how Hollywood treated issues of race and nationality in the early twentieth century.
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