He was undoubtedly the most popular Japanese figure in Hollywood history. He wasn’t just a solid supporting player — such as Toshiro Mifune or Ken Takakura, Japanese actors who followed him a generation or so later — but was a genuine STAR.
His name on the marquee put butts in the seats.
Sessue Hayakawa’s career tends to get obscured today since in Hollywood it spanned the early silent movie period. Hayakawa’s subsequent careers in both movies and television were highly eclectic internationally, and lasted for nearly 55 years. He died in Tokyo in 1973 at age 84.
In his day, he was a precursor in the public mind to Rudolph Valentino, combining a similar mixture of exoticism and forbidden love. Hayakawa was a matinee idol of considerable appeal.
Today’s Quiz really puts the question to you: how much do you know about this seminal star? Our inspiration is author Daisuke Miyao’s exhaustive, 2007 biography, Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom.
As usual questions today, answers tomorrow. OK, let’s get to our Quiz:
1) Question: The great Russian director Sergei Eisenstein compared Hayakawa to which of the following “wonderful actors” in America? a) Douglas Fairbanks Sr.; b) Charlie Chaplin; c) William S. Hart; or d) Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.
2) Question: Hayakawa was born in Chiba, Japan in 1889 with the given name of Kintaro. How did the actor settle on his stage-screen name of Sessue? a) It was assigned to him by his agent; b) Because it means “snowy island,” Hayakawa adopted it; c) It was his original middle name; or d) Hayakawa just liked the sound of it.
3) Question: Which one of the following directors had the most influence in shaping Hayakawa’s early silent screen output? a) Cecil B. DeMille; b) D. W. Griffith c) Erich von Stroheim; or d) King Vidor.
4) Question: Hayakawa was kicked off the Univ. of Chicago’s football team because he kept employing violent martial arts during tight game situations. a) True; or b) False.
5) Question: Hayakawa earned as much in Hollywood as did which of the following stars? a) Charlie Chaplin; b) Lillian Gish; c) Douglas Fairbanks Sr.; or d) Mary Pickford.
6) Question: Hayakawa became widely known in the Fifties for his role as a Japanese military officer in which one of the following? a) A tv espisode of Wagon Train; b) A Bridge on the River Kwai; c) A tv episode of The Red Skelton Show; or d) A tv episode of Route 66. (Hint: the photo of Hayakawa above is from one of the four choices.)
7) Question: Hayakawa was also a “matinee idol” offscreen, marrying many times and sporting many mistresses. a) True; or b) False?
8) Question: In addition to his stardom in the early silent era, Hayakawa was known for his keen business skills, which he successfully employed as his own movie producer. a) True; or b) False.
9) Question: When Hayakawa’s Hollywood screen career was washed up by 1922, he did which one of the following: a) Left for Europe to pursue his career in France; b) Took a few years off and then small film roles to pay the rent; c) Quit acting on a regular basis; c) Became a full time movie producer.
10) Question: At his death in November of 1973, Japanese critics praised Hayakawa for his financial success in Hollywood and for which one of the following qualities? a) His canny self promotion; b) His popularity among “beautiful blond women”; c) His undying love for his home country; or d) His international appeal as a star.