Strange & beautiful images and interesting info from the years 1900-1935 (with emphasis on movies & the arts). This is written to accompany Becky Bradway's novel-in-progress, Into the Beautiful New. And check out my blog on old movies & writers at intothebeautifulnew.com.
Sessue Hayakawa, one of the most popular of the silent film stars until the mid-1920’s, in several of his roles. (if reading on the blog, click the edge of the photo to see additional shots.) The only lead male Asian actor of his time, he was cast in films that showed him to be [insert Asian stereotypes here] duplicitous, silent, manipulative, of artistic sensibility, and willing to sacrifice himself for money, passion, or love. He was quite sexy, with a still and smoldering presence, and was actually more popular among women than Valentino. Of his surviving films, The Cheat, directed by Cecil B. DeMille in 1915, was his most popular; this film features a near-rape scene that involves branding a woman so that she might belong to him. Women flocked to the film. Hayakawa got so tired of being negatively typecast that he formed his own film company; unfortunately, nearly all of these films have been lost. His best surviving film is The Dragon Painter, which has been released by Kino on DVD.
A few biographical tidbits, apparently true: Sessue Hayakawa was descended from samurai. He tried to commit seppuku because he failed the Navy physical. After surviving, he went to the States to study and play football at the U. of Chicago. Later in life, he became a Zen master and even wrote a book about it.