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Sessue Hayakawa

Sessue Hayakawa

Kintarō Hayakawa (早川 金太郎 Hayakawa Kintarō; June 10, 1886 – November 23, 1973), known professionally as Sessue Hayakawa (早川 雪洲 Hayakawa Sesshū), 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.After withdrawing from the Japanese naval academy and attempting suicide at 18, Hayakawa attended the University of Chicago, where he studied political economics in accordance with his wealthy parents' wish that he become a banker. Upon graduating, he traveled to Los Angeles in order to board a scheduled ship back to Japan, but decided to try out acting in Little Tokyo. There, Hayakawa impressed Hollywood figures and was signed on to star in The Typhoon (1914). He made his breakthrough in The Cheat (1915), and thereafter became famous for his roles as a forbidden lover. Hayakawa was one of the highest paid stars of his time, earning $5,000 per week in 1915, and $2 million per year through his own production company from 1918 to 1921. 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) 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.
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