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Sessue Hayakawa
Biographical Information

Birth Date:June 10, 1889
Astrology Sign:Gemini
Chinese Sign: -
Birth Name:
Birth Place:
Died Date:November 23, 1973

Occupation:Movie Actor

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Sessue Hayakawa

Biography:Sessue Hayakawa was a Japanese actor in both Japanese and American films, including two in the U.S. National Film Registry.

Sessue Hayakawa was born in Nanaura, Chiba, Japan. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Sessue Hayakawa was awarded a star on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1645 Vine Street, in Hollywood, California. During Hollywood's silent screen era Japanese screen star Sessue Hayakawa rivaled Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and John Barrymore in popularity with film audiences. Hayakawa was one of the highest paid Hollywood stars of his time, making over $5,000 a week in 1915, then $2 million a year through his own production company in 1920s. He was handsome and flamboyant and gave some of Hollywood's legendary parties. Hayakawa was also Paramount's first choice for the role of The Sheik that launched Rudolph Valentino's career in 1918. Not bad for a student from Japan who stumbled into acting during a vacation in Los Angeles. Hayakawa was a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life. He was an actor, producer, author, martial artist and an ordained Zen monk. He starred in over 80 movies and achieved stardom on three continents. In one night during the peak of his success, he gambled away $1 million at Monte Carlo, shrugging off the loss while another Japanese gambler who lost a fortune committed suicide. From the gaudy heights of Hollywood in the early 20s, to occupied France in the 30s and 40s, to his academy-award nomination in 1957, Hayakawa's movie-like life brimmed with extraordinary adventures and accomplishments. The future matinee idol was born Hayakawa Kintaro on June 10, 1890 in Chiba, Japan, the second eldest son of the provincial governor. From early on he was groomed for a career as a naval officer. But in 1907, at 17, he took a schoolmate's dare to swim to the bottom of a lagoon and ruptured an eardrum. He was studying at the Naval Academy in Etajima but his perfect health was now shattered and he failed the navy's rigorous physical. His proud father became depressed, humiliated and shamed. Consequently, the father-son relationship suffered. The strained relationship between the Kintaros drove the 18-year-old to decide to commit harakiri. One quiet night after dinner Hayakawa entered a garden shed on his parents' property, locked his favorite dog outside and spread a white sheet on the ground. To uphold his family's samurai tradition, Hayakawa stabbed himself in the abdomen more than 30 times. But death wasn't ready for him. The dog's barking alerted Hayakawa's family and his father smashed through the shed door with an axe in time to save his son. Hayakawa was on vacation in Los Angeles when he drifted into The Japanese Playhouse in Little Tokyo and became caught up in acting and staging plays. That was when he first assumed the name Sessue Hayakawa. One of the productions Hayakawa staged was called The Typhoon. A movie producer named Thomas Ince saw the production and offered to turn it into a silent movie using the original cast. Anxious to return to his studies at the University of Chicago, Hayakawa decided to discourage Ince by called the absurdly high fee of $500 a week. Ince agreed to pay it. The Typhoon was filmed in 1914. Meanwhile, on May 1 of that year Hayakawa met and married Tsuru Aoki, a Hollywood star in her own right who had descended from a family of performers. The Typhoon was a hit. Hayakawa made two more films with Ince, The Wrath of the Gods with Aoki as his co-star, and The Sacrifice, before signing with the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company which later became Paramount Pictures. In his second film for Paramount, The Cheat, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Hayakawa played a predatory Japanese art dealer who burns a brand on the shoulder of leading lady Fannie Mae. With this role Hayakawa's dashing good looks and acting style made him an instant matinee idol. By 1915 his salary soared to over $5,000 a week. In 1917 he had the money to build as his residence a castle on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Argyle Street which became a landmark until being torn down in 1956. Critics of the day hailed Hayakawa's Zen-influenced acting style. Hayakawa sought to bring muga, or the "absence of doing," to his performances, in direct contrast to the then-popular studied poses and broad gestures. In the more than 20 films Hayakawa made with Paramount, he was typecast as the exotic lover or villain forced to relinquish the heroine in the last act--unless the heroine was his wife, Aoki. The titles of some of his films suggest Hayakawa's roles--The White Man's Laws, Hidden Pearls, and The Call of the East. Hayakawa played a South Sea Islander in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Bottle Imp. His wife appeared with him in Alien Souls, The Honorable Friend, The Soul of Sura Kan, Each to His Own Kind and Hashimura Fog. Many of Hollywood's leading stars were Hayakawa's friends. He is even credited with launching the career of Rudolph Valentino. Hayakawa's contract with Paramount expired in May, 1918, but the studio asked him to star in The Sheik. Hayakawa turned down the picture in favor of starting his own company. The role went to the unknown Valentino who rose to overnight. Hollywood's typecasting ultimately pushed Hayakawa to form his own production company. He borrowed $1 million from a former classmate at the University of Chicago and formed Hayworth Films in 1918, with offices on the corner of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. Over the next three years he pumped out 23 films and netted $2 million a year. Hayakawa controlled his material. He produced, starred in, and contributed to the design, writing, editing, and directing of the films. His films influenced the way the American public viewed Asians. In The Jaguar's Claws , filmed in the Mojave Desert, Hayakawa played a Mexican bandit. He needed 500 cowboys as extras. On the first night of filming, the extras got drunk all night well into the next day. No work was being done. Hayakawa challenged the group to a fight. Two men stepped forward. "The first one struck out at me. I seized his arm and sent him flying on his face along the rough ground. The second attempted to grapple and I was forced to flip him over my head and let him fall on his neck. The fall knocked him unconscious." Hayakawa then disarmed yet another cowboy. The extras returned to work, amused by the way the small man manhandled the big bruising cowboys. The 1919 production, The Dragon Painter, starring his wife, is generally considered Hayakawa's best work from that era. It was based on a 1906 novel by Fenollosa who had lived in Japan with her husband. It is the story of a painter who searches for a dragon princess he believes was stolen from him in another life. He eventually finds her but loses his desire to paint. The story was set in Japan but was filmed mostly in Yosemite Valley. This was Hayakawa's Hollywood heyday. His popularity rivaled that of Douglas Fairbanks and John Barrymore. He drove a gold-plated Pierce-Arrow . He entertained lavishly in his Hollywood castle, the scene of some of the film community's wildest parties. Just before prohibition took effect in 1920 he bought a carload of booze. Hayakawa once claimed that he owed his social success to his liquor supply. "My one ambition is to play a hero."

A bad business deal forced Hayakawa to leave Hollywood in 1921. The next 15 years saw him performing in New York, France, England and Japan. In 1924 he made The Great Prince Chan and The Story of Su in London. In 1925 he wrote a novel, The Bandit Prince, and turned it into a short play. In 1930 he performed in a one act play written especially for him, Samurai, for the King and Queen of England. He also became very popular in France thanks to the prevailing French fascination with anything Asian. In 1930 Hayakawa returned to Japan and produced a Japanese-language stage version of The Three Musketeers, and adopted two girls and one boy. In the 1930s his career began to suffer from the rise of talkies, movies with sound, and a growing anti-Japanese sentiment. Hollywood deemed his gifts unsuited to the new talkies. Hayakawa's talking film debut came in 1931 in Daughter of the Dragon starring opposite Anna May Wong. In 1937 Hayakawa went to France to act in Yoshiwara and found himself trapped for the balance of the war by the German occupation. He made a few movies during those years, but supported himself mainly by selling his watercolors. He had also joined the French underground and aided allied flyers during the war. From 1937 Hayakawa was separated from his family until 1949 when Humphrey Bogart's production company tracked him down and offered him a role in Tokyo Joe. Before issuing a work permit, the American Consulate investigated Hayakawa's activities during the war. They found that he had in no way contributed to the German war effort. Hayakawa followed Joe with Three Came Home before returning to France. His post-war screen persona remain relatively fixed as the honorable villain, perhaps best exemplified in his role as Colonel Saito in The Bridge on the River Kwai which won the 1957 Academy Award for best picture. Hayakawa's performance was nominated for a supporting actor category. He called this role the highlight of his career. Hayakawa's work lives on today in various forms. Some of his later films-- Geisha Boy, Tokyo Joe, Three Came Home and The Bridge on the River Kwai-- are available on video. In 1989 a musical based on his life, Sessue, played in Tokyo. In 1949, Hayakawa uttered a sentiment that often echoes in the hearts of today's Asian American actors “My one ambition is to play a hero.” In his autobiography, Zen Showed Me The Way, Hayakawa observes, “All my life has been a journey. But my journey differs from the journeys of most men.” The high-water mark left by this beautiful and inspired man has yet been equaled, even in this supposedly enlightened age. Sessue Hayakawa died in in Tokyo in 1973.

Achievements: (Filmography)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1958)

Personality and Character Cards:
Personality and character cards are identical!

Sessue Hayakawa's Personality Tarot Card The Lovers - Personality Card

Birthday: June 10, 1889

A relationship or love affair with a trial or choice involved.

This year's Growth Tarot Card
Based on this year's birthday

Sessue Hayakawa's Growth Tarot Card The Hierophant

Birthday: June 10, 2023

Guidance on religious matters and the need to find spiritual meaning in life.




Portions of famous people database was used with permission from Russell Grant from his book The Book of Birthdays Copyright © 1999, All rights reserved. Certain biographical material and photos licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, from Wikipedia, which is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

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