Guest Post: Did You Know Hollywood's 1st Sex Symbol Was an Asian Man? | Speaking of China

33 Responses

  1. Asian-ish | On (or close to) Schedule October 24, 2014 at 7:56 am |
  2. R Zhao
    R Zhao October 24, 2014 at 9:17 am | | Reply

    Fascinating! I just read more about Hayakawa on Wikipedia. It’s amazing how big he was, yet he’s mostly faded into obscurity. He does have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame which is pretty cool. It’s interesting that many Japanese were offended that he was often portrayed as a villain, yet here we are celebrating his success as a sex symbol. IMO, he was classically handsome.

  3. Sveta
    Sveta October 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm | | Reply

    Wow he was handsome. I have heard of him previously, and do know that he was one of the few that tended to have, well, sexualized roles if I’m not mistaken.

  4. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary
    Constance - Foreign Sanctuary October 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm | | Reply

    I agree with the previous commenters that he is for sure handsome. However, I have never heard of him. Off to do more reading about him.

  5. Timo
    Timo October 24, 2014 at 7:41 pm | | Reply

    It is very interesting how he faded from fame at least in the western world. I had never heard about him till today and checked on his wiki.
    I guess the anti-japanese sentiment towards the end of his career pretty much was the main reason why he is gone from memories these days.

    Thank you for bringing him up here, will need to check if I can find some material to watch by him 🙂

  6. David
    David October 24, 2014 at 8:39 pm | | Reply

    He returned to Japan and died there….there was a feeling that he did not fit into the USA

  7. David
    David October 24, 2014 at 8:41 pm | | Reply

    @Timo…kindly ask any American not involved with Asia or Asian Americans about any actor of Asian origin, I will bet 80% will not be able to name one, even those watching Hawaill Five-O….may be they will name Mindy Kaling…that is about it.

  8. David
    David October 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm | | Reply

    “Unfortunately, only a few years later, the idea of an Asian man as a masculine movie lead disappeared, leaving the simple extremes of Fu Manchu/Charlie Chan as the only dramatis personae for Asian dudes.”

    Black men took the role of the villain after the Civil Rights Act of 1964…while Asians became the Fu Manchu types with the advent of the Model Minority nerd stereo type…Until the waves of Asian immigration, the view of Asian men and women were similar to that of other non-whites: dumb, deviant and inferior. As late as the 1960s, Asian Americans in High School were told that they should not go into engineering and sciences because they brains cannot cope with math and science. Now there are Silicon Valley firms which do not want to hire anyone other than Asians, jews or Hapas….go figure!

    1. Logan Lo
      Logan Lo October 30, 2014 at 10:35 am | | Reply

      That’s really interesting about the engineering and sciences, I wouldn’t have thought that. Thanks!

  9. Mary Beth
    Mary Beth October 24, 2014 at 10:27 pm | | Reply

    I am in my 60’s and only knew of this actor because of his prominent role in the (I believe) 1959 film “Bridge Over the River Kwai”. He played the Japanese prisoner of war camp commander who orders Alec Guiness to build a bridge. Guiness earlier had played an excruciatingly stereotypical Japanese character in the well-meaning but hopelessly wrong-headed movie “A Majority of One”, which attempts to examine postwar anti-Japanese prejudice. Alec Guiness later redeemed himself, at least in my eyes, by playing Obi Wan Kenobe in Star Wars. I remember watching the fifties film “Bridge to the Sun” in my teens and developed a crush on James Shigeta, the lead actor, who got to play a sexy, virile, but sensitive Japanese diplomat who marries a Tennessee girl with no notion of what she is in for culturally, politically, and militarily on the eve of WWII. I wish Shigeta could have had more opportunities.

    1. Tama
      Tama October 26, 2014 at 2:20 am | | Reply

      When I read this post, I thought of James Shigeta, too, who recently passed away.
      He was way before my time (I’m in 40s), but I heard about both Bridge to the Sun and Crimson Kimono, in which Shigeta played a lead role and was in AMWF romantic relationship. Too bad he did not get more romantic starring roles–the only role I saw him in my real lifetime was the company president who was killed in the first Die Hard movie.

    2. Robs
      Robs April 19, 2015 at 5:18 pm | | Reply

      he died last year.shame.RIP.

    3. Robs
      Robs April 19, 2015 at 5:23 pm | | Reply

      he died last year. RIP.

  10. David
    David October 25, 2014 at 12:43 am | | Reply

    @Mary Beth…Bridge on the River Kwaii..that is how I know about him…I am in my mid fifties.

  11. David
    David October 25, 2014 at 12:44 am | | Reply

    Shigeta, if I am not mistaken died a few months ago!

  12. Bruce
    Bruce October 25, 2014 at 12:59 am | | Reply

    I know about him a few yrs ago while watching a show on the struggle of Asians in the media during the early 1900’s . I also watched a show on Chinese men joined the U.S Marine during WW2.

  13. Marta
    Marta October 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm | | Reply

    I had never heard about this actor, but I don’t know much about silent movies either. He does look gorgeous!

  14. Ri
    Ri October 26, 2014 at 10:10 am | | Reply

    I had never heard of this actor! (Neither had YJ!)
    I shall certainly scrounge up as much information as I can about him now. Thank you Logan, and thank you Jocelyn! I’m curious to see how many of my Japanese friends know himーI suspect not many at all. What a find! 🙂

    1. Logan Lo
      Logan Lo October 30, 2014 at 10:34 am | | Reply

      You’re quite welcome! It’s a cool little story that most people don’t know about and I certainly wouldn’t have either had I not done any research into the topic.


  15. Maria
    Maria October 27, 2014 at 9:15 pm | | Reply

    Drools as I stare at the photo of this handsome man…….

  16. Tony
    Tony October 29, 2014 at 8:55 pm | | Reply

    Speaking of films, has anyone ever seen the film “The Lover ( L’Amant)” ?

    It’s based on a French novel, the plot is an affair between a teenage French girl and a Chinese man in 1929 French Indochina.

    The film was protrayed by Jane March and HongKong actor Tony Leung

    1. Logan Lo
      Logan Lo October 30, 2014 at 10:34 am | | Reply

      Hey, Tony!

      Actually, The Lover was one of the films I used in my thesis; it’s slightly different in that was more of an art house film, whereas The Cheat was for the masses but still, a nice film where the male lead as an Asian with a white female lead – good cite!

  17. Bruce
    Bruce October 30, 2014 at 10:43 pm | | Reply

    Now you guys have seen the evidence here that asian men could have leading roles . Do you still believe that we are inferior?

  18. David
    David October 31, 2014 at 3:37 am | | Reply

    @Bruce…remember this Rdm post…

    “Dating Asian men” seems socially awkward. That’s the “herd mentality” among westerners.
    A: “Hey my boyfriend is Asian.”
    B: “Ewww…””

    Sounds more like they dont consider him to be human…so there will always be these kinds of people..and some things will never change.

  19. Charlemagne
    Charlemagne November 9, 2014 at 8:36 am | | Reply

    The wiki page on Sessue is a bit inaccurate. If you want to learn more about him, there is a book by Daisuke Miyao called Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom. You might be able to find it at your local library.

    The wiki claims that he and his wife (the first Japanese-American female movie star, Tsuru Aoki) adopted 3 Western children. I am not sure about his two daughters, but his son (Alexander Hayes, renamed Yukio Hayakawa) was the product of an affair between Sessue and a white actress named Ruth Noble. There was a huge scandal about it during the early 1930’s.

    Sessue also authored a book about Zen towards the end of his life, that is likely OOP, but might be worth looking for.

  20. Logan Lo
    Logan Lo November 20, 2014 at 9:51 pm | | Reply

    Selfie was just cancelled!

    There’s a petition to try and save the show – I already signed. If you’d like to try as well, here’s the petition with about 23,000 signatures at this time:

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