Sessue Hayakawa: Transnational Star: A Screening of Forbidden Paths and The Devil's Claim

with Daisuke Miyao
Friday, October 26, 2007 - 7:00pm
Sessue Hayakawa, remembered for his Oscar-nominated performance as a frowning Japanese military officer in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), was the only non-white superstar of American silent cinema. How was it possible for the Japanese actor to become a movie star in the United States, especially when the anti-Japanese movement was rising? In this talk, actor and professor Daisuke Miyao discusses the formation of the star persona of this Japanese actor (who happens to be a University of Chicago graduate) in the industrial mechanism of early Hollywood and in relation to the socio-political and cultural conditions in the U.S. during the 1910s and 1920s, touching on issues of Japonisme and the legal racialization of Asian immigrants. Screening in conjuction with Prof. Miyao's lecture: In The Devils' Claim, which was produced at Hayakawa's own Haworth Pictures, Hayakawa plays a Persian novelist in Greenwich Village who becomes involved in a tale of devil worship. Colleen Moore, in her pre-flapper days, is cast here as a very young Persian girl and Hayakawa's love interest. The film was restored by the UCLA Film Archive, funded by AFI/The Film Foundation, in 2004. (Charles Swickard, 1920, 65 min., silent, 35mm print courtesy of The George Eastman House Archive) Hayakawa's star vehicle, Forbidden Paths, was produced at the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company and features the actor as a sincere and honest Japanese-American shopkeeper in love with a white woman. In the end, he nobly sacrifices his desire for her happiness. (Robert Thornby, 1917, 65 min., silent, print courtesy of The Library of Congress) Daisuke Miyao is Assistant Professor of Japanese film at University of Oregon and the author of Sessue Hayakawa: Silen Cineman and Transnational Stardom (Duke University Press, 2007).

Co-sponsored by The Japan Committee