The Story of Sessue Hayakawa Pt. 1
When I was in college back, quite literally before the last turn of the century, I wrote my college thesis on The Hidden Asian in Film.
Did you ever notice that there were no Asians in any of the original Star Wars trilogy?
But the Asian influences were everywhere:
- The Emperor / The Emperor
- The Shogun’s helmet / Darth Vader’s shogun helmet
- Martial arts / Martial arts
- The force / Qi
- Yin-Yang / Dark-Light Side of the Force
- Jedi knights / Shaolin warrior monks
In fact, the story of the original Star Wars “borrowed” heavily from the Japanese film Hidden Fortress but Lucas didn’t think any actual Japanese merited any screen time.
And that’s pretty much how films and television treated Asians for years – Asian-ish. Even characters like Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were Asian-like – caricatures played by Caucasian actors.
But there was this fella named Sessue Hayakawa, who is not the fella pictured above but was the first sex symbol of Hollywood – ever. He pre-dated Rudolph Valentino by several years.
And his story goes just a little bit in explaining why there’s always been an Asian influence in Hollywood and television but few actual Asians.
For that part of the story, I’m going to head over to my friend Jocelyn’s website: Speaking of China for part 2 of this entry.
Location: yesterday, with a pot of coffee
Mood: ready for the week
Music: My oh my oh my what a wonder, my oh my oh my what a wonder
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