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Sessue Hayakawa – photos and quotes

Sessue Hayakawa

“Do the Japanese like foreign drama? Oh, very much indeed; that is, serious drama. They do not care for your comedy, not even Shakespeare’s. Probably comedy is too local in its significance. They are beginning to love the Russian drama also. Tolstoi’s ‘Resurrection’ made a bit hit. They like also the serious French drama.” – Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Grace Kingsley (1916)

 

Sessue Hayawaka acting

“The Japanese plays, following Japanese tradition, are so full of repression. We of the Japanese have no way of expressing ourselves in some emotions, because of this traditional repression. Also there is more variety of characterization. But do you know, when playing an American or English character, even in Japan, I find it necessary to use the English language? I find it impossible to get the proper facial expression or the right action when I translate the words of an American or English character into Japanese. Most of the the Japanese understand English nowadays, and they did not really like your drama until I gave it to them in English.” – Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Grace Kingsley (1916)

 

Sessue Hayawaka Black Rose

“Japan likes the American motion pictures. And these are shown everywhere there. Sub-titles are not used. Instead a man stands beside the screen and reads lines, changing his voice for the different characters, speaking in high falsetto when interpreting a female role.”Sessue Hayakawa

Photo: Black Roses (1921). With Myrtle Stedman.

Source: Grace Kingsley (1916)

 

“Words are the crude things. You know, someone has said words are things used to disguise thought. It is words that cannot tell a subtle story.”Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

His Birthright (1918)

 

“I do not wriggle my hands. Neither do I make gestures. If I want to show on the screen that I hate a man, I do not shake my fist at him. I think down in my heart how I hate him and try not to move a muscle in my face, just as I would in life….That is one of the matters difficult for explanation. But the audience gets it nevertheless. It gets the story with finer shades of meaning than words could possibly tell them. Words would, in fact, take away from the meaning and confuse it.”Sessue Hayakawa

The Cheat (1915). With Fannie Ward

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

 

Sessue Hayakawa“Life in the Orient is harder than here and yet more harmonious. You western people dread death; I don’t. To a Japanese, death is nothing; it is welcomed joyously. We meet it with happiness. Our only dread is that its agonies may not be borne with sufficient courage. Suicide among the Samurai of Japan is an elaborate ceremonial…. It is undertaken without desperation. Sometimes an old officer, whose post has become obsolete through the consolidation of army departments, is given permission to commit hari-kari as an honor. The actual suicide is performed by an exact ritual. After proper prayer, the suicide seats himself on his knees and plunges a knife in his abdomen exactly one inch deep. The blade is then drawn across the belly six inches in a straight line. The cut ends with a slash of an inch straight upwards. In other words, the stroke of the hari-kari knife is straight across six inches, straight up one inch. The motion must be one continuous cut. If the knife is stopped before the cut is finished, it brings disgrace upon the man’s family. It is also considered shameful if the position of the dead man’s limbs shows that he kicked around while in his death agonies. Death comes very slow after the hari-kari. The suicide must sit on the ground with his knees drawn up and die without moving a muscle. To insure this, it is customary to bind the knees with a silken cord. It is a common thing in Japan for a man who has offended a friend to slash himself with the hari-kari knife, then bind a white cloth tightly about his middle. He walks to the house of his friend, begs his pardon and receives forgiveness. Then he unbinds the cloth and dies with perfect composure at the feet of his dear friend.”Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

 

Sessue Hayakawa cigar

“The ancient drama of Japan is all tragic and tells of death. Comedies were almost unknown among the elder Japanese. Shakespeare is popular in Japan, but the favored plays are ‘Othello,’ ‘Hamlet’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ The favorite native Japanese plays are still full of sorrow and tears, but I am surprised to note that among the American screen players, the most popular in Japan is Charlie Chaplin. A great vogue of Chaplin has come through the school kids of Japan. They spend their pennies for postcards of him, and the Japanese caricaturists, and cartoonists take great delight in depicting the comic screen comedian. In the larger cities of Japan, Chaplin’s feet and cane are as well known as in the United States. Mary Pickford is also well liked in Japan. While the American school of acting is radically different from the Japanese, there is a charm about Miss Pickford that apparently has universal translation.”Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

 

Sessue Hayakawa Tsuru Aoki“In all modesty, I might add that my wife, Tsuro Aoki, is also a favorite in Japan….We live in Los Angeles in a bungalow which in many ways reminds us of our native houses in Japan. Part of our furnishings are Japanese and part American. We do not, of course, retain the Japanese beds, which are only padded quilts laid upon the floor, nor the Japanese pillow, which is a wooden block, hollowed out to fit the head, but there are so many convenient as well as luxuriant Japanese furnishings that we have permitted ourselves to retain them.”Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

Photo: With Tsuro Aoki at their Hollywood bungalow in 1917.

 

Sessue Hayakawa“Repression is characteristic of not only the Japanese, bit of the entire Orient, and even extends its influence to the South Sea Islands and as far east as Hawaii. There are thousands of Japanese in this new colony of America and their influence has been strongly felt by the natives.”Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

 

Sessue Hayakawa“In Japan, we take most things seriously; even our athletic games, especially jiu jitsu, are looked upon more as a physical discipline than as a sport. The secrets of jiu jitsu are handed down from father to son  and it is years before one can become proficient in this really marvelous art of self-defense as well as of sudden destruction. I am very fond of jiu jitsu and practice it daily. I also have a weakness for your great American game of poker. They say that I am a great poker player and perhaps I can give you the reason why. I think it is on account of my ‘poker face,’ which never gives my hand away, so you can see there is something in the art of repression.”Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

“Japan is not a nation that thinks lightly; the struggle to live is too severe. Fiction stories are rarely read. The Japanese boy is usually to be found devoting his time to hard study.”Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

 

The Danger Line

“I remember when I was a little naval cadet in the Japanese navy that they sent us into the Indian Ocean at the height of the typhoon season. I can remember being sent aloft and being lashed to the rigging when the sea was running so high the upper rigging would be tipped over into the sea first on one roll of the ship, then on the other. No; the conditions of life are not soft in Japan. Yet, I think life is more pleasant there; the amenities of life are more harmonious.”Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

 

“The Japanese are proud of the fact that outs is the only commission that did not come to America with outstretched palm. Of all the delegations that have visited America, the Japanese mission is the only one that did not ask for money. The Allies need not fear for Japan’s part. Honor is a sacred thing in Japan, and we are bound in honor by our treaty with England. Japan is prepared to send millions of Japanese troops to Europe and to turn over her whole merchant marine. Japan is willing to take charge of transporting the American troops to Europe on either ocean and to furnish the warships to convoy the transports as well.” Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

His Birthright (1918)

 

Sessue Hayakawa“My studies of the classics of China and Japan, as well as my observation of modern history, have shown me this; that China’s destiny moves onward in cycles of 15. From the earliest dawn of history, you will find that China sinks for 15 years, than rises for 15 years. She experiences misfortunes for 15 years; then her luck turns, as you might say. I think it would be well for all the great nations to take notice of the fact that China has been experiencing a period of what you would call a ‘slump’ for the last 15 years. Her 15-year period is about over. Very soon, she is due to begin its upward stroke. She will soon begin to rise. She has 300,000,000 people. Need I say more?” — Sessue Hayakawa

Source: Harry Carr Easterfield (1918)

 

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