One of the First Hollywood Heartthrobs Was a Smoldering Japanese Actor. What Happened?


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    One of the First Hollywood Heartthrobs Was a Smoldering Japanese Actor. What Happened?

    If you think about silent-film era sex symbols, you probably conjure up a mental picture of Rudolph Valentino—even if you don’t know his name. Valentino has become synonymous with sex appeal in early films. But he wasn’t the first male star of American movies to make millions of American women go weak at the knees. That distinction goes to Sessue Hayakawa, the Japanese star of Cecil B. DeMille’s cinematic rape drama, The Cheat.

    This 1915 film was a huge hit in spite of (or more likely because of) the fact that it lasciviously hinted at a taboo subject: interracial sex. The titular “cheat” (Fannie Ward) depicted in the film is a materialistic, dishonest tease. Hayakawa, who plays her neighbor, starts out as one kind of Asian stereotype (a polite gentleman), but turns out to be an entirely different one (a swarthy predator).

    The possibility that an Asian man might be a more appealing sex partner for a white Long Island matron than her middle-aged Caucasian husband was too transgressive a notion for DeMille to fully commit to; he has Hayakawa, after spending much of the film chastely escorting Ward’s vapid socialite around, metamorphose rather abruptly into a sadistic rapist.

    http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/one-of-the-first-hollywood-heartthrobs-was-a-smoldering-japanese-actor-what-happened


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