Sessue Hayakawa: The Asian Male Sex Symbol

Sessue Hayakawa: The Asian Male Sex Symbol

Hollywood’s First Sex Symbol

From Rudolph Valentino to Richard Gere, Hollywood’s been blessed with a magnitude of gorgeous and handsome men. Such was and is their sensual presence on and off the screen that they have been named as the Sex Symbols of Hollywood. 

Be it the crooner Elvis Presley or the heartthrob George Clooney, they all seem to have the power to make the ladies swoon and get the ‘jelly legs.’

Of the numerous famous and popular Hollywood Sex Symbol that many know of, little is known of the first. Hollywood’s first Sex Symbol was an Asian Japanese actor. Yes, it was! It was Sessue Hayakawa. A sensual actor of the silent movie era, this man was embraced by the women viewers as the heartthrob. Thus, the title – ‘Sex Symbol’ was coined based on Sessue. If you’re interested in top 10 AMWF movies, click here.

Sessue Hayakawa- Sexiest Man Alive    

Sessue shot to fame after playing the role of a loan shark Hishuru Tori alongside Fannie Ward in the silent drama ‘The Cheat’ by Cecil B. DeMille. His portrayal as the sadist villain who was at the same time broodingly handsome made him the immensely popular among the women viewers.

Sessue’s rise to stardom was influenced by his sensuous talent as well as his sex appeal. His acting skills and his exotic demeanor mixture made him a strong potion that made him irresistible to the ladies. Thus, Sessue’s majority fan base were western females. 

Sessue Hayakawa had the looks and talents which earned him fame and stardom. He was one of the most sought-after actors for many roles. From being cast as a sadist villain to a forbidden lover, Hayakawa delivered his best in the industry. This further added to his allure and gained him the Sexiest man Alive title during his era.

Sessue before Hollywood

Sessue was born as Kintaro Hayakawa on June 10, 1886, in Nanaura village, Japan. Being born into a wealthy family, Hayakawa was all set to join the Japanese navy as an officer. However, on the set of having a perforated eardrum, he was turned down. The rejection led him to commit suicide but was saved by his father’s quick action.

Following the suicide episode, he focused on making a career in banking and attended the University of Chicago. Banking not being his true calling, he lost all interest. Soon he found his way to Los Angeles, where he first had a taste of acting. Mesmerized by the world of acting, he later joined Little Tokyo, a Japanese Theatre to become a full-fledged actor.

While on tour with the theatre company, he was spotted by Thomas H. Ince, a film producer. He was immediately offered a movie contract which made him an overnight success in the movie industry.

Sessue -Hollywood’s Sex Symbol

Following his casting in movies such as ‘The Typhoon’ and ‘The Wrath of the Gods’, Sessue Hayakawa became the first Asian who rose to fame as the Asian Hollywood star. His performance in the movies he acted made him one of the hottest and sought-after actors in Hollywood.

Sessue became an overnight superstar of the silent era following his role in Cecil B. DeMille’s ‘The Cheat.’ Following ‘The Cheat’s’ fame, Sessue became as popular as John Barrymore, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks.

With the perks of being popular, Sessue also became one of the highest-paid in Hollywood. Apart from being famous, he knew how and where of spending his earned money. The little- known nobody became the host of Hollywood’s most by establishing himself as his era’s utmost sex symbol. 

The other side of the Sex Symbol title 

Sessue Hayakawa was adored by American women and alike. He was idolized by the women as much as for his on-screen performance as well as for his looks. However, on the loop side, his fame and popularity among the western women were not taken in a good way by the other half. Some 6 AMWF movies are posted on our site.  Many could not accept the fact of him being the Sexiest Man of Hollywood. The ethnicity and race of the actor proved to be a tough pill for some to swallow. This may be attributed to jealousy among the many people in the movie industry as well as the viewers. Furthermore, the tense situation of the World War also added fuel to the fire. It’s a known fact that racism against Asians was always present in Hollywood. Nonetheless, Hayakawa marked his dominance in the Hollywood box office.

Sessue’s dexterity gave him the boost and the courage to leave behind Famous Players-Lasky Company and form Haworth Pictures Corp, his own production company. The company had a successful run in the beginning, but due to the rising Anti-Asian attitude, Hayakawa’s Hollywood dream was ruined. 

Now, it’s already a century since Sessue Hayakawa mesmerized Hollywood and made us awestruck with his talents and persona. No other actor of Asian descent has achieved his level of stardom as of today. So, we lay in wait for such a personality to sweep us off our feet like the way Hayakawa did. 



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Chad Wang

I'm Chad Wang, the content creator for AMWF Scene. International relationships throughout all cultures has become a big part of my identity and I would like to share that with everyone interested. I'm socially supportive of equality and want to bring the world change for the better. See my LinkedIn

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