Sessue Hayakawa (早川 雪洲, June 10, 1889 – November 23, 1973) was a Japanese Issei actor who starred in American, Japanese, French, German, and British films. Hayakawa was active at the outset of the American film industry. He was the first Asian actor to find stardom in the United States and Europe. He is the first Asian American as well as the first Japanese American movie star and the first Asian American leading man. His “broodingly handsome” good looks and typecasting as a sinister villain with sexual dominance made him a heartthrob among American women, and the first male sex symbol of Hollywood, several years in advance of Rudolph Valentino. During those early years, Hayakawa was as well known and as popular as Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, although today his name is largely unknown to the public.
His popularity, sex appeal, and extravagant lifestyle (e.g., his wild parties and his gold-plated Pierce-Arrow) may have fed tension within segments of American society and led to discriminatory stereotypes and the desexualization of Asian men in American productions, something that continues to today in Modern Hollywood, as exemplified by the controversial character of I.Y. Yunioshi in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Hayakawa refused to adopt the negative stereotypes. He abandoned Hollywood for European cinema and there he was treated equally. Hayakawa’s friendships with American actors led him to return to Hollywood. He was one of the highest paid stars of his time, earning $5,000 per week in 1915, and $2 million per year through his own production company during the 1920s. He starred in over eighty movies, and two of his films stand in the United States National Film Registry. Of his English-language films, Hayakawa is probably best known for his role as Colonel Saito in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which he received a nomination for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1957. He also appeared in the 1950 film Three Came Home and as the pirate leader in Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson in 1960. In addition to his film acting career, Hayakawa was a theatre actor, film and theatre producer, film director, screenwriter, novelist, martial artist, member of the French Resistance, and a Zen master.
Unbroken and 10 More Great Movies About World War II
Based on the best-selling non-fiction book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand, Angelina Jolie’s acclaimed film “Unbroken” joins a long tradition of cinema’s interest in the intricate details of World War II.
Unlike many of the other films, however, “Unbroken" narrows its focus on the impact that one individual, USA Olympian and athlete Louis Zamperini, had on the hearts and minds of hundreds of other people in and around the war. For that reason, the film stands as an interesting look at one of the world’s most fascinating events and individuals.
With “Unbroken“ available on Digital HD now, and arriving on Blu-ray, and DVD on March 24, we’ve put together a list of 10 moregreat movies about World War II that you need to check out.
Guinness served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in the Second World War, initially as a seaman in 1941, receiving a commission as an officer in 1942. He commanded a landing craft at the Allied invasion of Sicily, and later ferried supplies and agents to the Yugoslav partisans in the eastern Mediterranean theatre.
During the war, he was granted leave to appear in the Broadway production of Terence Rattigan’s play, Flare Path, about the RAF Bomber Command.
During the shooting of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Alec Guinness continued to have doubts about his performance and the direction he was getting from David Lean. To put Guinness at ease, Lean decided to show the actor a rough cut of certain sequences. One night, Lean ran over an hour’s worth of footage for Guinness with the actor’s wife and son also attending. During the screening, nothing was said. At the end, the Guinness family thanked Lean and promptly walked out, leaving the director without a clue as to what to think of their reaction (or lack of). Later that night, Lean received a visit from his lead actor who told him that he and his family had decided that Nicholson was the best thing that Guinness had ever done. (x)
I had to back out of The Bridge on the River Kwai because of another commitment. I slimmed down a lot to do the part, but you know you can’t do them all. I was sorry to have missed it…but Bill Holden was very happy. He got that one—and ten percent of the gross.
~ Cary Grant
William Holden, Jane Wyman and Cary Grant attend the Air Force Association party in 1951
And now you’re probably puttering around your house wondering what happens to all those guys after the credits roll - after they get off the train, the boat, the long walk across the beach.
In the aftermath of the evacuation, Britain very shortly enters what will become known as The Battle of Britain. (If you’re an American, we don’t learn much about this in school; it’s also sometimes called the Blitz.)
Since the (American) experience of World War Two tends to be shaped by American-centric movies on American lead-battles (Pearl Harbor, Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Fury, The Longest Day, The Thin Red Line, Hacksaw Ridge, Patton) I thought I would put together a short (and by no means exhaustive!) list of World War two films and TV series with a slightly more British perspective.
(If you liked Dunkirk for Christopher Nolan’s gorgeous cinematography or that Harry Styles kid, this list may not be for you - the films on it have been selected because they all take place at roughly the same point in history. No claims are being made on the historical accuracy of any of the pieces here.)
You may wish to start with the 1958 version of Dunkirk directed by Leslie Norman or the 2004 docudrama about the evacuation.
After that, there’s a bunch of fun films made during the war years. (Remember, going to ‘the pictures’ was a big deal and, as today, kind of the place where you got some of your news.) The Lion Has Wings, A Yank in the RAF…the list goes on.
More recently, though, we have:
First Light - another movie about fighter pilots in the RAF, this one starring Outlander’s Sam Heughan.
The Brylcreem Boys - At the end of Dunkirk, we see Tom Hardy’s Farrier walking to a line of waiting Germans, who will, presumably, take him to a POW camp for the duration. But did you also know there were POW camps in Ireland? As a neutral nation, and to sidestep any accusations of favoritism, any pilot who was shot down over the Republic of Ireland was interned.
Colditz - Speaking of POW camps, Colditz was one of the most infamous prisoner of war installations in Germany - and nearly impossible to escape from. Damien Lewis (just slightly after Band of Brothers fame) Laurence Fox, and (gasp!) Tom Hardy all star as soldiers trying to make it back to Britain.
And, while we’re talking about POWs, I really don’t feel like anyone should miss out on watching David Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai. Is it totally the wrong theater of war for this list? Yes, it is. Is it a great film? You bet your bonnet it is. Alec Guinness’ performance is not to be missed and it has one of the most iconic film scores. Many, many pop culture references will suddenly make sense after you hear the Colonel Bogey March.
If you, like I did, really enjoyed Mark Rylance’s Mr. Dawson, you may be interested in learning more about what life was like on the home front for those families with sons, nephews, or friends in the war.
Home Fires - A group of women in a small town and thier activities with the Women’s Institute, or WI. A really great (and recent) ensemble drama from our friends at the BBC. If you enjoy this, read The Jambusters, the book on which it’s based.
Housewife, 49 - Just before the war, several researchers were very interested in finding out what the public perception of everyday problems was. In order to learn more about the average person’s experiences, they created a project that asked people to answer surveys and brief questions. Later, during the war years, they also asked for diaries and letters detailing thier everyday lives - what would become known as Mass Observation. One of these diarists was Nella Last - a housewife, 49 years old, with a son in the service and severe anxiety. One of my all-time favorite mini-series’ about the war.
Bomb Girls - Canadian TV series about women working in a munitions factory. Possibly available on Netflix.
Land Girls - Britain, as an island, runs into a slight problem during wartime; thier food supplies run low. Agriculture, then, takes on prime significance, while all the labor that should be helping on farms is also simultaneously called into the armed forces. In the First and Second World Wars, women step in to fill the gaps left in many industries, including farming. A little dramatic, as TV mini-series go, but another look at the war from a slightly different angle.
Foyle’s War - Foyle’s War is a crime procedural that takes place in the little town outside of London called Hastings. Great acting from Michael Kitchen and company, and, another fun connection - Foyle’s son Andrew is also a fighter pilot in the RAF.
Island at War - Another mini-series, this one about the Channel Islands during the German Occupation. (If you enjoy this one, please go read The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. If you don’t enjoy it, go read the book anyway. It’s darling.)
Small Island - Britain has a rather different attitude to race than America did in the 1940s, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still without its problems. This miniseries follows a Jamaican airman during his time in England.
Castles in the Air - We take things like our GPS and cell phones for granted, but World War two broke some really important ground when it came to use of development of technologies like radio and, in the case of this film, radar. Eddie Izzard leads a team of weathermen (yes, really) developing this new gadget.
Imitation Game - While some scientific minds were trying to win the war with weapons, others were trying to find out what the enemy was saying via cryptography and the breaking of the german cypher. Benedict Cumberbach turns in a great performance as computer pioneer Alan Turing. (The movie Enigma also covers this group as well.)
We could probably devote a whole list of films solely to Winston Churchill - but The Gathering Storm and Into the Storm were both excellent.
So that should do to be getting started with. As I said, this isn’t an exhaustive list - go check your local library to see if there’s more.