The Actor Who Became A Hollywood Sex Symbol…After Stabbing Himself 30+ Times

The Actor Who Became A Hollywood Sex Symbol…After Stabbing Himself 30+ Times

Hollywood is home to many heartthrobs, but actor Sessue Hayakawa‘s rise to fame is, by far, one of Tinseltown’s most intriguing stories.

Sessue Hayakawa | Fred Hartsook

Born Kintarō Hayakawa, Sessue Hayakawa was a Japanese actor and a matinée idol who racked up admirers and broke barriers during Hollywood’s silent film era of the 1910s and early 1920s. He was the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome, and would become one Hollywood’s first-ever sex symbols, but his life almost played out very differently.

| Fred Hartsook

Sessue Hayakawa planned to become an officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy, but at 18, he ruptured his eardrum because of a dare: swimming to the bottom of a lagoon. Due to his injury, he failed the navy’s physical exam and became a failure in his father’s eyes. Distraught, Sessue Hayakawa attempted seppuku (ritual suicide) in a locked room by stabbing himself in the stomach more than 30 times. Thankfully, his father broke down the door with an axe just in time to save him.

Sessue Hayakawa moved to the US to bring pride to his family by becoming a banker. Instead, he developed a love for acting. After working a variety of temporary jobs, Sessue Hayakawa joined an acting trope and was discovered by film producer Thomas H. Ince. Sessue Hayakawa’s debut film, The Typhoon, was a hit, kicking off Sessue Hayakawa’s illustrious career.

He went on to become the first Asian film actor to ever land roles as a leading man in the United States and Europe, his breakthrough role being that of a forbidden lover in The Cheat. In addition to making history on screen, Sessue Hayakawa also broke social barriers in his personal life.

He married a Caucasian actress, Ruth Noble, who had co-starred with him in The Bandit Prince. After their divorce, he married another co-star, Tsuru Aoki, gained full custody of his son Alexander Hayes, and went on to raise his son with Tsuru Aoki in Japan. The couple also adopted two daughters, Yoshiko and Fujiko.

Sessue Hayakawa and Ruth Noble | A.P.

For more history lessons, dive into one of Korea’s most famous (and tragic) love stories here:

The Famous Korean Singer Who Had An Affair With A Married Student


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