Portrait in a newspaper, 1916
|Died||October 18, 1961 69) (aged|
|Occupation||Actress (stage and screen)|
|Years active||1913–1924; 1960|
Tsuru Aoki (青木 鶴子, Aoki Tsuruko, September 9, 1892 – October 18, 1961) was a popular Japanese stage and screen actress whose career was most prolific during the silent film era of the 1910s through the 1920s. Aoki may have been the first Asian actress to garner top billing in American motion pictures.
Born in Tokyo, Japan, Aoki came to California in 1899 with her uncle, Otojirō Kawakami, his geisha wife, Kawakami Sadayakko, and Otojirō's troupe of actors. At the their first stop in San Francisco, Tsuru performed with the troupe and assisted Sadayakko at a Palace Hotel tea ceremony where attendees raved over her "diminutive daintiness." But when the troupe ran into severe financial difficulties, Otojirō made arrangements to have Tsuru adopted by Toshio Aoki, a sketch artist for a local newspaper.Tsuru Aoki started taking lessons in ballet dance in New York, when she went along with her uncle Toshio, who was hired by David Belasco for The Darling of the Gods. After Toshio's death a reporter looked after Aoki. Aoki began her acting career after returning to Los Angeles and performing in stage productions in the city's Japanese Theatre where she was noticed by film producer Thomas Ince who placed the young actress under contract. She was also responsible for recruiting Japanese actors for Imperial Japanese Company, a subsidiary of New York Motion Picture Corporation. Aoki made her film debut in the Majestic film studios release The Oath of Tsuru San in 1913 opposite actor William Garwood. Her follow-up film was the 1914 Ince produced O Mimi San, which starred the American child actress Mildred Harris and a handsome young newcomer named Sessue Hayakawa, whom Aoki had acted with onstage at the Japanese Theatre the previous year. The couple began a romantic relationship that would culminate in their marriage on May 1, 1914, just weeks before the release of their critically acclaimed and publicly successful film The Wrath of the Gods – a melodrama about an interracial romance between a man portrayed by Caucasian actor/director Frank Borzage and an Asian woman portrayed by Aoki. The film also starred Sessue Hayakawa and featured actress Gladys Brockwell. Hayakawa and Aoki would eventually make more than twenty films together throughout the 1910s and 1920s.
One of Aoki's most recalled films of the silent period is the 1919 William Worthington-directed The Dragon Painter , based on the novel of the same title by Sidney McCall, in which Aoki starred as a young woman who convinces an isolated, mentally deranged artist named Tatsu (portrayed by Hayakawa) to come down from the mountains so that she may civilize him and he may further his artistic abilities. Other notable films of the period were The Typhoon (1914), The Vigil (1914), The Geisha (1914), The Chinatown Mystery (1915), His Birthright (1918), and The Breath of the Gods (1920). Throughout the 1910s, Aoki would appear in approximately forty films, often in leading-lady roles which was a first for an Asian actress. Some of her co-stars of the era included such notable names as Marin Sais, Frank Borzage, Gladys Brockwell, Mildred Harris, Jack Holt, Jane Wolfe, Dagmar Godowsky, Vola Vale, Florence Vidor, Earle Foxe, and Walter Long. After a series of moderately successful Ince-produced two-reel serials, Aoki's career in the United States began to falter (while her husband's career began to build momentum), and the couple travelled to France in 1923 and filmed the popular Édouard-Émile Violet-directed drama La Bataille. After returning to America, however, Aoki made only three more films before retiring from the screen to raise her and Hayakawa's three children. Her last silent screen performance was the 1924 release The Danger Line. Aoki would only return to the screen in 1960 (her first talkie) to once again appear with her husband in the drama Hell to Eternity. She died the following year in Japan of acute peritonitis at the age of 69.
|The Oath of Tsuru San||1913||Tsuru San||Short|
|O Mimi San||1914||O Mimi San||Short|
|The Courtship of O San||1914||O San||Short|
|Love's Sacrifice||1914||Little Faun||Short|
|The Wrath of the Gods||1914||Toya San|
|A Tragedy of the Orient||1914||Kissmoia||Short|
|A Relic of Old Japan||1914||Katuma||Short|
|Star of the North||1914||Star of the North||Short|
|The Curse of Caste||1914||Kissmoia||Short|
|The Village 'Neath the Sea||1914||Little Fawn||Short|
|The Death Mask||1914||Princess Nona||Short|
|Nipped||1914||San Toy Nakado||Short|
|Mother of the Shadows||1914||Laughing Moon||Short|
|The Last of the Line||1914||Girl at Riverside||Short|
|The Chinatown Mystery||1915||Woo||Short|
|The Beckoning Flame||1915||Janira||Short|
|Alien Souls||1916||Yuri Chan|
|The Honorable Friend||1916||Toki-Ye|
|The Soul of Kura San||1916||Kura-San|
|Each to His Kind||1917||Princess Nada|
|The Call of the East||1917||O'Mitsu - Arai's Sister|
|The Curse of Iku||1918||Omi San|
|The Bravest Way||1918||Sat-u|
|His Birthright||1918||Saki San|
|A Heart in Pawn||1919||Sada|
|The Courageous Coward||1919||Rei Oaki|
|The Gray Horizon||1919||O Haru San|
|The Dragon Painter||1919||Ume-Ko|
|Bonds of Honor||1919||Toku-ko|
|Locked Lips||1920||Lotus Blossom|
|A Tokyo Siren||1920||Asuti Hishuri|
|The Breath of the Gods||1920||Yuki Onda|
|Five Days to Live||1922||Ko Ai|
|Night Life in Hollywood||1922||Herself|
|The Battle||1923||La Marquise Yorisaka|
|The Danger Line||1924||Marquise Yorisaka|
|The Great Prince Shan||1924||Nita|
|Sen Yan's Devotion||1924||Sen Yan's Wife|
|Hell to Eternity||1960||Mother Une||(final film role)|
Kintaro Hayakawa, known professionally as Sessue Hayakawa , was a Japanese actor and a matinée idol. He was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood during the silent film era of the 1910s and early 1920s. Hayakawa was the first actor of Asian descent to achieve stardom as a leading man in the United States and Europe. His "broodingly handsome" good looks and typecasting as a sexually dominant villain made him a heartthrob among American women during a time of racial discrimination, and he became one of the first male sex symbols of Hollywood.
Sada Yacco or Sadayakko was a Japanese geisha, actress and dancer.
The Dragon Painter is a 1919 English language silent romance drama film. It is based on the novel of the same name, written by Mary McNeil Fenollosa. It stars Sessue Hayakawa as a young painter who believes that his fiancée, is a princess who has been captured and turned into a dragon. It was directed by William Worthington and filmed in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California.
The Wrath of the Gods is a 1914 American silent drama film directed by Reginald Barker and starring Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, Frank Borzage, Thomas Kurihara and Henry Kotani. This was the first feature film appearance of Hayakawa and the directorial debut of Barker.
The Typhoon is a 1914 American drama film directed by Reginald Barker, written by Melchior Lengyel, and starring Sessue Hayakawa, Gladys Brockwell, Frank Borzage, Henry Kotani and Leona Hutton. It was released on October 10, 1914, by Paramount Pictures.
The Call of the East is a 1917 American silent drama film directed by George Melford and written by Beulah Marie Dix. The film stars Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, Jack Holt, Margaret Loomis, James Cruze, and Ernest Joy. The film was released on October 15, 1917, by Paramount Pictures. It is not known whether the film currently survives, which suggests that it is a lost film.
The Geisha is a 1914 American short silent film, directed by Raymond West and using music by Sidney Jones from the stage musical The Geisha. The film features Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, Frank Borzage, Ramona Radcliffe and Henry Kotani in important roles.
A Relic of Old Japan is a 1914 American silent short drama film directed by Reginald Barker and Thomas H. Ince. Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, Frank Borzage and Henry Kotani played important roles in the film.
The Courageous Coward is a 1919 American silent drama film directed by William Worthington and featuring Sessue Hayakawa and Tsuru Aoki in lead roles. It is presumed to be a lost film with only reel 5 preserved at the EYE Film Institute Netherlands film archive.
The Bravest Way is a 1918 American silent drama film directed by George Melford and written by Edith M. Kennedy. The film stars Sessue Hayakawa, Florence Vidor, Tsuru Aoki, Yukio Aoyama, Jane Wolfe, and Winter Hall. The film was released on June 16, 1918, by Paramount Pictures.
Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom is a biography of actor Sessue Hayakawa, written by Daisuke Miyao, assistant professor of film at the University of Oregon, and published by Duke University Press. It won the 2007 Book Award in History from the Association of Asian American Studies and the John Hope Franklin Book Award from Duke University (2007).
Star of the North is a 1914 American silent short adventure film directed by Thomas H. Ince and Jay Hunt. Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, J. Frank Burke, Herschel Mayall and Ernest Swallow played important roles in the film.
The Village 'Neath the Sea is a 1914 American silent short adventure film directed by Thomas H. Ince and Jay Hunt. Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, Lone Bear and Ernest Swallow played important roles in it.
The Death Mask is a 1914 American short drama film directed and produced by Thomas H. Ince and featuring Sessue Hayakawa and Tsuru Aoki in prominent roles.
Nipped is a 1914 American short silent drama film directed by George Osborne and featuring Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, Mr. Yoshida and Frank Borzage in pivotal roles.
The Last of the Line is a 1914 American silent short Western drama film directed by Jay Hunt and featuring Joe Goodboy, Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, Stanely Bigham, and Gladys Brockwell in pivotal roles.
His Birthright is a 1918 American drama film directed by William Worthington for Haworth Pictures Corporation. Sessue Hayakawa produced the film and played the lead role. The rest of the cast includes Marin Sais, Howard Davies, Mary Anderson, and Hayakawa's wife Tsuru Aoki.
A Heart in Pawn is a 1919 American silent drama film directed by William Worthington. Sessue Hayakawa's Haworth Pictures Corporation produced the film and Worthington played the lead role along with Vola Vale and his wife Tsuru Aoki.
The Gray Horizon is a 1919 American silent drama film directed by William Worthington. Sessue Hayakawa's Haworth Pictures Corporation produced the film and he himself played the lead role. Bertram Grassby, Tsuru Aoki, Eileen Percy, Mary Jane Irving, and Andrew Robson also featured in the film.
Bonds of Honor is a 1919 American silent film directed by William Worthington. Sessue Hayakawa's Haworth Pictures Corporation produced the film and he himself played the leading roles along with his wife Tsuru Aoki. Marin Sais, Dagmar Godowsky, Herschel Mayall, Toyo Fujita and M. Foshida also appeared in the film.
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