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1957: ‘Bridge’ from Hayakawa to Watanabe

Dec. 12, 1957

GOOD MORNING: Sessue Hayakawa will not object to the expose of Japanese war camp brutality in “Bridge on The River Kwai.” “They have been told about it.” As proof of the expected socko biz in Tokyo, he reveals the pic is booked for 10 weeks minimum… And “Sayonara” will be playing next door!….Hayakawa got a big greeting yesterday by the Vine St. Derby’s (maitre’d) Gus Constance, one of the few here today who was around in the old days with Hayakawa. Back in the ’20s, it was the Alexandria Hotel downtown where film elite used to meet. Yesterday Gus served the Japanese star — blintzes… If 20th is interested, Hayakawa played Townsend Harris both in Japanese pix and onstage… He’ll play Genghis Khan for a Nippon filmery, and is skedded to do Universal’s “Boy From Korea” in August. In this one, he plays a friendly role… Hayakawa attemped hari-kari when he was 16 — was saved from bleeding to death when his dog aroused neighbors! P.S. He has always had a pet pooch since that day. In case anyone wonders what he did during World War II, Hayakawa spent the years in France, says he turned down every Japanese offer and order to return to help their war effort. He is a Buddhist priest…(2006 reminder: In 1958 Hayakawa was the first Japanese to be nominated for an Oscar — supporting role in “River Kwai.” In that year, Miyoshi Umeki was also nominated — for a supporting role in “Sayonara.” Back in 1949, Hayakawa admitted, “My one ambition is to play a hero.” He died Nov.23, 1973. This week, Clint Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwo Jima” goes into release with Ken Watanabe portraying General Kuribayashi heroically and receiving hefty critical praise. “Letters From Iwo Jima” won the National Board of Review’s prize for best picture.