The Wrath of the Gods (1914)
The Wrath of the Gods stars the earliest and biggest Asian leading man in American cinema, Sessue Hayakawa. Fellow silent actress Tsuru Aoki, eventually Hayakawa’s real-life wife, portrays his daughter.
What may peek the interest of audiences is the early cinema interracial love tale. Aoki portrays a cursed Japanese woman who has been warned that a volcano will erupt if she finds love. She does fall in love marrying a (white) American played by Frank Borzage (before his director days). The volcano does erupt but the couple escape. It’s quite interesting that the film does not bring up racial issues. The Borzage character falls in love with her and they marry. Despite the volcano eruption and death of the Hayakawa character, the couple survives and given a chance at happiness. There is even a quick kissing scene. The film’s conflicts focus more on Western Christianity vs. Japanese Buddhism and superstitions.
Available on Netflix unbilled on The Dragon Painter DVD. Sessue Hayakawa’s iconic status is intact but hopefully this film will also add awareness to the talents of Aoki, who’s career superceded Hayakawa’s.