His Birthright (1918)

  |  Drama

His Birthright (1918) Poster

After his Japanese mother dies, a biracial young man travels to the United States to track down his American father.



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6 October 2018 | boblipton
| The Evidence of the Film -- Three-Fifths of It, Anyway
With his stunning performance in Demille's THE CHEAT, Sessue Hayakawa became a star.... and the industry didn't know what to do with him. Eventually he began producing his own movies, and some of them were great.... and some were programmers, like this one. In the early 1920s, he tried Europe, but his results were spotty, so after a few talkies, he returned to Japan in the early 1930s.

After the Second World War ended, he returned to occasional roles in Hollywood pictures. His turn as the Prison Camp Commander struggling with the insane English POWs in THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI was brilliant. However, after the death of his wife in 1961, he returned again to Japan to become a monk... and give private acting lessons.

In this one, Hayakawa is a young man bent on revenge. His Japanese mother is dead of a broken heart and he has been told that his father is Harry von Meter, an American admiral. While tracking him down, he becomes involved with a gang of swindlers and spies.

Hayakawa plays his role well, a moral Japanese, bent on revenge and yet totally naive. As a result there are many comic bits throughout, rendered in the stolid style usual for Hollywood movies in this era. This was a period when American movies were overwhelming all the competition. As a result few showed much in the way of interesting technique, barring a few hairpins. Add in the melodramatic plots and subplots, and it all depends on Hayakawa's acting. He mostly measures up.

At least, that's the conclusion I can draw from the copy posted on the Eye Institute site on Youtube. Unfortunately, that copy has a major flaw: it's missing the first and fourth reels of its five-reel length, and there's no way of judging the missing reels. Even assuming that the missing reels explain why the movie seems underdeveloped, I can only make my call based on the evidence of the film; and that evidence says this is a well-performed potboiler.


Release Date:

8 September 1918

Country of Origin


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