japanese taste, c. 1915

I have been teaching the life and times of the actor Hayakawa Sessue this week. He’s plunged into the melodramatic scene of silent cinema in 1915, becoming an unexpected hit in the same year as The Birth of a Nation comes out. A critical history I have been reading (by Daisuke Miyao), goes into detail about the fad for Japanese taste among the middlebrow media world who sought to make film, also, into art.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the taste for Japanese taste as a backdrop in this 1915 short–one of the Keeping up with the Joneses series, wherein an Irish Ma and Pa try for upward mobility based on the template of the Joneses, who remain forever offscreen. This short is only about 3:00 long, so look at the bottom left corner–Japanoiserie!

Here’s a screenshot–you’ll have to watch the whole thing on the Library of Congress website here.

from the 1915 Gaumont production