Several of my favorite members of Akira Kurosawa's stock company.
favorite players, Minoru Chiaki appeared in ten films for the director.
rail-thin Chiaki played the Priest in RASHOMON in 1950 while five
later, a heavier,
rounder-faced Chiaki played Heihachi, the jolliest of the seven
In HIDDEN FORTRESS, he
was one of a
pair of bickering buffoons who assist a princess on the run, characters
said to be the inspiration for R2D2 and CP3O in George Lucas's STAR
only played in
films, but was terrific in each one, excelling as women who apparently
lived to be a
thorn in the side of Toshiro
Mifune. In THE
LOWER DEPTHS and again in YOJIMBO, she played landladies
who plotted Mifune's destruction;
successfully in the first, not so much in the second. But it
in THRONE OF
BLOOD that she played her greatest role for Kurosawa: Lady
Asaji, the cool, almost robotic wife of Mifune's Macbeth-like Washizu.
Yamada's eerie performance made Lady Asaji one of
the strongest female Kurosawa characters ever - admittedly not a large
group to choose from.
favorites, sad-faced Kamatari Fujiwara appeared in more than a dozen
of the director's films, including SEVEN SAMURAI.
But his greatest role role for Kurosawa was in YOJIMBO as the butt-ugly and rock-stupid villain Inokichi ("Wild Pig") who cannot even subtract two from four without using his pudgy fingers.
With the kind
beautifully homely face that could only belong to a character actor,
Bokuzen Hidari will be forever be remembered by SEVEN SAMURAI fans as
lovable, frightened Yohei, the confused farmer whom Toshiro Mifune's
Kikuchiyo endlessly taunts and teases. He made his screen debut in SCANDAL,
and his touching performance as the
pilgrim in THE
LOWER DEPTHS may just be his best.
Long-faced Yunosuke Ito appeared in only a handful of Kurosawa films, making his greatest impact as the novelist in IKIRU who leads the dying Watanabe through a night of decadence. He also played the "horse-faced" chamberlain who appears at the end of SANJURO.
One of the most
members of the Kurosawa Players, Kyoko Kagawa was unforgettable as the
homocidal "Praying Mantis Lady"
in RED BEARD
and memorably lovely as the landlady's sister pursued by
Mifune in THE
LOWER DEPTHS. In THE BAD SLEEP WELL and HIGH
AND LOW, she played essentially the same character - the
long-suffering wife of the movie's lead male, a role she played once
again in Kurosawa's final film, MADADAYO. Her
non-Kurosawa resume includes Kenji Mizoguchi's SANSHO THE
and Yasujiro Ozu's TOKYO STORY. As of 2006, in her
Kagawa was still gracing Japanese movie screens with her talent.
Kurosawa's first star player, Susumu Fujita played the role of Sugata in both SANSHIRO SUGATA and its sequel SANSHIRO SUGATA PART 2. Although he appeared in a few more early Kurosawa films such as THEY WHO TREAD ON THE TIGER'S TRAIL and NO REGRETS FOR OUR YOUTH, he was quickly replaced as Kurosawa's leading man by Toshiro Mifune. Still, Kurosawa retained respect for Fujita's considerable talents and occasionally cast him in some smaller parts such as the samurai who runs away when trouble hits in YOJIMBO. His most important and prominent role in the Mifune years was as General Tadokoro in the epic samurai comedy HIDDEN FORTRESS.
Back to The Kurosawa Players, Part One