August 27, 2013

Toshiro Mifune: Japanese Movie Actor

I am a huge fan of Japanese cinema especially early movies dating back to the 60's, 70's and 80's. A friend of mine who studies film making in an exclusive film school in Manila introduced me to more Japanese movies than I can watch. She introduced me to old classics as well as modern masterpieces. To the ordinary movie goer, when he or she hears of Japanese cinema, what usually comes to his/her mind is the master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. But there's more to Japanese cinema than Kurosawa. Actually, if you dig deeper into the genre, you will come across peers of Kurosawa that you might find to be better filmmakers than Kurosawa.

Anyway, one actor who caught my attention recently is Toshiro Mifune. The talented and charismatic Japanese actor died just a day before Christmas in December of 1997. He left behind him an impressive collection of noteworthy movies. In a career that spanned over forty five years, he has appeared in more than 130 films. The most notable of this impressive body of work are the ones he made with acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Mifune and Kurosawa had a long and successful association that produced 16 films. The most popular of these are the two classics – Rashomon and The Seven Samurai.

Toshiro Mifune Biography
Mifune was born on April 1, 1920 in Tsingtao, China. His parents were missionaries. He became a soldier when he turned 20, serving in the Japanese Army from the years 1940 to 1945. He entered the movie industry in 1947. Although he had no prior acting experience, Toshiro joined a talent content and eventually won a part in the 1947 movie These Foolish Times by director Kajiro Yamamoto where he made his movie debut. It was a small part but it paved the way for more acting opportunities.

When Akira Kurosawa saw Mifune's performance in These Foolish Times, he was impressed by the young actor that he hired him to act and star in his film Drunken Angel in 1948. This was the start of Mifune's long-lasting collaboration with the great Kurosawa. Together, they made 16 movies. Besides Rashomon and The Seven Samurai, their films include Throne of Blood, Macbeth, The Lower Depths, The Hidden Fortress, Sanjuro, and Red Beard.

In 1963, Toshiro Mifune started his very own film production company. In that same year, he directed a film for the first time. The film was called The Legacy of the 500,000. It is the only film he ever directed. After the release of The Legacy, he went on to produce ten films under his production company.

Mifune has also worked with foreign directors. He has appeared in about a dozen films that were made and shot outside of his home country Japan. He has worked with directors like John Frankenheimer, John Boorman, Steven Spielberg, Terence Young and Kayo Hatta. The films he made with these directors are Grand Prix, Hell in the Pacific, 1941, Red Sun, and Picture Bridge.

Toshiro Mifune also appeared in a television mini series in 1980 with Richard Chamberlain. The series were called Shogun.

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