Kinuyo Tanaka

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Kinuyo Tanaka
Kinuyo Tanaka in Jinsei no onimotsu 1935.jpg
Kinuyo Tanaka in Jinsei no onimotsu (1935)
Born(1909-11-29)29 November 1909
Died21 March 1977(1977-03-21) (aged 67)
Years active1924–1976
Spouse(s)Hiroshi Shimizu (1927–1929, not legally married)
AwardsMainichi Film Concours Best Actress
1975 Sandakan No. 8
1949 Yoru no onnatachi
1948 Joyū Sumako no koi
Mainichi Film Concours Best Supporting Actress
1961 Otōto
1958 Stepbrothers
Screenwriter Yoshikata Yoda, Actress-Director Kinuyo Tanaka, and Director Kenji Mizoguchi visit Paris, 1953

Kinuyo Tanaka (田中 絹代, Tanaka Kinuyo, 29 November 1909 – 21 March 1977) was a Japanese actress and director. She had a career lasting over 50 years with more than 250 credited films, and was best known for her roles in collaboration with director Kenji Mizoguchi over 15 films between 1940 and 1954. She was also a second cousin to director Masaki Kobayashi.[1]


Early career[edit]

Tanaka was born in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, Japan. Her first credited film appearance was in 1924 in "A Maid of the Genroku Era" in 1924, which also marked the start of her affiliation with the Shochiku Studios. She married director Hiroshi Shimizu in 1929 after appearing in a number of his films in the 1920s. Although they divorced after less than a year, she later played in a number of films directed by her ex-husband.[1]

She became a leading actress at an early age, appearing in Yasujirō Ozu's I Graduated, But... in 1929. The following year she played the lead in Aiyoku no ki, and in 1931 she appeared in Japan's first talkie, The Neighbor's Wife and Mine, directed by Heinosuke Gosho. In the 1930s, she became so popular that the titles of her films used her name, as in "The Kinuyo Story" (Kinuyo Monogatari) in 1930, "Doctor Kinuyo" (Joi Kinuyo sensei) in 1937 and "Kinuyo’s First Love" (Kinuyo no hatsukoi) in 1940. In 1938, she starred in Hiromasa Nomura’s Flower in Storm (愛染かつら Aizen-Katsura) with Ken Uehara, which was the highest-grossing movie of the prewar period.[1] In 1940, she worked for the first time with Kenji Mizoguchi, starring in "A Woman of Osaka" (Naniwa Onna), which has not survived. It marked the start of her transition to more challenging roles.

Post-war career[edit]

Tanaka made a three-month trip to the United States starting in October 1949 as one of Japan’s first post-war cultural envoys [1] On her return, she resigned from Shochiku, and announced her intention of going freelance, which would give her more scope to choose which directors she wished to work with. She worked on several movies with Mikio Naruse, Yasujirō Ozu, and also Keisuke Kinoshita (including The Ballad Of Narayama for which she was awarded the Best Actress Award from the magazine Kinema Junpo).[1] She had a close working relationship with director Kenji Mizoguchi, having parts in 15 of his films, including leading roles in The Life of Oharu (1952), Ugetsu (1953) and Sansho the Bailiff (1954). Their working relationship ended when Mizoguchi countered a recommendation from the Directors Guild of Japan for the Nikkatsu studio to hire her as a director. Despite this, the production of her second film as director went ahead, but Tanaka never forgave Mizoguchi, and the reasons for his behaviour are unclear.[2]

Director and actress[edit]

Tanaka was the second Japanese woman who worked as a film director, after Sakane Tazuko (1904‐1975). Her first directing job was on the film Love Letter in 1953, scripted by Kinoshita, was entered as a contestant in the Cannes Film Festival in 1954. She directed five further films between 1953 and 1962. The "Moon Has Risen" (Tsuki wa noborinu) in 1955 was scripted by Yasujirō Ozu and the "Wandering Princess" (Ruten no onna) starring Machiko Kyō, was scripted by the wife of Kon Ichikawa.[1] However, as well as directing, Tanaka continued with her acting career, appearing as Yasumoto's mother in Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard (1965). For her performance as an aged prostitute in Kei Kumai's Sandakan N° 8 she won the Best Actress Award at the 25th Berlin International Film Festival in 1975.[3] During the 1960s, she moved increasingly towards television.

Tanaka died of a brain tumor on 21 March 1977.

Selected filmography[edit]


She has appeared in more than 259 films[4] (incomplete)



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Sharpe, Jasper (2011). Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema. Scarecrow Press. pp. 240–242. ISBN 978-0-8108-7541-8.
  2. ^ Tony Rayns video essays in the Masters of Cinema edition of Chikamatsu Monogatari/Uwasa no onna set.
  3. ^ "Berlinale 1975: Prize Winners". Retrieved 11 July 2010.
  4. ^ 258 films according to 田中絹代 (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 5 December 2009. and plus 1 film Kōge(香華)

External links[edit]