Monday, November 10, 2014

IN MEMORY OF: Takakura Ken (Feb 16, 1931 - Nov 10, 2014)

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Takakura Ken in Black Rain

Today, the Japanese media broke the story of the passing of Japanese movie legend, Takakura Ken. Described as the Japanese "Clint Eastwood" because both evolved from an outlaw persona to one of a stoic authority figure, Takakura Ken was known for his stoic presence and brooding style. He died at the age of 83 of malignant lymphoma on Nov 10 in a Japanese hospital.

"Ken-san", as he is affectionately known, made more than 200 films and became famous by starring in the popular yakuza/gangster movies. Born Goichi Oda on Feb 16, 1931, after graduating from University in 1955, he was applying for a managerial position and was recruited by Toei, plucked from a random audition to make his 1956 debut, Denko Karate Uchi (Lightning Karate Blow). He quickly became a yakuza-film star. The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's major newspapers, called him "one of Japan's greatest actors".

Takakura came to prominence as an escaped prisoner in Teruo Ishii’s 1965 hit “Abashiri Prison,” which was loosely based on Stanley Kramer’s 1958 “The Defiant Ones.” The role which introduced Takakura to a broader Western audience is undoubtedly his police inspector role in Ridley Scott's Black Rain in 1989. He followed up with a second Hollywood role as a pro baseball manager in Tom Selleck’s 1992 comedy “Mr. Baseball.”

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Takakura Ken in Mr. Baseball

However, I know him best from Sydney Pollack's great film, The Yakuza (1970), co-starring with Robert Mitchum, at his laconic best. One of my favorite movies!

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Takakura Ken in The Yakuza

Rest in Peace Takura Ken

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NOTE:  Posted Nov 18, 2014 and backdated to Nov 10.



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