Nationality: Japanese. Born: Shinomoseki City, 29 December 1909. Education: Attended Tennoji Elementary School, Osaka to 1919; studied the musical instrument the chikuzen-biwa, licence 1919. Family: Married the director Hiroshi Shimizu, 1929 (divorced 1929). Career: 1920–23—member of the Biwa Shojo Kageki girls revue, Osaka; 1924—film debut in Genroku onna; 1925—joined Shochiku Kamata Studio, Tokyo, and over the next 15 years became their leading star; 1953—directed her first film, Koibumi; appeared on television from the late 1960s. Awards: Japan Mainichi Eiga Concourse, 1947, 1948, 1957, 1960, 1974; Japan Kinema Jumpo Awards for Best Actress, for Ballad of Narayama, 1958, and Sandakan, House No. 8, 1974. Best Actress, Berlin Festival, for Sandakan, House No.8, 1975. Died: Of a brain tumor, 21 March 1977.
Films as Actress:
Genroku onna (Nomura) (as a maid); Mura no bokujo (Shimizu) (as Oharu)
Chiisaki tabigeinin (Shimizu); Gekitsu no sakebi (Shimizu); Yukan naru koi (Shimazu); Shizen wa sabaku (Shimazu); Isshinji no hyakunin-giri (Shimizu); Koi no torinawa (Shimizu); Ochimusha (Shimizu); Goiken Gomuyo
Nayamashiki koro (Shimizu); Machi no hitobito (People in the Town; Town People) (Gosho); Honryu (A Torrent) (Gosho); Ara nonkida ne; Obocchan (Shimazu); Uragirareta mono (Shimizu); Koi no ikuji; Yoto (Shimizu); Karabotan (Nomura); Shimizu no Jirocho Zen-den: Kohen Ashura fukushu no maki (Kamata); Kanojo (She; Girl Friend) (Gosho); Hirameku yaiba
Kurayami; Chikashitsu; Yakko no Koman; Tennoji no harakiri; Tkada-no-baba; Hazukashiiyume (Shameful Dream; Intimate Dream) (Gosho); Kokkyo no uta; Mado; Shinju fujin; Byakko-tai; Higan sen-nin giri; Musasabi no Sankichi; Yoru no kyoja; Kisoshinju
Kindai musha shugyo (Ushihara); Kaikoku-ki (Tales from a Country by the Sea) (Kinugasa); Moshimo kanojo ga; Haha yo kimi no na o kegasu nakare (Mother, Do Not Shame Your Name) (Gosho); Mura na hanayome (The Village Bride) (Gosho); Kangeki jidai (Ushihara); Fumetsu so ai; Eien no kokoro; Tetsu no shojo; Appare binanshi
Hito no yo no sugata (The Situation of the Human World; Man's Worldly Appearance) (Gosho); Kare to denen (Ushihara); Gokurosama; Riku no ooja (Ushihara); KagayakuShowa; Seishun kokyogaku; Mura no kajiya; Echigo-jishi; Kare to jinsei (Ushihara); Hinarai naku sato; Daitokai: Bakuhatsu-hen (Ushihara); Shin josei-kagami; Yokina uta Daigaku wa detakeredo (I Graduated, But . . . ) (Ozu) (as Machiko); Yama no gaika (Ushihara)
Hohoemu jinsei (A Smiling Life) (Gosho); Onna wa doko he iku; Daitokai: Bakuhatsu-hen (Ushihara); Kinuyo monogatari (The Kinuyo Story) (Gosho); Aiyoku no ki; Wakamono yo naze naku ka (Ushihara); Ojosan (Young Miss) (Ozu); Seishun-fu; Shingun (Ushihara); Tekken seisai
Rakudai wa shitakeredo (I Flunked, But . . . ) (Ozu) (as Sayoko); Ai yo jinrui to tomo ni are (Shimazu); Hogaraka no nake; Shimai (Shimazu); Madamu to nyobo (The Neighbor's Wife and Mine) (Gosho) (as the wife); Runpen to sono musume; Shima no ratai-jiken; Seikatsusen ABC: Fujie nomaki (Shimazu) (as Fujie); Seikatsusen ABC: Zenpen (Shimazu) (as Kieko)
Konjiki-yasha (Nomura) (as Omiya); Shohai; Niisan no baka (You Are Stupid; My Stupid Brother) (Gosho); Ginza no yanagi (Willows of Ginza; A Willow Tree in the Ginza) (Gosho); Taiyo wa higashi yori; Satsueijo remansu: Renai annai; Kagayake nihon no josei; Koi no Tokyo; Seishun no yume ima izuko (Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth?) (Ozu) (as Oshige); Chushingura (The Loyal 47 Ronin; The Vengeance of the 47 Ronin) (Kinugasa) (as Yae)
Hanayome no negoto (Sleeping Words of the Bride; The Bride Talks in Her Sleep) (Gosho) (as Haruko); Izu no odoriko (Dancing Girls of Izu) (Gosho) (as Kaoru); Tokyo no onna (A Tokyo Woman) (Ozu) (as Harue); Oen-dancho no koi; Hijosen no onna (Dragnet Girl) (Ozu) (as Tokiko); Seidon; Kekkonkaido; Yomeiri mae; Chinchoge (Nomura); Futamabatu
Toyo no haha; Fukei-zu (Nomura); Sakura onda; Chijo no seiza: Chijo-hen, Seizahen (Nomura); Shinkon-ryoko (Nomura); Machi no bofu (Nomura); Osaya koisugata (Shimazu); Sono yo no onna (Shimazu); Watashi no niisan (Shimazu)
Hakoiri musume (An Innocent Maid) (Ozu); Shunkin-sho: Okoto to Sasuke (Shimazu) (as Okoto); Yume Utsutsu; Eikyu no ai; Semete koyoi o; Jinsei ni onimotsu (Burden of Life) (Gosho) (as Ituko); Hanayome kurabe
Naniwa ereji (Osaka Elegy) (Mizoguchi) (as Ochika); Onatsu Seijuro (Onozuka); Dansei tai josei; Shindo: Akemi no make, Ryota no maki (New Way) (Gosho); Waga haha no sho; Hanakago no uta (Song of the Flower Basket) (Gosho) (as Yoko Mori); Joi Kinuyo sensei (Nomura); Otoko no tsugunai (Nomura)
Bancho sarayashiki (Fuyushima); Akatsuki wa tokedo
Hanauta ojosan; Shuppatsu; Haha to ko (Shibuya); Aizen katsura (Nomura) (as Katsue Takaishi); Haha no uta; Shinshaku: Tojin Okichi, Funshin hen
Okayo no kakugo; Minamikaze (Shibuya); Shunrai; Zoku aizen katsura (Nomura) (as Katsue Takaishi); Hana aru zasso (Shimizu); Kuwa no mi wa akai (Shimizu); Aizen katsura: Kanketsu-hen (Nomura) (as Katsue Takaishi)
Aizen tsubaki; Watashi niwa otto ga aru; Kinuyo no hatsukoi (Nomura); Akatsuki ni inoru; Josei no kakugo; Butai sugata; Okinu to banto (Nomura)
Toka kan no jinsei; Genki de ikauyo (Nomura); Hana (Flower) (Yoshimura); Kanzashi (Shimizu); Joi no Kiroku (Shimizu)
Kazoku (Shibuya); Nihon no haha; Aru Onna (Shibuya)
Kaisen no zenya; Tekki kushu (Enemy Air Attack) (Yoshimura, Shibuya, and Nomura); Bocchan dohyo-iri
Danjuro sandai (Three Generations of Danjuro) (Mizoguchi) (as Okano); Kaettekita otoko; Rikugun (The Army) (Kinoshita) (as the mother); Miyamoto Musashi (Musashi Miyamoto) (Mizoguchi) (as Shinobu); Hissho-ka; Sanjusangen-do toshi ya monogatari (A Tale of Archery at the Sanjusangendo) (Naruse)
Nikoniko taikai: Uata no hanakago; Kanojo no hatsugen (Nomura); Josei no shori (The Victory of Women) (Mizoguchi) (as Hiroko); Utamaro o mehuru go-nin no onna (Utamaro and Five Women) (Mizoguchi) (as Okita)
Kekkon (Marriage) (Kinoshita); Joyu Sumako no koi (Love of Sumako) (Mizoguchi) (as Sumako Matsui); Fujicho (Phoenix) (Kinoshita)
Yoru no onna tachi (Women of the Night) (Mizoguchi) (as Fusako); Kaze no naka no mendori (A Hen in the Wind) (Ozu) (as Tokiko Amamiya)
Waga koi wa moenu (My Love Has Been Burning) (Mizoguchi) (as Eiko Hirayama); Yotsuya kaidan (The Yotsuya Ghost Story) (Kinoshita) (as Oiwa/Osode); Mahiru no enbukyoku (Waltz at Noon) (Yoshimura)
Engeiji ringu (Konyaku yubiwa; Engagement Ring) (Kinoshita); Munekata shimai (The Munekata Sisters) (Ozu) (as Setsuko); Okusama ni goyojin
Oboro kago (Ito); Ginza gesho (Ginza Cosmetics) (Naruse); Oyu-sama (Miss Oyu) (Mizoguchi) (title role); Yoru no mibojin; Musashino fujin (Lady Musashino) (Mizoguchi) (as Michiko Akiyama); Aizen-bashi; Inazuma-zoshi
Nishijin no shimai (Sisters of Ninshijin) (Yoshimura); Saikaku inchidai onna (Life of Oharu) (Mizoguchi) (as Oharu); Atake-ke no hitobito (Hisamatsu); Okasan (Mother) (Naruse) (title role); Himitsu (Hisamatsu)
Magokoro; Entotsu no mieru basho (Four Chimneys) (Gosho) (as Hiroko Ogata); Ugetsu monogatari (Ugetsu) (Mizoguchi) (as Miyaki); Shinsho Taiheiki: Ruten Hiyoshimura (Hagiwara); Shishi no za (Ito) (as Hisa)
Sansho dayu (Sansho: The Bailiff) (Mizoguchi) (as Tamaki); Onna no koyomi; Uwasa no onna (The Woman of Rumor) (Mizoguchi) (as Hatsuko Mabuchi)
Wataridori itsu kaeru; Shonen shikei-shu; Tsukiyo no kasa (Hisamatsu); Osho ichidai (Ito) (as Koharu)
Iro-zange; Byosai monogatari: Aya ni kanashiki; Joshu to tomoni (Hisamatsu); Arashi; Nagareru (Flowing) (Naruse)
Kiiroi karasu (Yellow Crow; Behold Thy Son) (Gosho) (as Yokiko Matumoto); Ibo-kyodai (Ieki); Dayu san yori: Jotai wa kanashiku (Inagaki); Chijo (On the Earth) (Yoshimura)
Kanashimi wa onna dakeni (Sorrow Is Only for Women) (Shindo); Narayamabushi-ko (Ballad of Narayama) (Kinoshita) (as Orin); Higanbana (Equinox Flower) (Ozu) (as Kiyoko Hirayama); Kono ten no niji
Hahako-gusa; Subarashiki musumetachi; Taiyo ni somuku mono; Naniwa ni koi no monogatari; Nihon tanjo (Inagaki)
Ototo (Her Brother) (Ichikawa) (as stepmother)
Wakaret ikiru toki mo (Eternity of Love) (Horikawa)
Horo-ki (Lonely Lane) (Naruse); Tateshi Danpei; Kaasan nagaiki shite ne
Kekkon-shiki kekkon shiki (Nakamura); Shito no densetsu (Legend of a Duel to the Death; A Legend, Or Was It?) (Kinoshita); Taiheiyo hitoribocchi (Alone in the Pacific; My Enemy the Sea) (Ichikawa); Hikaru umi (Nakahira)
Koge (The Scent of Incense) (Kinoshita); Kono sora no aru kagiri
Haha no saigetsu; Akahige (Red Beard) (Kurosawa) (as Yasumoto's mother)
Eriki no wakadaisho (Campus a Go-Go) (Iwaschi); Arupusu no wakadaisho (It Started in the Alps) (Furusawa)
Otoko wa tsuraiyo: Torajiro yume-makura (Yamada)
Sanba (Nakamura); Sandakan hachi-ban shokan: Bokyo (Sandakan, House No. 8) (Kumai) (as Osaki)
Aru eiga kantoku no shogai: Mizoguchi Kenji no kiroku (Life of a Film Director: Record of Kenji Mizoguchi) (Shindo—doc)
Kita no misaki (Kumai); Daichi no komori-uta (Masumura)
Films as Director:
Koibumi (+ ro)
Tsuki wa noborinu (+ ro); Nyubo yo eien nare (+ ro)
Ruten no oohi (+ ro); O-gin Sama (Love under the Crucifix)
On TANAKA: book—
Shindo, Kaneto, Shoestu Tanaka Kinuyo, Tokyo, 1983.
On TANAKA: articles—
Obituary, in Ecran, May 1977.
Johnson, William, "In Search of a Star: Kinuyo Tanaka," in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1994.
Tessier, M., "Tanaka's Tales of Love and History," in Cinemaya (New Delhi), Autumn/Winter 1994/1995.
* * *
Kinuyo Tanaka's half-century of film stardom began in the 1920s at the Shochiku Studio, leading her to become one of the few Japanese woman directors (producing six films between 1953–62).
She started appearing in contemporary and period melodramas by Hotei Nomura, Shimazu, and Gosho—specializing in cute and naive girl's roles. Through her casting opposite popular stars such as Denmei Suzuki (for director Ushihara) and Chojiro Hayashi (for director Kinugasa), she gradually established her stardom. After she appeared in the first Japanese talkie, Gosho's Madame and Wife, her soft voice, with a colloquial accent, attracted more fans. Her attractive, light, and familiar character brought a rush of popularity, making her one of the most commercially successful stars in the early 1930s. Her legendary roles include the heroines of Konjiki-yasha and Zoku aizen katsura.
Her real critical recognition came when she played the blind Koto player in Shimazu's Okoto to Sasuke. Not only did she master the difficult role as a blind woman: she enriched her acting style by successfully conveying the complicated psychology of a strong-willed, wealthy girl, after tremendous effort and training.
The work for Mizoguchi finally awakened Tanaka as an actress. From 1936 (Osaka Elegy) she collaborated with this perfectionist director until 1954 (The Woman of Rumor). They later parted when she decided to become a director herself. Mizoguchi demanded that she study the role thoroughly, including its background, and her hard work successfully met Mizoguchi's extremely high artistic standards. She became his indispensable partner, creating his ideal woman type in various roles, usually exploited by men, yet in the end "saving" them by warmly supporting them without thought of reward. As Oharu in Life of Oharu, she portrayed a woman's terrible fate at the hands of men and the social system. Particularly memorable was her performance as the lowest-class street walker, in which she dared to show the ultimate ugliness and misery of aged and weary womanhood. Contrasting with this dramatic portrayal, her performance as a warm wife who welcomes her unfaithful potter husband in Ugetsu monogatari was rather static, yet equally impressive, and elicited equally sensational acclaim from the critics and public.
Tanaka also did fine work collaborating with Naruse (Ginza Cosmetics and Mother) and Gosho (Four Chimneys), playing ordinary, hard-working women with her strong screen presence and convincingly realistic acting style.