Inagaki Hiroshi (稲垣浩)

Hiroshi INAGAKI (December 30, 1905 - May 21, 1980) was a Japanese film director. He helped lay the foundations of the film industry in Japan, and as such he was one of Japan's most famous directors; his films are also very popular with overseas audiences.

Personal profile and career

He was born in Komagome Sendagi Town in Tokyo's Hongo ward (today 1-chome, Sendagi, Bunkyo Ward) to his father Jiro TOMEI, an actor of the new acting school. He stopping going to elementary school in his first year because his mother was ill, and starting when he was seven with his debut, he appeared on stage as a child actor under the name Hiroshi TOMEI. His mother passed away when he was eight, and so he went on tour with his father, giving performances around Japan; during this period, he also taught himself to read and write, becoming quite a bookworm in an effort to become a novelist or playwright; he soon began writing his own plays. These plays were well-received not only among his father's acting troupe but among a larger audience as well.

In 1922, he joined the Nikkatsu Mukojima film studio as an actor. In 1923, Inagaki's father-son performances (with his father Jiro) began to appear on the silver screen, including in such works as director Kenji MIZOGUCHI's film 'Yoru' (Night), but as time passed Inagaki set his sights on becoming a director himself, leading him to take part in Daisuke ITO's Ito Film Study Group studying scenarios. Inagaki worked as assistant director on the 1925 film 'Nichirin' (The Sun), starring his father Jiro and directed by Ito. He later switched to working as assistant director to Teinosuke KINUGASA, and in 1928, through the good offices of Ito, he, along with Mansaku ITAMI, was invited to participate in the founding of the Chiezo KATAOKA Productions film company. That same year, Inagaki made his directorial debut on the film 'Tenka Taiheiki' (Record of the Great Peace Under Heaven), which starred Chiezo and whose screenplay was written by Itami; thereafter, he made a great number of cheerful period dramas showing Chiezo's merrier side, including 'Hoto zanmai' (Drowning in the Three Pleasures), 'Genji kozo' (The Young Priest Genji), 'Ehon musha shugyo' (Picture Book of a Warrior Traveling to Hone His Martial Skills), and 'Genroku Ju-san nen' (Year Thirteen of the Genroku Era (about the year 1700)), leading to Inagaki and Itami being called the 'two supporting pillars' of Chiezo Productions. Inagaki's adaptations to the silver screen of stories by Shin HASEGAWA like 'Mabuta no haha' (Mother of my Eyelids) and 'Ippongatana dohyo iri' (Ippongatana (One-sword) enters the ring) as well as Kan Shimozawa's work 'Yataro kasa' (Yataro's kasa (a type of conical hat)), of the wandering warrior genre, also garnered rave reviews; in later years such films by Inagaki were repeatedly remade. In 1934, he formed a screenplay writing group that managed to establish a presence in the film world with other young filmmakers living in Kyoto's Narutaki area, including Shintaro MIMURA, Sadao YAMANAKA, Eisuke TAKIZAWA, and Fuji YAHIRO; under the combined pen-name 'Kinpachi KAJIWARA,' this group wrote the scenarios for 'Hyakuman ryo no ko' (The Million-Dollar Vase) and 'Soshun Kouchiyama,' both directed by Yamannaka, and for 'Taikoki' (Chronicle of Hideyoshi) and 'Miyamoto Musashi' (Musashi Miyamoto), both directed by Takizawa, and every one of these films written by the group became smash hits.

Following this, Inagaki continued to shoot films, mainly around Nikkatsu Uzumasa and Uzumasa Kyoto, and in 1935 he co-directed 'Seki no Yatappe' with Yamanaka; Inagaki also independently crafted some of his most celebrated epic and period films during this period, including his 1935 film 'Daibosatsu toge' (literally 'The Bodhisattva's Pass' but sometimes credited as 'The Sword of Doom' in English) based on the original novel by Kaizan NAKAZATO, his 1936 film 'Matatabi sen-ichi ya' (A Thousand and One Nights in a Gambler's Wandering Life) starring the actors of the Zenshin troupe, and the film 'Umi wo wataru sairei' (The Ocean-Crossing Festival) in 1941. In 1943 he welcomed Tsumasaburo BANDO as his new star, and Inagaki's 'Muhomatsu no issei' (Life of Muhomatsu), whose screenplay was written by Itami from his sickbed, is hailed as a pre-1945 masterpiece of Japanese film, but the scene where Muhomatsu the rickshaw driver confesses his love to a soldier's widow was considered unacceptable given the wartime situation and was cut by the censors.

Inagaki resumed making films very soon after the war ended with his 1945 'Saigo no joi to' (The Final 'Expel the Foreigners' Group), and in 1947 directed the period drama that is now recognized as the finest film produced by To-Yoko Eiga (today's Toei Company, Ltd.): 'Kokoro tsuki no gotoku' (A Heart Like the Moon). Starting in 1950, he began working mainly for Toho; his film 'Miyamoto Musashi,' starring Toshiro Mifune as Musashi, won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In 1957, he re-released his own film 'Muhomatsu no issei' with the scenes that had been cut by the wartime censors restored; the complete version then went on to win the Grand Prix at the Venice International Film Festival, and the story of the brief telegram he sent to Japan just after receiving the reward, 'won, cried,' is quite famous.

Beginning in 1955, he was recognized, along with Akira KUROSAWA, as being one of Toho's two great master directors of epics and period dramas; in 1959 he created 'Nihon tanjo' (The Birth of Japan), Toho's commemorative 1000th film, starring Mifune and featuring special effects by Eiji TSUBURAYA, as well as the 1962 commemorative film 'Chushingura' (sometimes credited as 'The Forty-Seven Ronin' in English) celebrating the 30th anniversary of Toho's founding in 1932, both of which achieved success as entertainment films. Thereafter, he began working as a representative of Tokyo Hoei Productions, providing guidance to the company's stars and running them through on-stage acting exercises. In his final years, he had the story called 'Nonsense Miroshi' (Three Nonsensical Ronin) serialized as a comic strip in Nikkan Sports (a daily newspaper). Inagaki passed away on May 21, 1980. Died at the age of 74.