Murata Minoru (村田実)

Minoru MURATA (March 2, 1894-June 26, 1937) was a movie director, scriptwriter and actor who lived from the Taisho period to the early Showa period. He was the first administrative director of the Directors Guild of Japan. He left Shingeki (literally, new play) to join 'Eiga Geijutsu Kyokai' (literally, Movie Art Association) which had been established by Norimasa KAERIYAMA, and is known to have worked on "Rojo no Reikon" (Souls on The Road) as a director when he was at Shochiku Cinema Laboratory established by Kaoru OSANAI. He was active to adopt foreign film methods and contributed to establish a foundation to give Nikkatsu modern plays that are manlike, have deep and heavy features, unlike the 'Kamata Style' of Shochiku. He was a cousin of the father of Tomio KURIYAMA, a movie director.


He was born as an only son of Goro MURATA, a director of Dainippon-tosho Co., Ltd., whose residence was located in Ogawa-machi (present-day Ogawa-machi, Kanda, Chiyoda Ward), Kanda, Tokyo City.
Because his father's office was in Kyobashi (Chuo Ward, Tokyo), they soon moved to the Ginza leaving his grandfather in the house in Kanda, who was from the warrior class and an Official Appraiser in the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce (Japanese.)
He started going back and forth between the Ginza and Kanda, and grew up enjoying reading books influenced from his father's occupation and being familiar with appraisal in close contact with old art from his grandfather's hobbies and occupation.
His family faithfully believed in Christianity and he was baptized in his childhood ('Joseph' as Christian name.)
In 1906 he finished Elementary School attached to Tokyo Higher Normal School and entered Junior High School attached to Tokyo Higher Normal School. He loved reading books of Kafu NAGAI who was his senior at junior high school, and also went to 'Kanda kinki-kan,' a theater specializing in foreign movies every time the showing was renewed since his family did not allow him to see stages. At that time, Norimasa KAERIYAMA, Yasujiro SHIMAZU and Heinosuke GOSHO who were his seniors at junior high school, often visited Kinki-kan, too. Just before he finished junior high school, he saw a stage drama for the first time and was greatly impressed with Edward Gordon Craig's stage design and decided to study about plays. Though his parents told him to get a higher education, he 'had a feeling of opposition about the education system' at that time and his doctor did not recommend him to go to higher school due to his unhealthy condition.
After he finished middle school, he became a part-time student at Keio University Literature Department and studied drawing at Aoibashi Western painting school of Hakuba-kai
After working as a waiter at Teigeki Bungei-bu, he took a job of Shosei (a student who is given room and board in exchange for performing domestic duties) for Sagoromo KURISHIMA (Sumiko KURISHIMA's father-in-law) and 石川木舟.

Days at Toride Co. In September 1912, using his family's money, he published a play and art magazine "Toride" which was greatly affected by Gordon CRAIG, Max Reinhardt and Maeterlinck, etc. Ryusei KISHIDA, Hisa ANDO, Hitoshi SEIMIYA and Kiichi OKAMOTO produced the front pages and he drew pictures by himself for each issue. While most of the same types of magazines were discontinued with the third issue, this magazine "Toride" lasted to the eighth issue which was published in October of the next year. He formed Shingeki (new drama) group 'Toridesha' in October of the same year. The group had other members including Tatsuya KISHIDA who became a producer in Takarazuka Revue Company later, Michiro ITO who became a famous dancer abroad, and Sohachi KIMURA an artist. The group gave performances at Tsukiji Seiyo-ken Hall, Yuraku-za and a small theater located in Momosuke Fukuda's residence, and during these performance, he got acquainted with Shojiro SAWADA, Kaoru OSANAI, etc. But in 1914, the group was dissolved due to economical burden on his family. He spent a number of years in obscurity, changing from one new drama group to another, including groups such as those led by Takeo KAWAI, Takashi IBA, and Rokuro KITAMURA. During those years, his father failed in business.

Days at Toro-sha and Eiga Geijutsu Kyokai
To make a new start in February 1917, he formed a new drama group 'Toro-sha' with Sugisaku AOYAMA, Iyokichi KONDO, and Tsugio SEKIGUCHI who became a Germanist later and performed Yoshiro NAGAYO's product "Gaka to sono deshi" (An Artist and His Disciples) at Bijutsu Club. It is thought that at Sekiguchi's advice, he first used the term 'stage-managing' (enshutsu) in Japan at that time.
In 1918, he and members of 'Toha-sha' joined Eiga Geijutsu Kyokai which had been established by Norimasa KAERIYAMA through Shingeki group's member, and he starred in "Sei no Kagayaki" (The Shining Life) and "Miyama no Otome" (The Maiden of Deep Mountain) (directed by Norimasa KAERIYAMA) with Harumi HANAYAGI as a lead actress, who was thought to be 'the first cinema actress in Japan.'
According to Iyokichi KONDO's reminiscences, when reading a scenario of "Sei no kagayaki," Murata told Kaeriyama, 'The method of how to make scenarios is not understandable to us, but this scenario is Shinpa-Geki (a New-School Play) like this.' and stayed up all night long for three straight nights to revise the scenario with Kaeriyama and Kondo. This made him get enthusiastically involved in films, departing from Shingeki. In 1919, however, there was a conflict of ideas over the production of the fourth film "Saraba Seishun" (Goodbye Youth) (directed by Iyokichi KONDO) and he left the group.
In the same year, he was a second winner in a scenario contest for second-type movies (available for all generations) which was sponsored by Tokyo Nichinichi Newspaper (the first winner was Iwao MORI who became a director of Toho Co., Ltd. later and the third winner was Komatsu KITAMURA, a scenario writer in Shochiku Kamata.)

Days in Shochiku Cinema
In March 1920, he entered 'Shochiku Cinema School of Acting' of which Kaoru OSANAI was the school head. He had lectures with Kiyohiko USHIHARA, Yasujiro SHIMAZU, Daisuke ITO, Denmei SUZUKI and Komatsu KITAMURA, and wrote the scenarios of "Hoshi no Bara," (The Rose of the Service) (the showing was postponed due to excessive Western mimicry) as the Schochiku's first film produced at Shochiku Kamata Studio and "Hikari ni tatsu onna (Joyu-den)" (The Woman Standing in the Light - Memoir of an Actress) and directed these movies. In the meantime, 'Shochiku Cinema School of Acting' was closed due to confrontations with in-house directors who were focused on commercialism. When Osanai established the 'Shochiku Cinema Laboratory,' he joined him and was involved in the first production "Rojo no Reikon" (Souls on The Road) as both a director and an actor. Just after the movie was complete, Murata got seriously sick and the mother of Kiyohiko USHIHARA (he wrote the scenario and appeared in it) and fathers of Monjiro MIZUTANI (shooting) and Yasujiro SHIMAZU (lighting) died a sudden death. The movie had a great deal of response at that time, and still exists as a material telling about the earliest days of Japanese art films.

Days of unemployment and in Nikkatsu Mukojima Studios
In August 1921, 'Shochiku Cinema Laboratory' was dissolved and Murata took the responsibility for weighing on Shochiku's financial position because he spared no expense for production costs, and resigned from the company. At Tokyo Cinema Shokai, he made advertising commercial for cosmetics companies and took a job of cutting or editing at a day wage of only five yen. Also, he joined Kokusai katsuei which was going to fold up and made films starring an actor of female roles (starring Teinosuke KINUGASA who had quit Nikkatsu Mukojima). In 1923, he joined Nikkatsu Studio through Iyokichi KONDO, but he experienced hardship in which he was at first forced to use poor scenarios and unknown actors and actresses.
According to Kondo's reminiscences, when Koichi NEGISHI, general manager of the head office saw Murata for the first time, Kondo was accused by him saying 'Such a small man can't be a director.'
At that time, he went to the Koishikawa Hakubunkan museum almost every night after finishing his work in Mukojima and gave guidance on the Artisan Theater (Labor Theater)held in the long house of the museum. Sunao TOKUNAGA who became a proletarian writer later wrote appreciative words, and a letter from Sen KATAYAMA, a socialist to Murata was published in "Shin eiga" (literally "New Movie") in July 1923 issue.

Days at Nikkatsu Taishogun movie studio
The studio in Mukojima was destroyed during the Great Kanto Earthquake and Nikkatsu gendai geki department was moved into Nikkatsu Studio in Kyoto and named 'Dainibu' (Second Department). In 1924, "Seisaku no tsuma" (A wife of Seisaku,) which is thought to be the first anti-war movie in Japan was well received, supported by the great performance of a new actress Kumeko URABE, and in 1925, he first won an award of '1925 Asahi Shimbun Best Movie of the Year' for "Machi no Tejinashi" (The Magician of the City) in Japanese movie category. Yoshiko OKADA who had belonged to Shingeki (literally, new play) instantly became a famous actress. Murata is thought to be a director who first established the so-called film technique in which a play was broken up by cutting, and since he tried to mold actors and actresses into his style, his acting instruction was so harsh that there was a lot of trouble with leading actresses of that time including Okada. From the time when this "Machi no Tejinashi" was being shot to around the time this movie started to show, he invited Sotoji KIMURA to his house in Tojiin as shosei (a student who is given room and board in exchange for performing domestic duties), and headhunt Eiji NAKANO from Nikkatsu Baseball Team to employ him for Haiyubu (Actors Department). Just before the shooting of a next film "Daichi wa hohoemu" (The Earth Smiles) was about to start, he fell sick and Kenji MIZOGUCHI substituted for him and made the film successful. In July of the same year, at the advice of Ueschi-sha in Germany, Mizoguchi left for Europe to hold a show of "Machi no Tejinashi" with Iwao MORI who wrote the scenario, leaving Nikkatsu's directors including Matsunosuke ONOE who came to see them out at the airport. While they held a show in Paris and Berlin, they were shocked with problems that occurred with screening equipment and bad critics, 'The pictures are too dark and have too much of a Western air too; it is enough for such a unique country to add its own taste to the movie as a unique country' (French magazine "Shine-miroa"). However, Germany director Lupu Pick got interested in the movie, and he was back home in January 1926 with his promise of holding a show to save face. After he was back, he became the chief film director of the Second Department. In May of the same year, he was nominated as the second winner in the Third Kinema Junpo Top Ten (1926) because he used the setting featuring the abstract painting style of Tomoyoshi MURAYAMA as Russian Constructivism in a movie "Nichirin" a joint film with Daisuke ITO and drew a lot of attention. His master Kaoru OSANAI highly praised their ability and technique as a director. However, Nikkatsu gendai geki of that time was significantly behind the Shochiku Kamata Studio and for countermeasures, he and Iwao MORI established the planning headquarters 'Nikkatsu Kinyo-kai' at the Marunouchi head office with the approval of Koichi NEGISHI who had been promoted to director in June of the same year. Eizo TANAKA who was still in the head office and Hajime MASUDA, Akira IWASAKI and Kajiro YAMAMOTO who were persons outside of Nikkatsu joined Nikkatsu Kinyo-kai. They wrote new and fresh scenarios or made new and fresh plans for Nikkatsu's directors including Yutaka ABE, and succeeded in forming a modern image for Nikkatsu gendai geki. In March 1927, he was elected for the first rank in the 'Director popularity poll' in the magazine called "Eiga Jidai" (literally meaning movie era) March issue (Kiyohiko USHIHARA for the second rank) and established himself as a movie director. Soon after that, when the shooting of "Tsubaki hime" (The Lady of the Camelias) as a project planned by 'Kinyo-kai' was goin on, he blew up a leading character Yoshiko OKADA with his scorching-like words in front of crowds, and Okada ran off together with her opposite Ryoichi TAKEUCHI, also because of stress and frustration in her private life. It caused a scandalous big fuss. The company persuaded Iwao MORI who was saying that 'Unless Okada takes the role, I will take back the scenario' and Shizue NATSUKAWA who was reluctant to join, and the movie achieved a financial success, although they were compelled to change the characters to the imperfect casting.
From that time, as a general manager of liberal art, he started taking on the role of producing Nikkatsu modern drama and was involved in the production of Tomotaka TASAKA's "Kekkon Nijuso" (Marriage Duet) (the 8th place of the Fifth Kinema Junpo Top Ten (1928.)
In June of the same year, he published "Eiga Kagaku Kenkyu" (Movie Science Research), with Kiyohiko USHIHARA and was devoted to teaching young people. At the end of the year, he started shooting "Kaijin," Roka TOKUTOMI's original tragedy featuring issues of the climate of thought in Japan.
Kaneto SHINDO who was a movie fan and watched Kaijin first-run in March 1929 the next year, reviewed that the movable long shots made by Junichiro AOSHIMA in Eizan cable car to follow Eiji NAKANO acting as a straggler of Saigo's army provided beautiful spectacular scenes he had, for the first time, seen in Japanese movie history.'
This movie was appreciated; 'This movie is one of the best movies which have been made in Japan so far' and won the second prize in the Sixth Kinema Junpo Top Ten (1929.)
He became a number one director both in name and reality and left Taishogun Film Studios.

Days at Nikkatsu Uzumasa movie studio
In April 1929, the moving of Gendai geki bu into Nikkatsu Studio was completed, and he took the posts of the general manager of the planning, director, and scenario departments. Both "Matenro/Sotohen" (Skyscraper/Fighting version) a product strongly impacted by Josef von Sternberg and "Kaijin" won the fifth place in the Sixth Kinema Junpo Top Ten, and in August 1930 the next year, he was voted second place (388 votes) in 'the First Japanese Best Movie Directors Election' after Daisuke ITO (457 votes). While it was stated in "Nikkatsu no shashi to gensei" (literally, the history and status of Nikkatsu) issued in December of the same year that his post was 'general manager of Gendai geki planning department and president's secretary,' he started suffering from the following: young talented persons such as Kenji MIZOGUCHI, Tomotaka TASAKA, and Tomu UCHIDA were appearing in Nikkatsu gendai geki around this time, the dissolution of 'Kinyo-kai' due to the embarrassment of the directors, increasing confrontations between the company and its employees reflecting the period, changes in production style due to talking pictures (the company placed restrictions on directors ability to produce movies freely and independently). When he visited Kyogoku Kinema Kurabu to judge small scale movies because of his relations with writing for courses in "Kogata Eiga" (Small Scale Movies) before (around 1927), he met Yoshikata YODA, an employee of Sumitomo Bank and an amateur movie producer and in 1930, hired him as Murata's assistant-director and script writer.
Yoda recollected that since "Umi no nai minato" (The Port without an Ocean, 1931), 'when producing a movie, Murata lost his vigor and was weak enough to think that his chronic disease diabetes were worsening, and looked painful when he was thinking about production, laying himself to stage sets and putting his head in his hands.'
In August 1932, an internal battle was caused by Director Sadayori NAKATANI, who attempted to get rid of Tsunehisa IKENAGA known as a popular manager and his group of people to grab the power in the company. Also, Nakatani executed massive layoffs of 186 employees of the studio in the name of operation efficiency, resulting in a labor dispute, and Murata and other key directors gave guidance for the labor dispute on the side of the employees. However, he was soon caught in the crossfire of the escalating employee side and the company side, and in September, quit the company with 'The Retiring Seven' including Daisuke ITO, Tomu UCHIDA, Tomotaka TASAKA, Isamu KOSUGI, and Koji SHIMA, and Masaru ASHIDA from the Production Department, saying that he is not capable of settling the dispute and was inappropriate to take on the role. At the same time, he lost his daughter.

Days at Shin eigasha (New Film Company) and Shinko Cinema
Soon after quitting the company, 'The Retiring Seven' established Shin eigasha (New Film Company) and their initial purpose was to send a new wind by introducing the external production of unique products in an attempt to assist in the renewal of Nikkatsu. However, halfway they changed their policy on their own independent management, and with the assistance of Iwao MURATA, shot "Showa Shinsengumi" the first product based on the scenario of Daisuke ITO by PCL in December, under directors Minoru MURATA, and Tomotaka TASAKA. But, the company was dissolved in May 1933 due to poor management capability and was absorbed into Shinko Cinema, closing a short-term life.
When Murata joined Toei Kyoto Movie Studios, people thought that he would make mediocre products quickly one after another, but in 1934 he was highly appreciated about "Muteki" (A Foghorn) which was Jiro DAIBUTSU's original novel after a long-term interval and won the ninth prize in the Eleventh Kinema Junpo Top Ten (1934.)
After "Muteki," he started using a name 'Shuroku Kunihiro' as a scenario writer.

Establishment of the Directors Guild of Japan and his later years
On the day in 1936 when the February 26th Incident occurred, east and west representatives (Murata, Kiyohiko USHIHARA, Teinosuke KINUGASA, Daisuke ITO and Mansaku ITAMI) of theater movie directors got together at Sundai-so in Kanda Surugadai and reached an agreement on establishing the 'Directors Guild of Japan' in an attempt to relieve themselves from 'Five Company Agreement' as a fetter and secure movie director's independence and rights. On March 1, an inaugural ceremony was held at Tokyo Kaikan Hall and he was appointed the first administrative director of directors. It was because of his great performance that he endeavored to establish the director's power, make it accepted by the industry and enhance their creating ability to an art. In autumn of the same year, when shooting "Shingetsusho," ("The New Moon Story", literally,) he broke down from his chronic disease diabetes and was hospitalized in Todai Hospital. It is said that when staying in hospital, he asked Kiyohiko USHIHARA to visit him by repeated express mails and discussed with him about the future of Kantoku kyokai.
In June 1937 the following year, he also developed pleurisy and died young at the age of forty four (his forty third birthday.)
The Directors Guild of Japan held the first large-scaled corporate funeral for Murata at Tokyo St. Mary's cathedral in Koishikawa and Kenji MIZOGUCHI, Kiyohiko USHIHARA, Yasujiro SHIMAZU, Teinosuke KINUGASA, Kintaro INOUE, and Junichiro AOSHIMA carried the coffin over their shoulders and placed it on an alter.
It was ten days prior to the Rokokyo bridge Incident (the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.)
When Akira KUROSAWA was first conferred the Order of Culture among film related persons in 1985, he said in an interview 'This award meant that I am the oldest person in the film industry, and if those people were alive, they should have received this award.' pointing out the names of four persons including Kenji MIZOGUCHI, Yasujiro OZU, Mikio NARUSE, and last, Minoru MURATA. Eiji NAKANO said as follows.
It's not for sure, but if Murata were alive, he should have ascended to a much higher rank, though he, of course, was already a top-class person at that time.'
He died at the age of forty four, though.'
He would have reached a much higher rank than Kenji MIZOGUCHI.'
Yoshitaka YODA, adding 'Around the time I started working for Murata, his condition was pretty bad,' evaluated as follows.
I can't help but compare him to Kenji MIZOGUCHI.'
Then, I feel like "what on earth is this film?"'
(Snip) The reason why Minoru MURATA lost popularity seemed to be that his Western style was too old to fit with the times.'
Depending on the person, the difference between approval and disapproval was great. Due to a fire that occurred in Nikkatsu's film warehouse before the war, only two movies exist, "Rojo no Reikon" (Souls on The Road) as an initial study product and "Muteki" which he shot in Shinko Cinema, so he is said to be one of the most difficult directors to evaluate.