Makino Shozo (牧野省三)

Shozo MAKINO (September 22, 1878 - July 25, 1929), born in Kyoto, was a film director, film producer and businessman.
He was the first professional film director in Japan and is known as 'the father of Japanese cinema.'
He nurtured many movie stars such as Tsumasaburo BANDO, Chiezo KATAOKA, Kanjuro ARASHI and Ryunosuke TSUKIGATA as well as many star film directors who were formerly actors such as Masahiro MAKINO, Teinosuke KINUGASA, Buntaro FUTAGAWA, Kintaro INOUE and Tomu UCHIDA. He also nurtured young and unknown scriptwriters such as Rokuhei SUSUKITA and Itaro YAMAGAMI by shedding light and giving preferential treatment to them. He was a giant in the founding period of movie in Japan.

Career and personality

The Father of Japanese Cinema

He was born on September 22, 1878, in Yamaguni Village, Kitakuwata County in Northern Kyoto (present-day Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City). His father was Itsuki FUJINO, the leader of the 'Ishin Kinno Yamagunitai' militia, and his mother was Yanakichi TAKEMOTO (Yana MAKINO), who was a female gidayu (chanted narrative in Japanese plays) reciter. As he was an illegitimate child, he was brought up by his mother. From his childhood he was interested in the traditional performing arts and spent his days performing on the stage of the variety hall run by his mother. Later, he helped his mother run the 'Senbonza' (later, Senbon Nikkatsu), a small theater she had acquired in the western suburbs of Kyoto and, from time to time, performed gidayu and acting.

In 1908, he was requested by Einosuke YOKOTA, who had been showing moving pictures in the Senbonza, to produce a movie. He borrowed a camera and film from YOKOTA, and made the film, "Honnoji Gassen (Battle at Honno-ji Temple)", starring Fukunosuke NAKAMURA and Ritoku ARASHI, who were performing at the Senbonza at the time. This became the first Jidaigeki-eiga (period drama) in Japan. It is often confused with 'the first story film in Japan,' but this was actually "Sadakichi SHIMIZU" directed and shot in 1899 by Koyo KOMADA and Tsunekichi SHIBATA and featuring Unpei YOKOYAMA. YOKOYAMA later worked for Makino.

In 1909, MAKINO made "Goban Tadanobu Genji no Ishizue" featuring Matsunosuke ONOE, an itinerant actor and member of the Konkokyo religion he found in Okayama. Matsunosuke, whose specialty was big fight scenes, became extremely popular and, over the next ten years, starred in a large number of films. As well as playing traditional heroes from kabuki (traditional drama), gidayu and kyogen (farce), he made use of his athleticism in many monster and ninja movies. All his films had a simple story with clear-cut heroes and villains, making them popular even with children. Shozo's famous motto for producing movies '1. suji (story), 2. nuke (shot awareness) and 3. dosa (action)' is based on his experience in this period.

Around 1920, Shochiku and Daiei Katsudo Eiga (Daikatsu) began to produce movies in Tokyo.
Feeling a sense of crisis in the cinema world in Kyoto would decline, he left Nikkatsu in 1921 and established 'Makino Kyoiku Eiga Seisakusho (Makino Educational Film Studio).'
The next year, in 1922, the company changed its name to 'Makino Eiga Seisakusho (Makino Film Studio)' and, after the Great Kanto Earthquake of September 1, 1923 Tomu UCHIDA and others from Daikatsu and Utako TAMAKI and Tsumasaburo BANDO from Kokusai Katsuei which were forced to suspend their productions, joined and its realistic sword fights, produced by young and creative staff around twenty years old, became popular. However, the company struggled financially and was forced to merge with Toa Kinema in 1924, but he set up on his own again, establishing 'Makino Productions' in 1925.

In 1928, he shot the epic film "Chukon Giretsu Jitsuroku Chushingura (literally, loyal soul and chivalry, true record of treasury of loyal retainer)," but he had conflict with Yoho II, who played a leading role. In 1928, he started work on the epic "Chukon Giretsu -Jitsuroku Chushingura" (literally, 'Loyalty and Chivalry, A True Record of the 47 Samurais') but various problems, including a falling out with actor Yoho II and the loss of parts of the negative in a fire that also destroyed his house, meant the film was released incomplete. In addition, his omission of several stars from the movie led them to revolt and more than fifty actors and actresses left the company. Nevertheless, he went ahead of the times grappling with research of disc-type talkie and completed the work roughly. On July 25, 1929, he died of heart failure. He was fifty years old at the time of his death.

The Makino Legacy

Fifty days after Shozo's death, a restructuring of 'Makino Productions,' centered on Shozo's mere 21-year-old eldest son, Masahiro MAKINO, was announced. However, as Shozo's widow, Chiyoko MAKINO, who was a head of the 'Main House of Makino', assumed the representative director of the company, there was 'double management,' between Chiyoko and the studio, leading to daily problems such as non-payment of wages and strikes, the company was dissolved two years after Shozo's death in 1931. When Shozo died, he left behind debts of 370,000 yen, which Masahiro MAKINO alone was made to take on for the sole reason that he was the eldest son.

Six years after the death of Shozo, who for the last year of his life had turned to talkies, Masahiro MAKINO continued his fathers plan by establishing 'Makino Talkie Studio' and mass-produced reasonably-priced, high quality talkies. Masatsugu TAKAMURA, Shozo's son-in-law, started 'Shoei Makino Kinema' the year after the collapse of Makino Productions but it did not survive long. After the Second World War, Shozo's third son, Shinzo MAKINO, established 'Makino Geinosha' jointly with his actress wife, Chikako MIYAGI. Shozo's second son, Mitsuo MAKINO, did not establish any company with the name 'MAKINO' but worked as a movie producer for Manchuria Film Association, Toyoko Film Company and Toei Company, Ltd..

The Makino Family

Shozo began to use the name 'Shozo MAKINO' after establishing Makino Productions and gave the family name 'MAKINO' to his sons and daughters, who appeared in the company's productions as child actors and young stars.