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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Japanese Actor Ken Takakura Dead At 83

Japanese movie actor Takakura Ken (surname first) has died at the age of 83 of lymphoma at a hospital in Tokyo on Nov 10, 2014 - meaning it took bloody eight days for us to find out.

Where are the Japanese paparazzi when you want them? Probably trying to shoot up someone's skirt.

Born as Oda Goichi on February 16, 1931 in Kita-Kyushu-shi in Japan, Takakura would probably most familiar to western audiences as the gruff coach of the Dragons baseball team in the Tom Sellick movie, Mr. Baseball.

Other western movies he might be familiar from include: Too Late the Hero (1970); The Yakuza (1975); and Black Rain (1989).

Of course, that is all just a drop in the bucket, as Takakura made a total of 205 screen appearances - his last coming in Dearest (2012).

Takakura was given the Order of Culture by Emperor Akihito in 2013 for his contribution to Japan’s arts.

Standing an imposing 1.9-meters (5'-10¾") tall  - which is my height (I stand above you all - bwa-ha-ha-ha) (LOL!), Takakura was known as the Clint Eastwood of Japan thanks to his brooding but honorable characterization he world bring to his roles.
The Drifting Avenger - 1968.
He came by this swagger honestly, as he grew up in post-WWII Fukuoka, watching the yakuza battle each other for territory and the (still) lucrative black market and racketeering industries of the underworld.

Takakura got his start as an actor in 1955, when after graduating from Meiji University in Tokyo, he heard there was an audition over at Toei Film Company, and decided to check it out.

Does anyone else think that sometimes it really was easier to get discovered in the 'old days'?

He got the role, debuting in the flick Denko Karate Uchi (Lightning Karate Blow) in 1956.

Just as America had experienced a BOOM in gangster flicks back in the 1930s when the mobster ruled the real news thanks to the hardships of the Depression, so too did Japan experience a BOOM in yakuza flicks in the 1960s, as it experienced hardships of post WWII.

Takakura's forte was being such a person who saw Japan before the yakuza era, and during its early stages and as such his characters played off both sides… a tough guy with a conscience.

Hell… you can see that even in Mr. Baseball!   
Ken Takakura in Mr. Baseball. I wouldn't mess with him.
If you think that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller in 1986 was the beginning of the anti-hero… or maybe Wolverine in the late 1970s… Japan was already doing it in the movies… and Takakura exploited that when he played an ex-convict anti-hero in the 1965 flick Abashiri Bangaichi.

In the ensuing 11 years when he left Toei Films in 1976, he had appeared in over 180 films. Ho-ly Smokes that's a lot of celluloid!

I've seen him in plenty of movies and TV commercials and… well… he will be missed. Fortunately, in my opinion, he lives on and on and on in movies.

The king is dead. Long live the king.
Andrew Joseph

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