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Idols of Modernity: Movie Stars of the s (Star Decades: American With its sharp focus on stardom during the s, Idols of Modernity reveals institutional, and aesthetic issues at work in American cinema of this time. "A collection of fascinating, stellar essays on the emerging culture of celebrity during the s.
Table of contents

Women tended to retire on marriage; the Western-style nuclear family, with one male breadwinner, had become standard. There were very few births out of wedlock, and divorce rates were exceptionally low. The film industry had been a wholly male arena in the earliest years of Japanese cinema; until the early s, female roles were played by male actors, as in the kabuki theatre.

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But by the post-war era, the cinema was, in part, a refuge for women who did not want to follow the standard life path: actresses often made choices that were not readily available to ordinary Japanese women. At a time when a single, lifelong marriage was overwhelmingly the norm, Hara Setsuko remained unmarried throughout her long life, while Yamada Isuzu had four husbands, as well as a significant non-marital relationship with director Kinugasa Teinosuke.

The Japanese cinema of the midth century was, like the Hollywood of the same period, a flourishing studio system. Both production and exhibition were dominated by the major studios Shochiku , Daiei and Toho , to be joined during the s by Toei and the revived Nikkatsu , for whom directors and stars worked under contract. As in Hollywood, actors and actresses established clearly defined yet flexible star personae. Among the studios, Shochiku had deliberately targeted female audiences since the silent era.

Kimi no na wa, , focusing on a couple who meet during a wartime air raid but lose each other after failing to exchange names, became the biggest box-office hit of its time.

It is impossible to think of Ozu Yasujiro without recalling the smiling serenity of Hara, or of Naruse without remembering the tender determination of Takamine Hideko. All I could do is bend with their styles and find the right rhythm for their movements.

The older generation of Japanese stars active in the post-war era included many who had started their careers before the war. Tanaka born in was acting in films by the late s; Yamada born in was a star by the mids; Hara born in played major roles from In the former, she plays a switchboard operator who descends into delinquency as she embarks on an illicit affair.

Associated with technology and communication, her profession is the archetypal symbol of modernity. In the late s, they worked together on a sequence of feminist melodramas. In Victory of Women Josei no shori, , Tanaka played a lawyer defending a female client accused of murdering her child; in Women of the Night Yoru no onnatachi, , she was a prostitute in the inhospitable environment of war-damaged Osaka.

In My Love Has Been Burning Waga koi wa moenu, , a masterpiece of feminist melodrama, she played the wife of a 19th-century liberal politician whose enlightened values do not extend into his own home. In fact, Tanaka gave outstanding performances for almost all of the great Japanese directors. To bring verisimilitude to the harrowing scene in which she bashes out her teeth with a stone, the actress famously had several of her own teeth removed.

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Beside these assertive stars, Hara Setsuko may seem a gentler, softer presence. In other films, her characterisations were still more subversive. Though a few years younger than the three actresses mentioned above, Takamine Hideko was not a new face on screen, having been a popular child star by around and a teenage idol during the war. But it was in the s and s that she made her greatest impact, and her star persona — gently forceful, active, determined and aspirational — is of a piece with the post-war mood. But the sheer tenacity and passion of the character played by Takamine sheds light on the determination and strength of the bar hostess she played in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs Onna ga kaidan o agaru toki, or the emotional depth of the widowed shopkeeper discomfited by the advances of her brother-in-law in Yearning Midareru, Takamine too made a major impact in films by other directors.

Also personifying the tough, active post-war woman was Kyo Machiko. Many of the characterisations Kyo created are unsympathetic, but all are united by the confidence and sensuality which were her trademarks. The generation of actresses represented by Takamine and Kyo, who had reached adulthood around the end of World War II, played women who were both tough and vulnerable, who had been both battered and strengthened by the experience of war and deprivation.

But by the end of the s, a new generation of women was coming to the fore in Japan: still children during the war, they had come of age in the hopeful post-war dispensation. Stars such as Wakao Ayako and Okada Mariko both born in , nearly a decade after Takamine personified a generation that possessed, perhaps for the first time in Japanese history, the confidence of affluence, and which was more likely to embrace novel modes of thought and ways of life. But both were better suited to the new modes of Japanese filmmaking emerging at the end of the s and the beginning of the s.

Wakao was to become particularly associated with Masumura Yasuzo , who brought a European-influenced freshness and flair to Japanese film, and to whose insistent modernity and scabrous social commentary Wakao was well suited.

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She was to make her greatest impact, though, working with New Wave director Yoshida Kiju aka Yoshida Yoshishige , who became her husband. Beyond these representative figures, the post-war Japanese cinema was routinely enriched by the presence of a broader roster of outstanding actresses, each with her own distinct star persona that dramatised particular aspects of the changing personal and social realities of the time. Whatever one thinks of that decision, the quality of the film owes much to the excellence of the actresses who brought the world of the geisha to life with such meticulous realism and detail.

American Cinema - One Hundred Years of Filmmaking: 5 The Western (edited)

In the post-war era, Japanese actresses both re-enacted traditional models and sketched out new modes of female conduct. More from this issue. Find out more. The Digital Edition and Archive quick link. Log in here to your digital edition and archive subscription, take a look at the packages on offer and buy a subscription.

Access the digital edition. Takamine Hideko, Video: Yasujiro Ozu and the art of Benshi. Mikio Naruse: 10 essential films. Kenji Mizoguchi: 10 essential films. Classical virtues: Shindo Kaneto and Yoshimura Kozaburo.

Hamlin Garland, Multimedia Modern | Modernism / Modernity Print+

Donald Richie, Second youth: the golden age of Nikkatsu Studios. Down the Bunka: Japanese underground cinema of the s. Where the mountain meets the street: Terayama Shuji. More about Isuzu Yamada. More about Kinuyo Tanaka. More about Setsuko Hara. More about Hideko Takamine. More about Machiko Kyo. More about Ayako Wakao.


  • Introduction.
  • Asian Industrial Clusters, Global Competitiveness and New Policy Initiatives.
  • Ian Scott, From Pinewood to Hollywood: British Filmmakers in American Cinema, ;
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  • Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters!
  • Changing Conceptions of National Biography: The Oxford DNB in Historical Perspective.

More about Mariko Okada. More about Haruko Sugimura. More about Chikage Awashima. More about Yoshiko Kuga. Back to the top. Teaching film, TV and media studies. Viewing theatre hire. Appearing as themselves are journalist Hedda Hopper and director Cecil B. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. No cover image. Read preview. Synopsis With its sharp focus on stardom during the s, Idols of Modernity reveals strong connections and dissonances in matters of storytelling and performance that can be traced both backward and forward, across Europe, Asia, and the United States, from the silent era into the emergence of sound.

Bringing together the best new work on cinema and stardom in the s, this illustrated collection showcases the range of complex social, institutional, and aesthetic issues at work in American cinema of this time.