Something about Setusko


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History1 The Star was born (1935-1937)
Golden era and a hardship (1952-1956)


History 1 The Star was born (1935-1937)


Although Setsuko Hara was famous for having an unusual big eyes and called " 5cm Eye" in her childhood, she was a normal girl, good at study and wanted to be a teacher in her futhure--- never really thought about being an actress---.

Her brother in law, Hisatora Kumatani, was a director at Nikkatsu Studio and advised her to be an actress to help her family's financial situation. So she got into Nikkatsu Studio when she was 14 years-old.

Her first film was "Do not hesitate, Young folks" (1935) which was a teen's love story. She was lucky to have a center role at her first flim, although her beauty and innocent look caught some director's attention including Sadao Yamanaka who later shot a "Kochiyama Soshun"(1936). Actually this film changed her life.

In 1936, there was a project between Japan and German to make a film together. The time was just before W.W.2 and there was a military treaty among Japan, Germany and Italy. Arnold Fanck ,who was famous for Mountain films, was selected for German side of the Director and was looking for a Japanese actress for the center role of "The New Earth"(1937)

Arnold Fanck was visiting Japan and happend to be at the shooting spot of the "Kochiyama Soshun" and saw Setsuko Hara and recommended her to do the Heroine of "The New Earth". At first, Kinuyo Tanaka, who was a No.1 poplure actress of this time in Japan, got close to the role but there was a Studio contract problem and a young new star, Setsuko Hara, was selected for the role.

As matter of fact, Setsuko's 4th film "Midori no Chiheisen"(1935) ,which she performed a sick dancer who will, at the end, commit a suiecide with her boy friend, became a big hit and her name started to known by people, but there is no doubt that Setsuko truely got into starhood by the mega-hit of "The New Earth".(Atarashiki tuchi)


Golden era and a hardship,(1952-1956)


Her Golden era comes soon after the World War 2 and stared in numbers of Mega-hit films. Of course, she was one of the poplure acctress, already, in the war time but her peak was 1949-1952 and often ranked No.1 at the Magazine's acctress poplure chart. There was even a plan of Japan-US (Toho-Colombia) collaboration film "Ryosyu"("Traveler's Sentiment" novel written by Riichi Yokomitsu) and Setsuko was selected for the center roll. But unfortunately location in France had a trouble, mainly in money condition, and the plan was suspended and never came out.

Also in 1952, her health became out of shape and had to rest for a half year and missed Mikio Naruse's "Huhu"("Husband and wife"1953) which was made for Setsuko Hara to play the lead. It was kind of a variation film of the "Meshi"("The Repast") which became a big hit in 1951 and the studio ordered Naruse to make a film using Setsuko and Ken Uehara as a couple.

Setsuko's hardship continues. Soon after her comeback in "Shirauo"(1953), which means beautiful white hands, her big brother was killed, in front of her, at the location of the film. Her brother was a camera-man and killed when he was shooting in the rail track for a station scene. She was shocked and grieved---but 2 weeks later the shoot of Ozu's "Tokyo Story"(1953) started. As you know, she made the best performance in her life. Ironically, the story was about a death and collapse of the family.

She continued working, but her body and mental health were at the limit, and soon after the shoot of Naruse's"The Sound of the mountain",Jan.1954, she was diagnosised cataract and had to adjourn her career for almost 2 years. Cataract likely to occur when you have a mental shock or malnutrition.

It was unlucky for her to be absent more than 2 years in her peak of beauty and populality.She just got into 30's and start to feel eagerness and confident for acting. She could have done more great pictures and confirm her status as a queen of Japanese acctress. Anyway, at the time when she came back to the film world at 1955, she was at her mid-30s and had to explore the frontier of motherhood or mid-marriage crisis kind of role.

Although there was a plan for Setsuko to play the passionate girl , Kazuko, in "Shayo"("The setting sun" novel written by Osamu Dazai) for her come back film in 1955. The story was about the downfall of Japanese aristocracy, and Kazuko was a girl who fell in love with a drug addict artist and she and her family couldn't help themselves to be curruped. It is a famous novel in Japan describing a decadence of nobility and a young Japanese after the war. Mikio Naruse was choosed to direct the film and it could have been a masterpieace---but the plan was cancelled due to the lack of time, since the film company wanted to be finished it for the new year distributing. And instead "Shu-u"("The Sudden Rain")were made. This is a fine work but I couldn't help wondering what it might be--- if Naruse shot the "Shayo".

People say that her health problem and her brother's death were one of the factor for her mysterious retirement in 1962.


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