Tanaka, who started in films at age 14, was a big star for more than 20 years before Oharu. The least that can be said of the Japanese studio system is that it kept its people busy; it should also be said that, during its golden age (or ages—before and after the war), it sustained some great directors. Tanaka acted for many of them. Apart from her long relationship with Mizoguchi (15 films together), she worked repeatedly with Hiroshi Shimizu (19 films), Yasujiro Shimazu (18), Heinosuke Gosho (20), Yasujiro Ozu (10), Mikio Naruse (6), and Keisuke Kinoshita (9), and made one or two films each with Kon Ichikawa, Akira Kurosawa, Masahiro Makino, Daisuke Ito, and Tomu Uchida.
Her films of the early 1930s present a studio-crafted feminine image demure almost to insipidity, through which shines Tanaka’s obviously genuine niceness and her increasing performance skill, not just with melodrama but with comedy, in her marvelous work with Gosho. Through films such as Gosho’s The Neighbor’s… read more