Saturday, May 18, 2019

Machiko Kyō Passes On

Actress Machiko Kyō, who appeared in such films as Rashomon (1950), Ugetsu monogatari (1953), and The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), died on May 12 2019 at the age of 95.

Machiko Kyō was born Yano Motoko in Osaka, Japan in March 25 1924. Her father left her family when she was only five years old, and she would be raised by her mother and grandmother. When she was twelve years old she enrolled in the Osaka Shochiku Kagekidan, at which point she adopted the stage name Machiko Kyō. She worked as a dancer before joining the film studio Daiei Co. in 1949. She made her film debut in Hana kurabe tanuki-goten in 1949. She appeared in the films Chijin no ai (1949), Harukanari haha no kuni (1950), and Fukkatsu (1950), before appearing in Akira Kurosawa's classic Rashomon. She played a pivotal role in Rashomon, that of the samurai's wife who had been raped.

In the Fifties Miss Kyō appeared in other significant films In Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu monogatari (known simply as Ugetsu in English speaking countries) she played Lady Wakasa, a noblewoman whose father's ghost haunts their estate. In Jigokumon (1953), known in English as Gate of Hell, she played lady-in-waiting Kesa, whom the samurai Morito (played by Kazuo Hasegawa) wants to marry. During the decade she appeared in her only English-language film, The Teahouse of the August Moon, playing the young geisha called Lotus Blossom. Miss Kyō played Sumiko, the lead actress of an acting troupe, in Yasujirō Ozu's Ukigusa (1959), known in English as Floating Weeds. During the Fifties she also appeared in such films as Itsuwareru seiso (1951), Taki no Shiraito (1952), Sen-hime (1954), Yōkihi (1955), Ana (1957), Chūshingura (1958), Kagi (1959), and Jokyō (1960).

In the Sixties Machiko Kyō appeared in such films as Shaka (1961), Kurotokage (1962), Tanin no kao (1966), Jinchoge (1966), and Genkai yûkyôden: Yabure kabure (1970).  In the Seventies she appeared in the 1977 television series Yokomizo Seishi shirîzu. She appeared in the films Karei-naru ichizoku (1974), Kinkanshoku (1976), Yoba (1976), and Otoko wa tsurai yo: Torajirô junjô shishû (1976). In the Eighties she appeared in the 1981 TV movie Haha taru koto wa jigoku no gotoku. In 2000 she guest starred on the television series Haregi, koko ichiban.

There should be little wonder that Machiko Kyō worked with some of Japan's most acclaimed directors. She was an actress of considerable talent, who played a variety of roles throughout her career. Over the years she played everything from princesses to noblewomen to a wife who may possibly be cheating on her husband. She often played complex characters that other actresses might have found difficult to portray. It should be little wonder that in her native Japan she is something of a legend.

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