Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ED KEANE: Kokusai Man of Mystery!

Here's an interesting find. I recently stumbled across the June 2009 newsletter published by San Francisco's Granada Hotel called The Granada Gazette. What's so special about it, you may ask? It features an article about one of its standout residents, Ed Keane!

For those of you not in the know, Ed Keane played the mayor of New Kirk City (not New York City!) in Mothra (1961), among other roles in such Toho films as Gorath (identified in the article as "Goliath"), The Last War, The Big Boss, and others. Mr. Keane was co-creator of the Kokusai Agency, which supplied movie productions in Japan with foreign (i.e., white) actors.

I contacted the hotel earlier today, and it seems Mr. Keane no longer resides at the hotel, and no forwarding address was given. The manager I spoke with told me that Mr. Keane was always looking for ways to keep active and enjoyed talking about his days in Japan.

Below you'll find a closer look at the article. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

TAKARADA TAKES NAKATSUGAWA: The Toho Legend Introduces His Film to a Packed Audience!

Behind the scenes at the Nakatsugawa Bunka Kaikan: Toho star Akira Takarada poses with local fans in his dressing room.

September 13, 2012, saw Akira Takarada return to Nakatsugawa, Gifu, to introduce his 1957 film The Green Mountains (produced by Toho Studios) to a packed house at the Nakatsugawa Bunka Kaikan. Co-starring Akira Kubo, Takashi Shimura, Yoshifumi Tajima, Sachio Sakai, and other familiar faces from Toho, it was filmed in Nakatsugawa by director Shue Matsubayashi (The Last War, 1961).

A poster announcing the Green Mountains screening in Nakatsugawa.

First, a confession. I didn't think very many people would show up. In retrospect, I'm not sure why. I guess I must have figured that, since it was basically just a screening of an old movie in the middle of the week, not many people would show up. Suffice it to say, I was shocked when I saw the line waiting to get inside stretch on for what seemed like miles. Just how many people came? You can see for yourself.

When I say it was a packed house, this is what I mean! You could hardly find an empty chair in the Nakatsugawa Bunka Kaikan.

Just before the film screened, Mr. Takarada took the stage to share his memories of the film. Although it was made 55 years ago, Mr. Takarada regaled the audience with his stories. At the end of his presentation, Mr. Takarada was joined by a chorus who participated in the singing of the film's theme song.

Mr. Takarada, always joyful, cracks a smile while recalling the good old days. 

Mr. Takarada shares a laugh with one of the chorus singers.

After the song concluded, the film began. For about the first 10 minutes, the print looked like a low-resolution YouTube video that someone had blown up to fit a theater screen. It was almost impossible to enjoy the movie. Then, without warning, the picture quality improved by leaps and bounds, and it remained that way until the end. It was an enjoyable movie, but what made it a fascinating cultural experience was the audience participation, so to speak. Whenever a familiar location was seen in the background of a given shot, the audience would begin commenting on it in unison, creating a roar that quickly swept the theater. I've never before experienced that in a theater in my life.

The highlight of the event happened at the after-party in a restaurant called Annie Hall. At one point, Mr. Takarada asked me to stand up. He then introduced me to the crowd, talked about G-FEST, etc. It was quite overwhelming to be talked up in such a way by one of my childhood idols. Mr. Takarada also asked me to address the audience (in Japanese, no less!), which I did my best to do.

All in all, it was quite an evening.

Video of Mr. Takarada singing with the chorus can be watched below: