Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Farewell to Arthur "Chico" Lourant, 1929-2015

Actor Arthur Lourant (left) in a behind-the-scenes shots from the TV drama Shiiku. Photo courtesy of Ebony magazine.

I'm very sad to report the passing of former actor Arthur "Chico" Lourant, who passed away on July 20, 2015. Mr. Lourant, who was born on March 30, 1929, was 86 years old.

Best known to Japanese cult film fans in America as the Wester Island ambassador in Gamera vs. Jiger (a.k.a. Gamera vs. Monster X, 1970), as well as for his tour-de-force portrayal of Charlie in War of the Insects (a.k.a. Genocide, 1968), Mr. Lourant's acting career in Japan encompasses a much broader array of films, such as the gritty postwar drama Gate of Flesh (1964) and the envelope-pushing thriller Black Sun (1964), both of which were made at Nikkatsu Studios.

Mr. Lourant meets his fans in Japan. Photo courtesy of Ebony magazine.

The longtime resident of Tucson, AZ, was a Korean War veteran who found himself in Japan after the war, making his living by playing the trumpet before switching to becoming an actor. After being temporarily mistaken for Sidney Poitier by a Toho director, Mr. Lourant began his stint as an actor and became in demand in Japanese films in just about every genre there was at the time.

While not much has ever been known about his background, a July 1963 edition of Ebony magazine (Vol. 18, #9) surfaced in recent years that has filled in many blanks. (Information culled from the article, which can be retrieved on Google here, is used in this blog post.) For many years, most writers in the West referred to him by the erroneous named Chico "Roland," which is likely a result of the katakana rendering of his name. But let's make it clear that his name is actually Arthur Lourant.

In 2010, I wrote a letter to Mr. Lourant, requesting an interview. I received a friendly call from Mr. Lourant's daughter, who told me that he read my letter more than once and was very surprised anyone would be so interested in his acting career. At that time, it seemed like an interview would be a sure bet, but unfortunately his health began to decline, so it never happened. I will always regret never having had a chance to speak directly with him.

Rest in peace, Chico-san.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed his over-the-top yet sympathetic performances in his Japanese films. I always wondered about how he got into films, and guessed he'd been an American serviceman stationed in Japan.

    ReplyDelete