Ikebe Ryo

I was sad to see that the great actor, Ikebe Ryo, passed away on October 8th at the age of 92.

Ikebe was somewhat the intellectual, the son of a painter who graduated from the Literature Faculty of Rikkyo University. He originally entered the industry in 1941 to become a screenwriter, but soon switched to acting. His career, however, was put on hold by the war. He served in China and New Guinea, experiencing great hardship (most of his unit died in battle or of starvation and disease), and left the army at the rank of lieutenant. He returned to Toho and came to fame in the 1949 hit Aoi sanmyaku (Blue Mountains) playing a high schooler of all things--even though he was already over 30 at the time. It was first his youthful but serious good looks that ensured his stardom in the 1950s, as he appeared especially in a lot of literary adaptations (e.g., Botchan and Snow Country). He was also in a number of the Toho special effects films like Battle in Outer Space. He successfully extended his career by playing yakuza in the 1960s, starting with Shinoda's Pale Flower and continuing with many of the great ninkyo pictures at Toei. A very intelligent and principled man, he headed up the Nihon Eiga Haiyu Kyokai (an actor's union) and won major awards for his essays. His essays are well worth reading and he was a great man to listen to in person.

Shimura Miyoko and Yumiketa Aya put out an excellent book on him, Eiga haiyu Ikebe Ryo (Waizu Shuppan), that every library should get.

I should note that Ikebe was my mother-in-law's favorite actor. She has a huge pile of bromides at home, and it seems like half of them are of Ikebe. She of course has his autograph--and even a photo of her with Ikebe in the 1950s.

So from all of our family, I say "Gokurosama deshita."

Here is the NHK report on his passing:

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