Bando Tsumasaburo (阪東妻三郎)

Tsumasaburo BANDO (December 14, 1901 - July 7, 1953) was a Japanese actor. His real name was Denkichi TAMURA, but during the age of silent cinema he directed various motion pictures under the name of Shuntaro OKAYAMA. He was from Tsunohazu, Minamitoshima-gun, Tokyo Prefecture (the present-day Nishi-shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku Ward, Tokyo Metropolis).
His nickname was 'Bantsuma.'

Biography and Personal Profile

He was born as a son of a wholesale cotton dealer on December 14, 1901.

After graduating in 1916 from the higher course of an elementary school under the old system, he became a pupil of the eleventh Nizaemon KATAOKA and made his debut in 1918. However, he was not satisfied with the kabuki world, which was very traditional and Tsumasaburowas scouted by the newly established Makino Film Studios upon its founding in 1923. He made his debut as a leading actor in the movie "Senketsu no tegata" (The Fresh-Blood Handprint), which was written by Rokuhei SUSUKITA. Kageboshi (Silhouette) had the same combination of leading actor and scriptwriter and was greeted with such great public favor that Tsumasaburo was assured of a position as the top-ranking actor in period movies.

Later, when Tsumasaburo's mentor, director Shozo MAKINO left Toa Cinema to become independent, Tsumasaburo himself established Bando Tsumasaburo Productions. In 1925, Tsumasaburo played a nihilistic hero in "Orochi" (Serpent) and this became a big hit because it perfectly matched the tenor of the times.
His valiant sword fighting took the audience by storm, earning him the sobriquet 'Bantsuma of Battle Royale.'
He then tied up with Shochiku Co., Ltd., and made some hits, but gradually Bantsuma's image became a stereotype and his popularity started to dwindle. Eventually, Bando Tsumasaburo Production ended its 12 years of operation in 1936 with the movie "Doto ichibannori" (The First Man to Get There in a Surge of People).

He then transferred to Nikkatsu Corporation. Although he was no longer as nimble a sword fighter as he had once been, he continued to play the leading role with his dignified acting.

He believed his shrill, thin voice in his first appearance in a talking picture disappointed fans and led to the decline of his popularity, Tsumasaburo practiced speaking in a loud voice over and over, hoping to overcome the challenge of sound in films.
Thanks to his efforts, he was able to perform an excellent fighting scene in his comeback movie, the first half and second half of "Koiyamabiko" (Yamabiko in Love), which heralded the revival of 'Bantsuma, King of Swordplay.'

During the war years, he starred in masterpieces such as "Chikemuri Takadanobaba" (Takadanobaba Duel), "Mazo" (evil image), "Edo saigo no hi" (The Last Days of Edo), "Shogun to sanbo to hei" (Shogun, General Staff and Soldiers) and "Muhomatsu no issho" (The Life of Matsu, the Untamed). After the war, he starred in productions such as the period movie "Oedo Gonin Otoko" (Five Men of Edo), "Osho" (King) in 1948, a movie based on the life of the gifted professional shogi player Sankichi SAKATA and a comical modern drama "Yabure-daiko" (A Broken Drum) and was a true 'star' together with Denjiro OKOCHI.

On July 2, 1953, he stopped filming of the movie "Abare Jishi" (A Wild Lion) due to poor health from chronic hypertension and on July 7 of the same year, he passed away due to a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 51 years of age. His wife was Naoko FUSHIMI. Among his five children, the first son, Takahiro TAMURA (who died in 2006), the third son, Masakazu TAMURA, and the fourth son, Ryo TAMURA, all became actors and are still active today (the second son, Toshimaro TAMURA, a businessman, served Takahiro and Masakazu as their agent). Tsumasaburo had an illegitimate son, Yasuhiro MINAKAMI, who also became an actor.

[Original Japanese]