Higashibojo Yasunaga (東坊城恭長)

Yasunaga HIGASHIBOJO (September 9, 1904 - September 22, 1944) was a Japanese movie actor, scriptwriter, and film director. He was the third son of Yoshinaga HIGASHIBOJO, a Viscount (court rank and honors) and a member of the House of Peers, working actively at the Nikkatsu Studio in the prewar period. Takako IRIE, the eldest daughter of the said Viscount, was his sister; her eldest daughter Wakaba IRIE, an actress, is his niece.

Biography and Personal Profile

On September 9, 1904, he was born as the third son of the Higashibojo family in Azabu, Tokyo.

After graduating from the preliminary course of Keio University, he moved to Kyoto; at the age of 23, he entered a motion-picture company named "Ogasawara Production," just established in Kyoto in 1923 by Meiho OGASAWARA, the eldest son of Naganari OGASAWARA. He became a movie actor in the days of silent movies at the end of the Taisho period. At the age of 20 in 1924, he made a debut as a bit-part actor in "Dorobo Nikki " (the Thief's Journal) directed by Eiho MIYOSHI (Shojiro OGASAWARA) or in "Kaizokuto" (a pirate island) directed by Meiho Ogasawara, who is a brother of Eiho MIYOSHI (Shojiro OGASAWARA).

Then, he entered the Nikkatsu Studio in Sagano, Kyoto, and began his career as a movie actor of "the Contemporary Drama Section." His first credit was the movie "Seishun no Uta" (a song of youth) directed by Minoru MURATA, starring Denmei SUZUKI, which was released nationwide on December 5, 1924, starting at the Asakusa Sanyukan Theater.

Next year in 1925, he returned to the Nikkatsu Studio in Kyoto, a mainstream of Nikkatsu Corporation. In the same year, he took the lead role in "Shohin Eigashu: Machi no skecchi" (a collection of short movies: a sketch of a town) directed by Kenji MIZOGUCHI, and in "Kokyo no mizu wa natsukashi" (nostalgia for the life of hometown) directed by Minoru MURATA next year in 1926 even though they were short movies. His acting baddies at that time were Koji SHIMA and Kunio WATANABE, who were later to become film directors.

He made a debut as a scriptwriter in 1927 partly because he was a descendant of SUGAWARA no Michizane, and his father had a career of joining the New Year's Poetry Party held at the Imperial Court. "Kutsu" (shoes) directed by Tomu UCHIDA was the first movie whose script was written by him, which was released nationwide on March 26, the same year, starting at the Asakusa Sanyukan Theater. His career as an actor ended in "Tsubaki hime" (The Lady of the Camellias) directed by Minoru MURATA, starring Shizue NATSUKAWA, which was released nationwide on May 1, the same year. He directed nine films at the Studio until the fall of 1928.

After the closing of the Taishogun Studio of Nikkatsu Corporation, "the Contemporary Drama Section" was transferred after "the Historical Drama Section," so he moved to the newly established Nikkatsu Studio in 1928. He also directed 11 films there from 1929 to 1932. In January 1932, his sister Takako IRIE made her appearance in "Asakusa Elegy" written by Hachiro SATO, starring Haruyo ICHIKAWA, which was the 10th film directed by him at the Studio. Soon after that, his sister Takako IRIE at the age of only 20 became independent from the Studio, and established a production company named "Irie Production." The company was a distribution agency in partnership with Shinko Kinema (Shinko Cinema) in Tokyo, into which Teikoku Kinema in Osaka (Imperial Cinema Entertainment Co.) was reorganized. It was a private studio newly established in Narabigaoka (present-day Omuro Narabigaoka-cho, Ukyo Ward), which produced "the Contemporary Drama" starring Irie.

Then, Higashibojo left his old nest, Nikkatsu Corporation, at the end of 1932, and entered "Irie Production." He wrote scripts of the following movies: "Suma no Adanami" (a parent-child suicide in Suma) directed by Yutaka ABE (released on March 16, 1933) and "Taki no Shiraito" (The Water Magician) directed by Kenji MIZOGUCHI, who picked him out for a key role when he was an actor (released on June 1, the same year). He also directed three silent pictures in Shinko Cinema, an affiliated company of Irie Production.

He was chosen as a director of a magnificent New Year Movie, "Harusugata Musume Dochu" (Girls trip in spring elegance) released in 1935 by Shinko Cinema, Kyoto Studio. This movie was Higashibojo's first "sound film" of a contemporary drama, in which Haruyo ICHIKAWA took the leading part as well as other star actresses such as Natsuko TAKE, Noboru KIRITACHI, Kumeko URABE, Shizuko MORI, and Takako IRIE were lined up; it was released nationwide, starting at the Asakusa Denkikan Theater. However, this was the last movie directed by Higashibojo.

When "Irie Production" dissolved a partnership with Shinko Cinema in 1935, the studio was closed down. From 1937, it began to go into partnership with the PCL (Photo Chemical Laboratory) in production of movies, and with Toho Company in distribution. Higashibojo wrote two scripts for talking pictures, directed by Sotoji KIMURA and Osamu FUSHIMI, starring Takako IRIE. After Toho Company, which was merged with four companies including PCL, was established in the same year, Irie was signed an exclusive contract with Toho, so that Irie Production was dissolved.

In 1940, he wrote a script of "Tsuma no baai: zen-ko-hen" (My wife's case: Part 1, Part 2) (a talking picture, Toho Cinemas Co.); however, his later works and activities had been unknown since then. He died on September 22, 1944.

[Original Japanese]