Isuzu Yamada (Isuzu Yamada)

Isuzu Yamada

Actress. One of her country’s most respected performers, she shall perhaps be best remembered in the West for her portrayal of the Lady Macbeth character in 1957’s “Throne of Blood”. Born Mitsu Yamada to a theatrical family, she received both musical and dance training as a child and at 13 was signed by the Nikkatsu studios. Initially often cast as either a difficult teenager or as a prostitute, she first became well known via director Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1935 films “Oyuki the Virgin” and “The Downfall of Osen”. In 1936 she was a geisha who degenerates into prostitution and thence to complete ruin in “Sisters of the Gion” and in “Osaka Elegy” a telephone operator who falls into professional sin after submitting to the sexual demands of her boss. Miss Yamada’s renown increased thru the World War II years but in the late 1940s she found herself blacklisted for participating in a strike against her studio. Kept busy on the stage during her temporary banishment she returned to the screen in the 1950s and entered her time of greatest success; she was to twice earn the double distinction of the Blue Ribbon Award and the Manichi Film Award as Best Actress, first for 1952’s “Genadi-jin” then as a madam in the 1956 “Nagareau” (“Flowing”), and was also to take a Best Supporting Actress Blue Ribbon for 1955’s “Takeruabe” (“Adolescence”). Miss Yamada was acclaimed as a scheming wife in 1956’s “A Cat, Two Women, and One Man”, as a greedy landlady in 1957’s “The Lower Depths”, and as a chilling Lady Macbeth in “Throne of Blood”, Akira Kurosawa’s Shakespearean adaptation, the hand-washing scene rendered hauntingly. In 1961 she appeared in “Yojimbo” which was later Americanized into the Clint Eastwood classic “A Fistful of Dollars” but as the decade progressed she gradually withdrew from the silver screen. She remained active on the stage and was for many years a regular on the popular television series “Hissatsu” (“Sure Death”). The recipient of multiple honors, in 2000 she became the first actress to be presented the Imperial Order of Culture. Miss Yamada was married about half a dozen times, lived out her days in Tokyo, and died of an accumulation of age-related problems. A number of her films are preserved on DVD. (bio by: Bob Hufford)


  • February, 05, 1917
  • Japan


  • July, 07, 2012
  • Japan


  • Cremated

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