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Silent Films: Questions and Requests

We are happy to answer your questions regarding silent films. In principle, we provide this service free of charge. However, for more complicated questions, for example, if your request requires a special study or data processing, we also provide classic film research services on a fee-paid basis. Feel free to send your inquiry to us via E-mail at katsuben@matsudafilm.com

We will feature your question and our answer on this page. (Of course, if you wish your question to remain confidential, or merely anonymous, just let us know.)

Question 1:

Hello! My name is Xavier Bensky and I am an American. I am writing a Master of Arts thesis on manzai and would like to ask a question concerning silent films. I am researching the cultural and social background of the era when Entatsu and Achako, the so-called "fathers of manzai" emerged. It has been said that Entatsu copied the short moustache of Chaplin, who was his idol. According to Akita Minoru in "Osaka Showa-shi" (P74-5, Kobo Noah, 1984), "these two first teamed up in 1930, and were the first manzai pair to both wear western clothing. Until then, almost all manzai performers wore kimono, as did most of the audience. After the appearance of the Entatsu and Achako team, however, there was also a sudden increase in the number of people in the audience wearing western clothing."

It might have been this influence that had so many Osaka natives wearing western clothing, but what about the influence of foreign silver screen actors and actresses? In other words, wasn't the influence of people like Valentino, Lloyd, Garbo, etc., a factor in western clothing becoming the fashion?

Sincerely, Xavier Bensky (not Benshi)
East Asia Research Department
McGill University


Naturally, neither television nor information communication devices had yet been developed during the height of the silent film era. Thus, for most people, films were not just entertainment; they were an important source of information like newspapers and books. In particular, we can assume that much information about other countries was obtained from foreign films. To address your question as to whether the influence of people like Valentino, Lloyd, Garbo, etc., was a factor in Western clothing becoming the fashion, as these stars had many fans in Japan, I think that the number of people wearing western clothing in Japan certainly increased because of admiration for them. Even in the case of benshi, while most benshi for Japanese films wore kimono, many of those handling foreign films apparently wore western clothing. Does that answer your question?

Yutaka Matsuda

Question 2:

A special event for Japanese movies was held at the Pompidou Center in Paris last year. I happened to be there for a few weeks, and I was able to see some rare silent movies that were produced in the 1930's. Among those was "Keisatsukan" (The Police Officer) directed by Tomu Uchida. In the movie, there appeared an actor (whose name was probably Eiji Nakano) who was playing the role of a good friend of the police officer, the main character. He was very impressive to me. I would appreciate it if you could tell me about this actor. Also please tell me if you plan to show movies with this actor in the future.

Kind regards, S.T.


As you said, the actor who plays Tetsuo Tomioka in "Keisatsukan" is Eiji Nakano. Eiji Nakano was born in December, 1904. He debuted as the main character in the movie "Daichi wa Hohoemu" (The Earth smiles) (Nikkatsu; Part I, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi; Part II, directed by Osamu Wakayama; Part III, directed by Kensaku Suzuki). He became famous in the latter part of the silent film era, as a handsome star in modern silent movies. His masterpieces are: "Kaijin" (directed by Minoru Tamura), "Jihishincho" (The Cuckoo. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi), "Yama no Yobigoe" (directed by Minoru Tamura). Sadly there are not very many films of his exist, so we are not planning on screening his movies for now. If you would like to know more about Eiji Nakano, please refer to "Nihon Eiga Haiyu Zenshu - Male Actors" published by Cinema Junpo.

Yutaka Matsuda

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