“Fugitives” from the Studio System

Ikebe Ryō, Sada Keiji, and the transition from cinema to television in the early 1960s

Authored by: Takafusa Hatori

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Cinema

Print publication date:  August  2020
Online publication date:  August  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138685529
eBook ISBN: 9781315534374
Adobe ISBN:


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The post-war golden era of Japanese cinema from the 1950s to the 1960s was also an era of the major studios’ oligopolistic control over the commercial film market. The studio system circumscribed the autonomy of film stars, who were regarded as belonging to the majors such as Shochiku, Toho, Daiei, Shintoho, Toei, and Nikkatsu, so that it was almost impossible for them to work outside their home studios of their own will. Cross-referencing of the materials in the Ikebe Ryō Collection and the Sada Keiji Collection, which were donated to The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University, however, leads us to the fact that Ikebe Ryō, one of the leading stars of Toho, and Sada Keiji, one of the leading stars of Shochiku, constantly attempted to liberate themselves from the discipline of the studio system through collaborating with each other during the early 1960s, when television was usurping the cultural hegemony of cinema. By focusing on Makao no otoko (The Man in Macao), an unrealized commercial film project in 1961, and Fun’en (Smoke), a serial television drama broadcasted in 1964, this chapter highlights the agencies of Ikebe and Sada during the transitional phase of audio-visual culture.

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