Motoko Yamo in Osaka, 25 March 1924.
Attended Azuma Elementary School.
1936—joined the Osaka Shochiku Girls Opera as dancer: stage debut,
1936; 1944—film debut in
; 1949—joined the Daiei Studio and first groomed as a
"glamour girl" under the producer Masaichi Nagata;
1964—television debut in
, and in film version,
Mainichi Eiga Concourse Awards for Best Actress, 1950 and 1964; Kinema
Jumpo Award for Best Actress, for
, 1964; also Special Citation, D. W. Griffith Awards, "for the
modernization of traditional Japanese acting," 1954.
Olimpia Copu-35, 6–35 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151, Japan.
Tengu-daoshi (Inoue); Danjuro sandai ( Three Generations of Danjuro ) (Mizoguchi)
Saigo ni warau otoko (Yasuda) (as dancer); Hanakurabe tanuki-goten (Kimura); Chika-gai no dankon ; Mitsu no shinju ; Chijin no ai (Kimura) (as Naomi); Hebi-hime dochu (Kimura and Marune)
Zoku Hebi-hime dochu (Kimura and Marune); Harukanari haha no kuni (Ito); Asakusa no hada (Kimura); Bibo no umi (Hisamatsu); Fukkatsu ; Rashomon ( In the Woods ) (Kurosawa) (as Masago); Hi no tori (Tanaka); Itsuwareru seiso (Yoshimura) (as Kimicho)
Koi no Oranda-zaka (Suzuki); Jiyu-gakko (Yoshimura) (as Yuri); Joen no hatoba ; Mesuinu (Kimura); Genji monogatari ( Tale of Genji ) (Yoshimura) (as Awaji no kami); Bakuto ichidai (Kimura)
Asakusa kurenai-dan ; Nagasaki no uta wa wasureji ; Taki-no Shiraito (Nobuchi) (title role); Bijo to tozoku (Kimura); Daibutsu kaigen (Kinugusa) (as Maya-no-uri); Bijo no tokudane
Ugetsu monogatari ( Ugetsu ; Tales of a Pale and Mysterious Moon after the Rain ) (Mizoguchi) (as Lady Wakasa); Kurohyo ; Ani imoto ( Older Brother, Younger Sister ) (Kimura) (as Mon); Jigokumon ( The Gate of Hell ) (Kinugasa) (as Kesa)
Aru onna (Toyoda) (as Yoko); Aizen katsura (Kimura) (as Katsue Takaishi); Shunkin monogatari (Ito) (as Okoto); Asakusa no yoru (Shima); Sen-hime (Kimura); Bazoku geisha (Shima); Haru no uzumaki
Bara ikutabika (Kinugasa); Yokihi ( Princess Yang Kwei-fei ) (Mizoguchi) (title role); Tojuro no koi (Mori); Shin josei mondo (Shima)
Shin Heike monogatari: Yoshinaka o meguru san-nin no onna (Kinugasa) (as Tomoe); Niji ikutabi ; Akasen chitai ( Street of Shame ) (Mizoguchi) (as Mickie); Tsukigata Hanbeita (Kinugasa) (as Hagino); The Teahouse of the August Moon (Daniel Mann) (as Lotus Blossom)
Itohan monogatari (Ito) (as Itohan); Stajio wa tenya wanya ; Odoriko ; Onna no hada ; Jigoku-bana ; Yoru no cho (Yoshimura); Ana ( The Pit ; The Hole ) (Ichikawa)
Yurakucho de aimasho (Shima); Kanashimi wa onna dakeni (Shindo) (as the niece); Haha ; Chushingura (Watanabe) (as Rui); Osaka no onna (Kinugasa) (as Osen); Akasen no hi wa kiezu ; Yoru no sugao ; Musume no boken (Shima)
Anata to watashi no ai-kotoba: Sayonara, konnichiwa ( Goodbye, Hello ) (Ichikawa); Sasameyuki (Shima); Onna to kaizoku (Ito); Yoru no togyo ; Jirocho Fuji (Mori); Kagi ( Odd Obsession ) (Ichikawa) (as Ikuko Kenmochi); Ukigusa ( Floating Weeds ; The Duckweed Story ; Drifting Weeds ) (Ozu) (as Sumiko)
Jokei (Yoshimura); Ruten no oohi ; Bonchi (Ichikawa); Sannin no kaoyaku (Inoue); Ashi ni sawatta onna (Masumura); Kao ; Oden jigoku (Kimura)
Konki (Yoshimura); Nuregame Botan ; Onna no kunsho (Yoshimura); Kodachi o tsukau onna ( Samurai Daughter ) (Ikehiro); Shaka ( Buddha ) (Misumi) (as Yashas Nandabala)
Kurotokage ( Black Lizard ) (Inoue); Nakayoshi-ondo: Nippon ichi dayo ; Shin no shikotei ( The Great Wall ) (Tanaka); Onna no issho (Masumura) (as Kei Nunobiki)
Jokei kazoku ; Dendai inchiki monogatari: Dotanuki
Amai shiru ( Sweet Sweat ) (Toyoda)
Tanin no kao ( The Face of Another ) (Teshigahara) (as the wife); Jinchoge ( The Daphne ) (Chiba) (as first daughter); Chiisai tobosha (Yinugasa) (as Yayoi Yamamura)
Senba-zuru ( Thousand Cranes ) (Manumura) (as Chikako Kurimoto)
Kareinaru ichizoku ( The Family ) (Yamamoto)
Kinkan-shoku (Yamamoto) (as Mrs. Prime Minister)
Yoba (Imai) (title role); Otoko wa tsuraiyo: Torajiro junjo-shishu ( Tora's Pure Love ) (Yamada)
Kesho ( Make Up ) (Ikehiro)
Trumball, Robert, "Rising Star of Japan," in New York Times Magazine , 24 April 1955.
"Industry: Beauty from Osaka," in Newsweek (New York), 10 October 1955.
Richie, Donald, "The Face of '63—Japan," in Films and Filming (London), July 1963.
Gillett, J., "Machiko Kyo," in Film Dope (London), March 1985.
* * *
Machikyo Kyo was perhaps the first Japanese actress to be "groomed" as a star through the more typically Western attention to glamour. Drawing upon her background as a dancer, her sex appeal was emphasized by Daiei and her early director Masaichi Nagata, and she quickly became a successful actress for the studio. Her style was unique on the Japanese screen in its sensuality and unbounded eroticism. The most representative of her early roles is as a devilish girl trifling with her lover in Chijin no ai , based on the novel by Tanizaki. She seemed at her best at portraying the sensual women in his novels, as she later demonstrated in Ichikawa's modernistic adaptation of Kagi , incorporating a comic flair into her role as the young and stimulating wife.
Typecast because of her alluring appearance, she successfully extended her range in Kurosawa's Rashomon , which brought her and the Japanese cinema international attention. Her explosive performance in the role of a temperamental woman who is both shockingly assertive and audaciously seductive startled the public and critics. Her next great success came in Yoshimura's Itsuwareru seiso , a remake of Mizoguchi's prewar masterpiece Gion no shimai . Kyo played with enthusiasm a geisha attempting to vanquish men who exploit women. Her reputation at the studio was gradually established through her work in a series of fine films for Yoshimura and Kimura.
For Mizoguchi, Kyo played the role of the ghost princess who bewitches a potter in Ugetsu monogatari . Employing the type of movement used in Noh drama, she successfully conveyed the chilling atmosphere typical of the ghost genre within the Noh repertoire, combining a horrifying effect with a mysterious eroticism. She also collaborated with Mizoguchi in the title role of Yokihi , and as a Westernized prostitute in his final film Akasen chitai ; at one moment while simultaneously eating, smoking, chewing gum, and talking, she outrageously summarizes both her character's tactile eroticism as well as her own considerable comic skills.
Kyo established an international reputation with these performances, as well as in Kinugasa's Jigokumon , to which she contributed a visually stunning portrayal as a tragic aristocratic wife. Her first American film, The Teahouse of the August Moon , was also her first comedy, but her success in it inexplicably led to no other American films, and even for a short while seemed to reduce her popularity in Japan.
Her performances in Ozu's Ukigusa and in Toyoda's Amai shiru show her mature acting style, which combines her passion with a new contemplative quality. Her role in the latter film (which earned her many awards) is particularly sublime, a depiction of a woman at the bottom of society, managing to survive despite her suffering and victimization. She further expanded her range by undertaking complicated new roles. These include the wife in Teshigahara's Tanin no kao , whose husband secretly undergoes plastic surgery to alter his appearance. She nevertheless recognizes him, and allows him to seduce her. Opposed to such characters is her portrayal of an extremely ambitious woman in Satsuo Yamamoto's political entertainment film, Kareinaru ichizoku . Through her unforgettable work with many of Japan's greatest directors, and since many of her films were distributed internationally, Kyo remains one of the most diverse and recognizable talents in the Japanese cinema.
—Kyoko Hirano, updated by Corey K. Creekmur