Bebe Taian: 澤蘭子: 1903 - 2003

October 21, 2012

澤蘭子: 1903 - 2003

Sawa Ranko, sometime during Taisho
Sawa Ranko (澤蘭子)
July 25, 1903 - January 11, 2003
Born in Sendai, Miyagi, Japan

Ranko was a famous actress in the early 1900s. I found her photo on a blog the other day with nothing but her name. I have a few antique photographs of actresses, with little or no text to remember who they are. They seemed so mysterious... beautiful faces, whose voices I might never hear. Many of the movies made in Japan then never reached overseas, and while records of those movies exist, actual copies are nowhere to be found. Only the photographs remain...

But there are some that survive. Ozu and Naruse were extremely popular, and some of their films are available on TV or on streaming services like Hulu or Netflix. So, not all is lost...

Sawa Ranko joined Takarazuka Revue under the stage name Izumi Ranko in 1919, when Takarazuka was still relatively new. Takarazuka had only existed for a few years at that time. She later joined with Nikkatsu Mukojima Studios in 1923, but only stayed a year, moving on to work at Teikoku Cinema's Ashiya Studios. She became a leading actress there, and found her steps to fame. Ranko became exceedingly popular as an actress, scoring lead roles as heroines and tomboyish girls in movies like "Renbo Jigoku" (Love's Hell, 1924), Horaijima (1925), Murasaki no Nisou (1925), and many, many others. By 1931, she had become a freelance actress, appearing in a multitude of films until the 1950s. Her specialty was tomboyish roles, which had been especially fashionable during the war era. She had a relationship with conductor Konoe Hidemaro, whom she had a daughter with, before separating.

You can read one review of a still-existing Sawa movie, "Japanese Girls at the Harbor" here. If you have a Hulu+ account, you can watch the movie in full, and many other classic Japanese movies as well.

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