TOKYO, Aug 8, (Agencies): He stomped over miniature bridges and buildings in a rubber suit and gave the world Godzilla, the fire-breathing, screeching monster that became Japan’s star cultural export and an enduring symbol of the pathos and destruction of the nuclear age.
Haruo Nakajima, who portrayed Godzilla in the original 1954 classic, died Monday of pneumonia, his daughter Sonoe Nakajima told The Associated Press on Tuesday. He was 88.
The film, which went on to become a mega-series and inspired Hollywood spinoffs, struck a chord with postwar Japan, the only nation in the world to suffer atomic bombing, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II.
Vivacious and energetic, Nakajima said he invented the character from scratch, and developed it by going to a zoo to study how elephants and bears moved. He said it was important to show the pathos of the creature, which could only smash everything in its way.
The theme of his Godzilla was grand and complex, he said, addressing universal human problems, as it spoke to a Japan that still remembered wartime suffering.
“If Godzilla can’t walk properly, it’s nothing but a freak show,” Nakajima said in a 2014 interview with the AP at his suburban Tokyo apartment, proudly sitting among sepia-toned photos of him as a young man and Godzilla figures.
“It’s not some cowboy movie,” he said.
He recalled that the rubber suit he wore was so hot, especially under the glaring lights of the movie set, that the sweat he wrung from his shirt would fill half a bucket.
In the original movie, directed by Ishiro Honda with an unforgettable score by Akira Ifukube, Godzilla surfaces from the Pacific Ocean suddenly, a mutation as a result of nuclear testing in the area.
Nakajima was a stunt actor in samurai films when he was approached to take the role of Godzilla. Some fans prefer Nakajima’s version over some Hollywood depictions, which they say resemble an evil-looking animal.
Although recent Godzilla films use computer graphics, the latest Japanese Godzilla remake, released last year, went back to using a human actor, Mansai Nomura, a specialist in the traditional theater of Kyogen. His movements were duplicated on the screen through “motion capture” technology.
Until recently, Nakajima had continued to be a star guest at festivals and events. He had been scheduled to be featured at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October.
“I am the original, the real thing,” he said in 2014. “My Godzilla was the best.”
A funeral is to be held for family and close friends.
NEW YORK: Ty Hardin, a popular film and television actor who starred as the gunman Bronco Layne in the TV Western series “Bronco” and worked with Henry Fonda and Kirk Douglas among others, has died.
A resident of Huntington Beach, California, Hardin died Thursday at age 87. His widow, Carolyn Pampu Hardin, told The Associated Press that he had been in failing health.
Born Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr in New York, Hardin grew up in Texas, served in the Korean War and played football at Texas A&M under future University of Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He changed his name in his 20s, in homage to the outlaw John Wesley Hardin, as his acting career was taking off.
Hardin credited John Wayne for giving him a major break when the actor helped him get a contract with Warner Brothers. When Clint Walker left the TV show “Cheyenne” in 1958 over a contractual dispute, Hardin stepped in and continued in the spinoff “Bronco,” which aired until 1962.
Hardin also had a diverse film career, from the Joan Crawford thriller “Berserk!” to the World War II movies “Battle of the Bulge” and “PT 109.” After struggling with tax issues in the 1970s, he founded an anti-tax organization that became the extremist anti-government group the Arizona Patriots. The Patriots disbanded after federal agents raided one of its camps in 1986.