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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Godzilla Character Actor Gone To That Great Monster Island In The Sky

Just in case you missed it:

Najajima Haruo (中島 春雄 - surname first) has passed away at the age of 88.

Najajima was the man in the rubber suit… the man who played Godzilla stomping through the miniature cities of Tokyo et al in all those early and classic kaiju (monster) movies most of us love.

Nakajima played Godzilla from its inception in 1954 through 1972’s Godzilla vs. Gigan.

Make no mistake about it - Nakajima was an actor.

In the dark and serious original Japanese version of 1954’s Godzilla—which I only watched for the first time a few years ago, being stuck with the inferior American 1955 version before that—Nakajima did not make me think there was a guy in the suit.

No… he made me think I was watching Godzilla.

The same might hold true for later movies where the use of color film brightened things, but it was at that time when people really realized there was a guy in a giant lizard suit.
Irradiated by numerous meetings with Godzilla, Nakajim a cleans out his system with a cigarette.

I admit that things got silly then… watching Godzilla pretend he was a sumo wrestler before running at an enemy monster…

That was just Nakajima following the scripts... after that first movie, Godzilla was less villain and more cult hero to the audiences as he fought other kaiju intent on destroying Japanese cities.

While most Godzilla-people know of Nakajima in his role of Godzilla for the first 12 movies, and for his other kaiju roles: as Rodan (1956); Varan the Unbelievable (1958)—the lead kaiju; and as mech Moguera in 1957’s The Mysterians

He also played the larval Mothra (inching around the ground) in the 1961 flick Mothra; the four-legged monster Baragon in the 1965 Toho film Frankenstein Conquers The World; and 1968’s Destroy All Monsters where he played both Baragon and Godzilla - though strangely never on screen at the same time. :)

But showing his incredible range as an actor, Nakajima could also play a human being. Heck, he was even in my favorite Japanese flick, 1954’s Seven Samurai, playing a bandit.

Heck, in the kaiju movie Dogora, The Space Monster, Nakajima did not play the monster, but a regular human.

I’m having a bit of fun at Nakajima’s expense, but I’m not being mean. Nakajima had many roles in many Japanese movies - nothing big... certainly nothing as big as his role as Godzilla. Bit (bite) roles… nondescript roles…

He may have been one of the most famous unknown actors in cinema history. The guy you know you’ve seen before, but you just can’t put a name to the face.

Yeah, Godzilla aficionados know of him.
Signed Gojira (Godzilla) on the left, and Nakajima Haruo on the right... this card was once on sale on e-bay. I love e-bay... you never know what you might find...

I like Godzilla, but before I started this blog, like most people, I never gave a second thought to the man behind the rubber mask.

I don’t know if that bothered Nakajima—I don’t think it did.

I’m pretty sure he enjoyed himself, though.

So… the next time you watch a Godzilla movie—and really, there is no better movie than the original 1954 Japanese version (you can find it with subtitles)—have a thought for the poor sweaty man in the suit dying to have a cigarette, and know that his name is Najajima Haruo.

Give him a little clap of applause.

Banzai, Banzai, Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

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