A great postwar actor, Kobayashi Keiju, has passed away. He died of heart failure on September 16 at the age of 86.
Kobayashi is most famous for helping define the image of the postwar salaryman in the famous "Company President (Shacho)" series at Toho. If Morishige Hisaya was the not incompetent president who sometimes seemed more concerned with flirting with women than running the company, Kobayashi was the one protecting the president and keeping the company together, even if he too had his human foibles (preferring to sleep late if he could, etc.).
But what most impressed me about Kobayashi was that despite playing the same character for the over 30 films in the series, he explored a wide variety of roles in other films and on TV, many of which were quite complex and powerful. His critically most successful role, for instance, was in Okamoto Kihachi's Eburi Man-shi no yugana seikatsu (1963), where his role as a man cynically critical of corporate Japan won him numerous acting awards. He also won the best actor award at the Mainichi Concours in 1958 for playing the itinerant painter, Yamashita Kiyoshi, in Hadaka no taisho, and the Kinema Junpo best actor award in 1960 for Kuroi gashu (both films were directed by Horikawa Hiromichi). He had an impressive ability to play the "everyman" (notice the pun in the title of the Okamoto film) while revealing the cracks underneath.
Kobayashi was born in 1923 in Gunma and advanced to Nihon University, but quit before he graduated. He entered Nikkatsu and made his film debut in 1942. Some say his persona began to look passe in the late 1960s, but when he increasingly appeared on TV from that point on, playing Katsu Kaishu for NHK or Detective Muta in a long running series, he continued to give powerful yet refined performances.
He was another favorite who will be missed. Here is the NHK report on his death: