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Wednesday, December 24, 1997 Published at 22:54 GMT


Japanese film star Toshiro Mifune dies at 77
image: [ Toshiro Mifune was known as the Japanese John Wayne for roles in films like Drunken Angel ]
Toshiro Mifune was known as the Japanese John Wayne for roles in films like Drunken Angel

Japan's leading film star Toshiro Mifune, who had a profound impact on international cinema, has died at the age of 77.

A veteran of many distinguished Japanese and English-language films, Mr Mifune's films were widely imitated by Hollywood. Most notably, his classics The Seven Samurai and Yojimbo were re-made, respectively, as The Magnificent Seven and Fistful of Dollars.

Mr Mifune, who was voted in a 1984 poll as the man who best represented Japanese film, died of organ failure at a hospital in Mitaka, Kyodo news agency reported.

[ image: Mifune in 1965 movie Samurai Assassin]
Mifune in 1965 movie Samurai Assassin
Born in China in 1920 and repatriated to Japan after the Second World War, Mr Mifune became an employee of film company Toho Co in 1946.

He first appeared in his first film the following year. In 1948, he starred in acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa's film Yoidore Tenshi (Drunken Angel).

In all, Mr Mifune acted in 16 of Mr Kurosawa movies, including a leading role in Rashomon in 1950, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1951.

In his autobiography, Mr Kurosawa described Toshiro as "a kind of talent I had never encountered before in the Japanese film world".

Japanese John Wayne

Mr Mifune played a swashbuckling samurai in half of his more than 130 movies, leading some fans to label him the Japanese John Wayne.

But his parts ran the gamut from warriors to modern-day cops to drunk Indian peasants.

One of a handful of Japanese actors to succeed on foreign screens, Mifune is well known outside Japan for his role as Lord Torinaga in Shogun, the TV series based on James Clavell's bestseller.

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