Born March 12, 1905 - Died February 11, 1982
Upon mention of Akira Kurosawa, most Americans think immediately of Toshiro Mifune. However Takashi Shimura has played as important a role in Kurosawa's work, and Japanese film in general.
Mifune's most famous role, the loud, fiery young samurai Kikuchio in The Seven Samurai would have far less impact without the contrast to the calm mastery of his reluctant mentor, Kambei Shimada, played by Shimura. Kurosawa loved the interplay of these two actors, and they worked together in many of his films.
Toshiro Mifune began acting on film in 1935¹, and was in several films between 1935 and 1943, although I have not seen any and know little about them. In 1943 Shimura took a role in Judo Saga, Kurosawa's directorial debut.
Shimura also leads in Mifune's first role, Snow Cave, penned but not directed by Kurosawa. This is followed up by the excellent Drunken Angel, directed by Kurosawa, and starring Shimura in the title roll as an alcoholic doctor in a post-war Japanese slum. Mifune again plays opposite as an angry young gangster. This movie is rarely seen in the US, as most Americans only know Kurosawa's samurai movies, but this is an excellent example of Kurosawa's early work.
Shimura's other notable films include:
¹according to IMDB.COM
²nod to The Filthy Critic for that witicism: http://www.bigempire.com/filthy