ToshirĂ´ Mifune

Japan's first international superstar, Toshiro Mifune, was born April 1, 1920, in China to Japanese parents. A Japanese army veteran, Mifune won a talent contest after World War II and began a long and prosperous career with legendary director Akira Kurosawa.

As a master samurai swordsman, bandit or modern gangster, he led the postwar breakthrough of Japanese films in Stray Dog, Rashomon, Saikaku Ichidai Onna, The Seven Samurai, Macbeth, The Lower Depths, The Hidden Fortress and Yojimbo the Bodyguard. Several of these films were remade in America and other countries, often as Westerns or science fiction epics (or both). Mifune directed one film, 500,000 (1963).

As an established star by the mid-'60s, Mifune made occasional U.S. films, wherein he spoke limited English or was dubbed. Those included Grand Prix, Hell in the Pacific, Midway and 1941. He died Dec. 24, 1997.