The daughter of an actor, from early childhood Isuzu Yamada took acting lessons, and debuted onscreen at the age of 14. In the mid-'30s, she became a significant screen personality in films directed by Kenji Mizoguchi; later she often worked with director Teinosuke Kinugasa, who became one of her six husbands. She remained busy in films through the mid-'60s, at first in leads and later in character roles. She is best known in the West for her work in such films as Hiroshima (1953), Throne of Blood, and The Lower Depths (both 1957), and Yojimbo (1961). She has also done much work on the Japanese stage. She is the mother of actress Michiko Saga.