Whenever asked to name his favorite actors, Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa would cite, with reservations, the unpredictable Toshiro Mifune--then would lavish unqualified praise upon Takashi Shimura. After a long stage career, Shimura made his first film in 1935. Eight years later, he worked for Kurosawa for the first time in Sanshiro Sugata (1943), going on to appear in virtually all of the director's films until 1965. Shimura was seen as the firewood peddler in Rashomon (1950), the dying civil-servant protagonist in Ikiru (1952), samurai leader Kambei in Seven Samurai (1954), the old general in The Hidden Fortress (1957), and in equally weighty roles in Throne of Blood (1957), The Bad Sleep Well (1960), Yojimbo (1961) and Red Beard (1965). Curiously, Shimura was never under contract to Kurosawa; instead, the actor was a "hired hand" at Japan's Toho Studios, accepting whatever role he was ordered to play. This explains why, in the midst of so many Kurosawa classics, Takashi Shimura was just as frequently seen in Japanese horror pictures, most famously as the kindly Dr. Yamana in Godzilla (1954).