Furukawa, Roppa (1903–1961) By Fukushima, Yoshiko
Furukawa Roppa was a Japanese comedian, film actor, and essayist, who was known for his round face with Lloyd’s glasses. He was active before and after World War II, and successfully transferred his stage performances into a film career.
Furukawa Roppa, born the sixth son of Baron Katō Terumaro, was adopted by the Furukawa family, following his family custom. While attending Waseda University he became a film critic and editor and published his own magazine The Age of Film (1926–1931). In 1926 Furukawa participated in the variety show group Troubled Society established by former benshi (performers providing live narration for silent film). Roppa’s speciality was voice impersonation. Recommended by Kikuchi Kan, the novelist, and Kobayashi Ichizō, the founder of Hankyū Railway and Takarazuka Girls Opera, Furukawa became a professional comedian and made his stage debut at Tokyo Takarazuka Theater in 1932. In 1933 Shōchiku’s Tokiwa Productions contracted Furukawa to form the comedy troupe Kingdom of Laughter with the former members of Troubled Society, comedians popular in Asakusa, Asakusa Opera singers, and Nichigeki Theater’s dancers. Each production consisted of several short plays, accompanied by variety shows, which were immediatlly successful. Their repertoire included comedies such as The Bumpy Broadcasting Station (1933) and adaptations and dramatizations of famous plays and masterpieces from Japan and the West such as Chūshingura (1933), Carmen (1933), and Treasure Island (1935). The future director of Tōhō Kikuta Kazuo was one of the main playwrights for the troupe.