Inagaki's career in film began as an actor--a child actor, in fact, appearing in numerous silent films beginning at the very dawn of Japanese cinema. This is probably why he was promoted to director at the unusually (for Japan) young age of 22. Along with producer Mansaku Itami (later the father of another acclaimed director, Juzo Itami), Inagaki concerned himself with the genre of Japanese period films. He also wrote (under a pseudonym) similar films for the short-lived director Sadao Yamanaka. The work of Inagaki, Itami and Yamanaka, singly and together, directly influenced the likes of Kenji Mizoguchi later, and helped define the very genre of the period film. Inagaki would direct dozens of them over his career, including two versions of Chushingura, and the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film Samurai (1954, released in Japan as Miyamoto Musashi). For all his success, Inagaki grew more and more frustrated with his assignments over the years. Although proud of his final effort, Furin Kazan (Samurai Banners, 1969), he was unable to find financing in the increasingly conservative atmosphere of 1970s Japan. Once he had been at the top of his profession, second at Toho only to Akira Kurosawa; now, like Kurosawa, he was being cast aside as an old man whose time had passed, and whose kind of movie was now too expensive to produce. In his despair, Inagaki turned to alcohol, which helped contribute to his lonely and painful death. Of all the dozens of films he made, he often said, only a handful had he actually wanted to make: the Samurai trilogy (1954-6) and Furin Kazan. Whatever his opinion, much of his other work remains estimable, including Nippon Tanjo (1959) and Muhomatsu no Issho (The Life of Matsu the Untamed, 1958).