Utagawa Yaeko was born in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture in 1903. Her real
name was Fukagawa Masae. In 1918 she first trod the boards at the Kobe
Jurakukan theater. It was while on tour that one day she saw the film
Yuhi no Mura, direted by Henry Otani and it became her fervent desire
to be a film actress.
In 1922, she joined Shochiku Kamata and appeared in No no Hana,
starring Kawada Yoshiko, and Kuzushichi no Ie, starring Katsumi Yotaro.
She went on to give an exemplary performance as the maid servant Otake
in Ihin no Gunto. As her looks were very similar to those of Kurishima
Sumiko, she was also invited by Teikoku Cinema to play opposite
Matsumoto Taisuke and in the same year she transferred to Teikoku.
After appearing in Morikundo Tetsuro no Tsuyu, she became greatly loved
for her fresh yet somehow sorrowful beauty and became popular as the
heroine of tragic dramas.
After appearing in Daitoden (Daitoden) and Kanojo no Unmei (Her
Destiny), she performed opposite Matsumoto Taisuke in Shuchu Nikki
(Diary of a Drunkard), and Nekketsu wo Hisomete, (Hide the Warm Blood).
With roles like that of Omiya in Konjiki Yasha (The Golden She-Devil),
she was lauded as "the Iwada Yukichi and Kurishima Sumiko of the East",
and "the Matsumoto Taisuke and Utagawa Yaeko of the west". She
performed in period dramas too, in the likes of Ooka Seidan (The New
Ooka Cases) as the Ohana, the girl at the tea-shop, and in Kaigara
Ippei, in the role of Nakayama Ogiko.
Of the productions she appeared in at Kanjuro Productions, she showed
extraordinary charisma as an older woman, in Yamanaka Sadao's Koban
Shigure (Shower of Coins) as Oyone of the local Tavern, and as Oko in
Miyamoto Musashi. From Teikoku Cinema to Shinko Cinema, hers was a
regal existence in the film world.