It may have been bad timing on my part and I missed the news on NHK but I found out about Haruo Nakajima's（中島春雄）passing a couple of days ago on the local news channel here in Toronto. Now, who may Haruo Nakajima be, you ask? Well, he was an actor with a certain specialty...he put on the rubber suits for years to portray legendary kaiju such as Godzilla and Mothra.
As much as I have praised composer Akira Ifukube（伊福部 昭）for coming up with the theme song for Godzilla and even generating the sound effects for the big green lug, Nakajima was responsible for the visual representation whether Godzilla was in ferocious battle mode or being a comical ham. And along with the aforementioned monsters above, he also portrayed another big buddy, Rodan. One of my lasting memories of the big bird was seeing him team up with Godzilla and Mothra to battle the villainous King Ghidorah as seen above. It was so cool to see the teamwork!
During Monster Week on the local NBC affiliate in Buffalo (WGR-TV), I also saw the original film introducing Rodan which was released in 1956, a couple of years after "Godzilla". In fact, the screen grab you see above you is the most memorable scene for me from the movie...the pterodactyl landing and crushing down a building. The interesting piece of trivia I read about Rodan is that the original name in Japanese for him/her is Radon from the contraction of the word for the prehistoric animal pteranodon (and that's how I transcribed the name in katakana in the title line above). Apparently, when the Americans received the movie for distribution, they transposed the vowels so that viewers wouldn't get confused with the inert gas...as opposed to now possibly getting viewers confused with the new name with that of the famous sculptor, at least in a pronunciation sense (I know that the guy behind The Thinker has his name spelled "Rodin"). In any case, chemical element trumped artist.
To be honest, I don't remember anything of the theme song for Rodan. In fact, I hadn't been aware that the big bird even had a theme song. However, it was indeed Ifukube who came up with the ominous and rumbling horn-and-piano song for the movie. It starts low and slow before it starts picking up speed in the second half. From spareribs to stir-fry, as it were. Now that I have heard it, I don't think it quite holds the candle to the Godzilla theme, all due respect to the late great Ifukube.
Now that Hollywood has established a Monsterverse due to the latest King Kong movie earlier this year, it should be interesting to see all of those kaiju from my childhood come back on the big screen, although they will be sophisticated CG. Still, I hold those creatures as portrayed by Nakajima as beloved creations. He passed away at the age of 88.