He went to America along with a younger brother to visit an uncle living in Los Los Angeles There he enrolled in an acting school and upon hearing that Thomas H. Ince was looking for Japanese extras to work in his studios he applied and was accepted in 1914. He appeared in such films as The Wrath of the Gods and The Cheat with Sessue Hayakawa.
He was often billed as "Jack Abbe" or "Jack Yutake Abbe." He returned to Japan in 1925, finding work at the Nikkatsu studio, and soon made his debut as a director
Among his early works was the 1926 silent film The Woman Who Touched the Legs (Ashi ni sawatta onna), a comedy about a writer and a woman thief. This film, along with most of Abe"s early work, is now lost.
Before and during World World War II, Abe directed a number of nationalistic propaganda films including Moyuru ōzora (Flaming Sky) and Ano hata o ute (Fire on That Flag). After the war, he directed the 1950 film adaptation of June"ichirō Tanizaki"s The Makioka Sisters, a film which brought him commercial success.
His later films include the 1959 satirical comedy Season of Affairs (Uwaki no kisetsu).