Miyoshi Umeki, who took the supporting actress Oscar for “Sayonara” in 1958 to become the first Asian to win a performance Academy Award, died Aug. 28 in Licking, Mo. She was 78.
Umeki also starred in the Broadway stage and Hollywood film versions of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song” and later appeared on TV as Mrs. Livingston in “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.
Born in Hokkaido, Japan, she performed for U.S. troops as a pop singer during the postwar occupation, singing in Japanese and English.
After coming to the U.S. in the 1950s, she made appearances on television and radio and signed with Arthur Godfrey as a singing personality, appearing on his “Arthur Godfrey and Friends” television show.
After “Sayonara” she went to New York and appeared on Broadway with Pat Suzuki and Larry Blyden in the Gene Kelly- directed hit “Flower Drum Song” from 1958-60.
She received a Tony nomination for her performance and later re-created her role in the film version, garnering a Golden Globe nom. Among her other credits were the films “The Horizontal Lieutenant,” “A Girl Named Tamiko” and “Cry For Happy,” as well as guest appearances on TV shows such as “Mister Ed” and “The Donna Reed Show.”
In addition to her Broadway and Hollywood cast recordings for “Flower Drum Song,” she also recorded several albums for Mercury Records during the 1950s.
Umeki retired from television when the “Courtship” series ended, and after the death of her second husband, producer-director Randall Hood, in 1976. She lived in the San Fernando Valley for many years, later moving to Missouri to be near her son and his family.
Umeki is survived by her son and two grandchildren.