FLOWER DRUM SONG STAR JAMES SHIGETA GONE

Published on: July 29, 2014
Photography by: Corbis
FLOWER DRUM SONG STAR JAMES SHIGETA GONE

JAMES SHIGETA, ace Asian-American actor of the 1960s has joined his ancestors at age 81.

Shigeta who toplined  in the film musical of  Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song, died Monday in Los Angeles 81.

The Hawaiian eyeful who later appeared as the chief executive of the Nakatomi corporation in the Bruce Willis actioner Die Hard (1988), had a great run in Hollywood starting in the late 1950s. The Hollywood Reporter stated.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 17, 1933, Shigeta moved to New York and studied at New York University. He then joined the U.S. Marine Corps and fought during the Korean War.

He later relocated to Japan, his ancestral home,  and became a star on radio and television.

Returning to the U.S. to sing on The Dinah Shore Show in 1959, he  also co-starred with Shirley MacLaine in a production of Holiday in Japan in Vegas.

Shigeta made his feature debut as a detective in hard-boiled ditector Sam Fuller’s noir The Crimson Kimono (1959).

in Bridge to the Sun, he portrayed a Japanese diplomat who is married to an American (Carroll Baker) at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In the classic tuner Flower Drum Song (1961), set in San Francisco, Shigeta plays Wang Ta, who’s dazzled by a showgirl (Nancy Kwan) before he realizes newly arrived Miyoshi Umeki is really the girl for him.

Unlike many musical film performers, Shigeta, a natural baritone, did all his own singing in the film.

The Golden Globes in 1960 named James as “most promising male newcomer.”

A familiar face across the TV landscape of the 1960s Shigeta  had a recurring roles on the 1969-72 CBS drama Medical Center and appeared on eps of Ben Casey, Hawaii Five-O, , Little House on the PrairieFantasy IslandT.J. Hooker, The Love BoatMagnum, P.I.Simon & Simon,  The Outer Limits and Murder, She Wrote.

Among his many, many film appearances were Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) with Elvis PresleyNobody’s Perfect (1968), Lost Horizon (1973), Midway (1976), Cage (1989) and the animated Mulan (1998).

Saynora, Shigeta San.