Miyoshi Umeki (who is Miyoshi Umeki?)

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Miyoshi Umeki (May 8, 1929 — August 28, 2007) was a Japanese-American actress and standards singer. She is best known for her roles in the musical film Flower Drum Song and the film Sayonara, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first Asian woman to win an Oscar.

Born in Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan, she moved to the United States in the early 1950s and began to perform in New York City nightclubs as a singer. Her work on stage quickly transitioned into a career in film and television.

Notable Works:

  1. Sayonara (1957) - Her role as Katsumi in this film, a love interest of one of the American soldiers stationed in Japan, provided her with international acclaim and earned her an Oscar.

  2. Flower Drum Song (1961) - She played Mei Li in the film adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Although the film was met with mixed reviews, her performance was praised.

  3. The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969-1972) - Umeki was also known for her role in this television series, where she starred as Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper.

Career Highlights:

  • Miyoshi Umeki's Academy Award marked her as a trailblazer for Asian actors in American cinema.
  • Apart from an Oscar, she was also nominated for a Golden Globe and a Tony Award for her stage and screen performances.
  • Her crossover from Japanese entertainment to American films and Broadway opened doors for subsequent generations of actors of Asian descent in Hollywood.

Personal Life and Death:

Miyoshi Umeki led a private life. She was married twice and had one child. After retiring from show business in the 1970s, Umeki lived away from the public eye. She passed away on August 28, 2007, due to cancer-related complications.


Umeki's contribution to the arts significantly impacted the representation of Asians in American media and paved the way for broader acceptance of diverse talent in Hollywood. Her historical significance in film continues to be cited in discussions about diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry.

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