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 was a naturalized Americanmarker actress and standards singer. She was best known for her roles as Katsumi, the wife of Joe Kelly (Red Buttons), in the 1957 film Sayonara, as Mei Li in the 1958 Broadwaymarker musical and 1961 film Flower Drum Song, and as Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper, in the TV series The Courtship of Eddie's Father. She was a shin Issei or post-1945 immigrant from Japan. She was a Tony Award- and Golden Globe-nominated actress and was the first person (and as of 2008 the only) of East Asian descent to win an Academy Award for acting.


Born as Umeki Miyoshi (she later reversed the names for her professional career) in Otaru, on the Japanese island of Hokkaidōmarker, she was the youngest of nine children. Her father owned an iron factory. After World War II, Umeki began her career as a nightclub singer in Japan, using the name Nancy Umeki, Her early influences were traditional Kabuki theater and American pop music. Later, in one of her appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, she treated viewers to her impression of singer Billy Eckstine, one of her American favorites growing up.


She recorded for RCA Victor Japan from 1950-1954 and appeared in the film Seishun Jazu Musume. She recorded mostly American jazz standards, which she sang partially in Japanese and partially in English, or solely in either language. Some of the songs she sang during this period were It Isn't Fair, Sentimental Me, My Foolish Heart, With A Song In My Heart, Again, Vaya Con Dios, That Doggie in the Window? and I'll Walk Alone. She moved to the United Statesmarker in 1955 and after appearing on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts (she was a series regular for one season), she signed with the Mercury Records label and released several singles and two albums.

Her appearances on the Godfrey program brought her to the attention of director Joshua Logan, who cast her in Sayonara. In 1958, she appeared twice on the NBC variety show, The Gisele MacKenzie Show in which she performed "How Deep Is the Ocean". Umeki won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Sayonara. She was the first Asian performer to win an Academy Award.

In 1958, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in the Broadwaymarker premiere production of the musical Flower Drum Song, where she played Mei-Li. The show ran for two years. A Time magazine cover story remarked that "[T]he warmth of her art works a kind of tranquil magic". Umeki went on to appear in the film adaptation of the musical. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Flower Drum Song.

Although a guest on many television variety shows, she appeared in only four more motion pictures through 1962, including the film version of Flower Drum Song (1961). The others were Cry for Happy (1961), The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962) and A Girl Named Tamiko (1963). From 1969-1972 she appeared in The Courtship of Eddie's Father as Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper, for which she was again nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She retired from acting following the end of the series.

Personal life

Her first marriage, to television director Wynn Opie in 1958, ended in divorce in 1967. She married director Randall Hood in 1968 and the couple adopted one son, Michael. The couple operated a Los Angeles-based business renting editing equipment to film studios and university film programs. Hood died in 1976.


RCA Records Japan (1950-1954)

During her recording career in Japan, Miyoshi recorded the following songs: (two other Japanese language songs were recorded in 1952, but I do not have the title translations)

Singles on Mercury Records (1955-1959)

Miyoshi signed with Mercury Records in 1955 and recorded the following 45 rpm singles: Miyoshi recorded a version of Pick Yourself Up for Mercury Records in 1959, but the song was never released.

Albums on Mercury Records



(this is a reissue of the Arthur Godfrey album with some tracks replaced)Tracks:

Film theme recordings

Miyoshi Umeki recorded the theme song for the film Sayonara in 1957. She recorded the title song for the film Cry For Happy in which she starred in 1961.

  • Flower Drum Song (Broadway Original Cast) (1958) (Sony Records)
Tracks by Miyoshi Umeki:

Miyoshi Umeki sings the same songs on both the film soundtrack and the Broadway show


According to her son, Umeki lived in Sherman Oaksmarker for a number of years before moving to Licking, Missourimarker, to be near her son and his family, which included two grandchildren. She died there of complications from cancer.


Year Film Role Notes
1953 Seishun Jazz musume (青春ジャズ娘 Seishun jazu musume) Kashu
1956 Around the World Revue Nancy Umeki AKA Universal Musical Short 2655: Around the World Revue
1957 Sayonara Katsumi Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
1961 Flower Drum Song Mei Li Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Cry for Happy Harue
1962 A Girl Named Tamiko Eiko
The Horizontal Lieutenant Akiko
Year Title Role Notes
1955 Arthur Godfrey and His Friends Herself Regular performer
1957 The Perry Como Show Herself 1 episode
1958-1961 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Herself Episode #2.32 (1958), Episode #4.16 (1960), Episode #5.17
1958 What's My Line? Herself - Mystery Guest Episode dated 11 May 1958
The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show Herself Episode #2.25
1959 The Chevy Showroom Starring Andy Williams Herself Episode #2.2
Toast of the Town Singer
1961 Here's Hollywood Herself Episode dated 27 December 1961
1961-1962 The Donna Reed Show Kimi 2 episodes: The Geisha Girl (1961), Aloha, Kimi (1962)
1962 The Andy Williams Show Herself Episode dated 11 October 1962, Episode dated 13 December 1962
Hallmark Hall of Fame Lotus-Blossom "The Teahouse of the August Moon"
Sam Benedict Sumiko Matsui "Tears for a Nobody Doll"
1963 Rawhide Nami "Incident of the Geisha"
Dr. Kildare Hana Shigera "One Clear Bright Thursday Morning"
1964 Burke's Law Mary 'Lotus Bud' Ling "Who Killed the Paper Dragon?"
The Virginian Kim Ho "Smile of a Dragon"
Mister Ed Ako Tenaka "Ed in the Peace Corps"
The Celebrity Game Herself Episode dated 19 April 1964
1969 The Queen and I Japanese Bride "The Trousseau"
1969-1972 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Mrs. Livingston 66 episodes
Nominated - Golden Globe Award - Best Supporting Actress - Television
1971 This Is Your Life Herself for Bill Bixby
The Pet Set Herself Episode dated 30 June 1971
The Merv Griffin Show Herself Episode dated 29 March 1971
1972 Salute to Oscar Hammerstein II Herself


  1. "Oscar winner Miyoshi Umeki dies at 78". USA Today. 5 September 2007.
  2. Lavietes, Stuart. "Miyoshi Umeki, Oscar-winning actress, dies at 78". International Herald Tribune. 6 September 2007.
  3. Miyoshi Umeki, first Asian to win an Oscar, dies. AFP. 6 September 2007.

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