Umeki Miyoshi (梅木 美代志)
May 8, 1929
|Died||August 28, 2007 (aged 78)|
(m. 1958; div. 1967)
(m. 1968; died 1976)
|Awards||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
Miyoshi Umeki (梅木 美代志, Umeki Miyoshi, or ミヨシ・ウメキ Miyoshi Umeki, May 8, 1929 – August 28, 2007) was a Japanese-American singer and actress. Umeki was a Tony Award- and Golden Globe-nominated actress and the first East Asian-American woman to win an Academy Award for acting.
Born in Otaru, Hokkaido, 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 was best known for her Oscar-winning role as Katsumi in the film Sayonara (1957), as well as Mei Li in the Broadway musical and 1961 film Flower Drum Song, and Mrs. Livingston in the television series The Courtship of Eddie's Father. She was a shin Issei, or post-1945 immigrant from Japan.
She recorded for RCA Victor Japan from 1950 to 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", "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?" and "I'll Walk Alone". She moved to the United States 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. 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 for acting.
In 1958, she appeared twice on the variety show The Gisele MacKenzie Show in which she performed "How Deep Is the Ocean".
In 1958, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in the Broadway premiere production of the musical Flower Drum Song, where she played Mei-Li. The show ran for two years. A cover story in Time stated "the warmth of her art works a kind of tranquil magic". Umeki appeared 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 movies 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 to 1972, she appeared in The Courtship of Eddie's Father as Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She retired from acting following the end of the series.
Her first marriage, to television director Frederick Winfield "Wynn" Opie in 1958, ended in divorce in 1967. The couple had one son—Michael H. Opie, born in 1964. She married Randall Hood in 1968, who adopted her son, changing his name to Michael Randall Hood. The couple operated a Los Angeles–based business renting editing equipment to film studios and university film programs. Randall Hood died in 1976.
According to her son, Umeki lived in Sherman Oaks for a number of years, then moved to Licking, Missouri to be near her son and his family, which included three grandchildren. She died August 28, 2007, at the age of 78, from cancer.
Her son, who was a policeman in Licking, died at age 54 on August 27, 2018.
During her recording career in Japan, Miyoshi recorded the following songs:
Two other Japanese language songs were recorded in 1952.
She 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.
Miyoshi Sings For Arthur Godfrey (MG-20165) (1956)
Miyoshi (album) (MG-20568) (1959)
Miyoshi – Singing Star of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (MGW-12148) (1958) (reissue of the Arthur Godfrey album with some tracks replaced)
Miyoshi Umeki recorded two theme songs for films in which she appeared:
Flower Drum Song (Broadway Original Cast; 1958), Sony Records
Flower Drum Song (Film Soundtrack; 1961), Decca Records
Tracks by Miyoshi Umeki:
|1953||Seishun Jazz musume (青春ジャズ娘 Seishun jazu musume)||Kashu (歌手, "singer" in Japanese)|
|1956||Around the World Revue||Nancy Umeki||Also known as Universal Musical Short 2655: Around the World Revue|
|1961||Cry for Happy||Harue|
|1961||Flower Drum Song||Mei Li||Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy|
|1962||The Horizontal Lieutenant||Akiko|
|1962||A Girl Named Tamiko||Eiko|
|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)
|1958||What's My Line?||Herself – Mystery Guest||episode #414 (dated 11 May 1958)|
|1958||The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show||Herself||episode #2.25|
|1958||Bing Crosby's White Christmas: All-Star Show||Herself||episode: "It Might as Well Be Spring"|
|1959||The Chevy Showroom Starring Andy Williams||Herself||episode #2.2|
|1959||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) and "Aloha, Kimi" (1962)|
|1962||The Andy Williams Show||Herself||episode dated 11 October 1962|
episode dated 13 December 1962
|1962||Hallmark Hall of Fame||Lotus-Blossom||episode: "The Teahouse of the August Moon"|
|1962||Sam Benedict||Sumiko Matsui||episode: "Tears for a Nobody Doll"|
|1963||Rawhide||Nami||episode: "Incident of the Geisha"|
|1963||Dr. Kildare||Hana Shigera||episode: "One Clear Bright Thursday Morning"|
|1964||Burke's Law||Mary 'Lotus Bud' Ling||episode: "Who Killed the Paper Dragon?"|
|1964||The Virginian||Kim Ho||episode: "Smile of a Dragon"|
|1964||Mister Ed||Ako Tenaka||episode: "Ed in the Peace Corps"|
|1964||The Celebrity Game||Herself||episode dated April 19, 1964|
|1969||The Queen and I||Japanese Bride||episode: "The Trousseau"|
|1969–1972||The Courtship of Eddie's Father||Mrs. Livingston|
|1971||This Is Your Life||Herself||For Bill Bixby|
|1971||The Pet Set||Herself||episode dated June 30, 1971|
|1971||The Merv Griffin Show||Herself||episode dated March 29, 1971|
|1972||Salute to Oscar Hammerstein II||Herself|
|1958||Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Sayonara||Won|
|1958||Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Nominated|
|1962||Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Flower Drum Song||Nominated|
|1970||Best Supporting Actress – Television||The Courtship of Eddie's Father||Nominated|
|1959||Tony Awards||Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Flower Drum Song||Nominated|