Miyoshi Umeki
梅木 美代志
Flower Drum Song (1961) Press Photo of Miyoshi Umeki.jpg
Umeki in a publicity photo for Flower Drum Song (1961)
Born(1929-05-08)May 8, 1929
DiedAugust 28, 2007(2007-08-28) (aged 78)
Occupation(s)Singer, actress
Years active1953–1972
Wynn Opie
(m. 1958; div. 1967)

Randall Hood
(m. 1968; died 1976)
AwardsAcademy 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.[1] Umeki was a Tony Award- and Golden Globe-nominated actress and the first East Asian-American woman to win an Academy Award for acting.[2]


Born in Otaru, Hokkaido, she was the youngest of nine children. Her father owned an iron factory.[1]

After World War II, Umeki began her career as a nightclub singer in Japan, using the name Nancy Umeki.[3] Her early influences were traditional kabuki theater and American pop music.[1] 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.[citation needed]


Umeki in a publicity photo for Sayonara (1957)
Umeki in a publicity photo for Sayonara (1957)

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.[1] 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[1][3] and after appearing on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts (she was a series regular for one season),[citation needed] she signed with the Mercury Records label and released several singles and two albums.[1]

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.[2]

In 1958, she appeared twice on the variety show The Gisele MacKenzie Show in which she performed "How Deep Is the Ocean".[citation needed]

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,[2] where she played Mei-Li.[4] The show ran for two years. A cover story in Time stated "the warmth of her art works a kind of tranquil magic".[1] Umeki appeared in the film adaptation of the musical.[3] 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.[5]

Personal life and death

Her first marriage, to television director Frederick Winfield "Wynn" Opie in 1958, ended in divorce in 1967.[1] The couple had one son—Michael H. Opie, born in 1964.[1] She married Randall Hood in 1968, who adopted her son, changing his name to Michael Randall Hood.[6] The couple operated a Los Angeles–based business renting editing equipment to film studios and university film programs.[1] Randall Hood died in 1976.[2]

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.[3]


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RCA Victor Japan (1950–1954)

During her recording career in Japan, Miyoshi recorded the following songs:

Two other Japanese language songs were recorded in 1952.

Singles on Mercury Records (1955–1959)

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.

Albums on Mercury Records

Miyoshi Sings For Arthur Godfrey (MG-20165) (1956)[7]

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)

Film themes

Miyoshi Umeki recorded two theme songs for films in which she appeared:

Cast recordings

Flower Drum Song (Broadway Original Cast; 1958), Sony Records
Flower Drum Song (Film Soundtrack; 1961), Decca Records

Tracks by Miyoshi Umeki:


Year Title Role Notes
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
1957 Sayonara Katsumi
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
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 #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

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
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


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bernstein, Adam. "Actress Miyoshi Umeki, 78, Dies of Cancer". The Washington Post. 5 September 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d "Oscar winner Miyoshi Umeki dies at 78". USA Today. Associated Press. 5 September 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d Lavietes, Stuart (September 6, 2007). "Miyoshi Umeki, 78, Actress Who Won an Oscar in '57, Dies". The New York Times. p. B7.
  4. ^ Miyoshi Umeki at the Internet Broadway Database
  5. ^ Li, Shirley (2018-02-22). "Why did Miyoshi Umeki, the only Asian actress to ever win an Oscar, destroy her trophy?". Entertainment Weekly.
  6. ^ "Miyoshi Umeki, first Asian to win an Oscar, dies". Agence France-Presse. 6 September 2007. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Miyoshi Umeki". The Official Masterworks Broadway Site. Retrieved 2022-12-25.