LICKING, Mo. Actress Miyoshi Umeki, who won an Oscar for her performance as the doomed wife of an American serviceman in “Sayonara” and later starred in the Broadway musical “Flower Drum Song,” has died of cancer. She was 78.
The Japanese-born actress, the first Asian performer to win an Oscar, died Aug. 28 at Licking nursing home, said Michael Hood, her son.
Umeki also portrayed Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper, in the ABC series, “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” (1969-1972), which starred Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz. In a 1969 Washington Post interview, Bixby called her “the best actress I’ve ever worked with.”
In “Sayonara,” the 1957 film version of James Michener’s best-selling novel, she teamed with Red Buttons in a tragic subplot about a U.S. serviceman and local woman who fall in love in post-World War II Japan. They commit suicide rather than part when he is supposed to return to America.
Both won Oscars for their supporting roles, surprising fans to whom Umeki was unknown.