Miyoshi Umeki: First Asian-American Academy Award winner

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Approximately a week ago, Myoshi Umeki, the first Asian-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the movie Sayonara – and win for Best Supporting Actress – passed away.

She began her career as a nightclub singer in Japan making several records for RCA Victor Japan and appearing in several musical shorts under the name “Nancy Umeki”. After moving to the United States and 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.

In 1958, Umeki won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her first U.S. film role, Sayonara. She was the first Asian performer ever nominated. In 1958, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway premiere production of the musical Flower Drum Song.

She appeared in only four more motion pictures through 1962, including the film version of Flower Drum Song (1961), before turning to television work. From 1969-1972 she appeared in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father as Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper. She retired from acting following that series’ end.

Read more about Myoshi Umeki at Wikipedia.

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