James Shigeta, Star of FLOWER DRUM SONG Film, Passes Away

According to Variety, Asian-American actor James Shigeta, known for his role as 'Wang Ta' in the 1961 film adaptation of the Broadway musical FLOWER DRUM SONG, died today, July 28, 2014. He was 81.

Featuring music by composer Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, both the film and stage production of FLOWER DRUM SONG were based on the 1957 novel by C.Y. Lee. The film was one of the first to feature nearly all Asian-American cast members. Starring opposite Shigeta were Nancy Kwan and some of the original Broadway cast -- Jack Soo, Miyoshi Umeki and Juanita Hall.

Shigeta was born in Honolulu, joined the Marines during the Korean war, became a popular singer in Japan before he first appeared on the silver screen in The Crimson Kimono in 1959. The role earned him the 1960 Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer.

Aside from FLOWER DRUM SONG, Shigeta appeared in the movie musical Paradise, Hawaiian Style with Elvis Presley.

The actor also appeared in TV shows, including "Hawaii 5-O", "Mission: Impossible", "Ironside", "Kung Fu", "Medical Center", "The Streets of San Francisco", "Little House on the Prairie", "The Love Boat", "Magnum, P.I.", "Murder, She Wrote" and "Beverly Hills 90210".

Shigeta also starred in the films Midnight Man, Drive, Brother, A Ribbon of Dreams and Disney's Mulan; his most recent film was 2009's The People I've Slept With.

Image source.

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