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Flower Drum Song Star Miyoshi Umeki Dies at 78

By New York City
Miyoshi Umeki
Miyoshi Umeki
Japanese-born actress Miyoshi Umeki, who received a Tony Award nomination for her role as Mei Li in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song, died of cancer on August 28 in Licking, Missouri. She was 78.

Umeki, who never appeared on Broadway again, re-created the role of Mei Li for the 1961 film version of Flower Drum Song. She had already received an Academy Award for her role in Sayonara, as a woman whose marriage to a U.S. soldier (played by fellow Oscar winner Red Buttons) eventually leads to their double suicide.

Umeki began her career as a singer and later recorded for RCA Japan and Mercury Records under the name Nancy Umeki. Her other film and television appearances included The Horizontal Lieutenant, A Girl Named Tamiko, and The Courtship of Eddie's Father.

She is survived by her son, Michael Hood, and two grandchildren.


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