Top Asian-American actor James Shigeta, who rose to fame in the '60s after starring in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song, died Monday, July 28, in L.A., his publicist announced. He was 81.
The Hawaiian native's nearly 50-year film and TV career spanned from the late 1950s into the new millennium. Shigeta received a Golden Globe Award for Best Male Newcomer in 1960, after starring as a young detective in the 1959 movie, The Crimson Kimono.
He co-starred with Donald O'Connor and Glenn Ford in the 1961 movie, Cry for Happy, and played a Japanese diplomat married to Carroll Baker's character in Bridge to the Sun. Shigeta's musical Flower Drum Song went on to score five Oscar nominations in 1961.
He later starred with Elvis Presley in the 1966 movie Hawaiian Style, and lent his voice as General Li in Disney's animated hit Mulan. In 1988, Shigeta starred opposite Bruce Willis in the action flick Die Hard, as Nakatomi Trading Corp. president Joe Takegi, who eventually met a gruesome end.
Shigeta also raked in the TV credits in the '70s, when he starred on shows like Kung Fu, Mission: Impossible, and Emergency! He had recurring roles on CBS' Medical Center, Hawaii Five-O, The Love Boat, and Murder, She Wrote, and Shigeta additionally starred on three episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 back in 1999, as Ben Sosna.
As illustrious as Shigeta's Hollywood career was, his actual life story was even more colorful. The Japanese-American actor, who was born in Honolulu in 1933, studied at NYU and fought in the Korean War as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.