Friday, August 01, 2014

James Shigeta, June 17, 1927 - July 28, 2014

image source: NBC News
Earlier this week, actor James Shigeta passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 85 (some news sources listed his age at 81).

Mr. Shigeta's best known and biggest role was as Wang Ta in the film "Flower Drum Song". As I wrote when I shared his obituary from the Los Angeles Times on my Facebook page, Mr. Shigeta's role left a deep impression on me. It was the first time I ever saw Asian Americans speaking without exaggerated Asian accents.

"The Joy Luck Club" and "Flower Drum Song" were among the few Asian Ameican films that have had any mainstream success in the US. Which is why most of Mr. Shigeta's career after "Flower Drum Song" were mostly in support roles such as "Die Hard" and "Midway".

For cinephile and/or Asian American culture geeks, there are 2 documentaries that discuss this issue: Arthur Dong's "Hollywood Chinese" (September 10, 2012 blog entry), and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi's "The Slanted Screen" (May 21, 2006 blog entry). I highly recommend them.

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