Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Nose-talgia #31: James Shigeta, R.I.P.

We're so sorry to hear of the passing earlier this week of the wonderfully talented actor James Shigeta, a fixture on movie and TV screens since 1960.  Born in Hawaii on June 17, 1929 to Japanese parents, Shigeta started his performing career after studying drama at New York University and serving in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.  Musically gifted as well as a good actor, Shigeta got his show business break when he found himself in Japan and used his singing to establish himself and eventually make his way back to the U.S. and American stardom.

We'll direct you to several complete obituaries for his entire life story, like this one from the Los Angeles Times, this one from The New York Times, a nice one from The Onion AV Club, but we especially want to point out the tremendous amount of episodic TV work he did during his career.  Shigeta moved easily between movie and TV roles, the latter which were probably his bread and butter over the years.  He appeared on everything from Dr. Kildare to Medical Center to Kung Fu to Ben Casey to Perry Mason to Ironside to Mission: Impossible and many more including more recent hits such as Beverly Hills 90210 and Babylon 5.  Action movie lovers particularly remember his great turn as the boss of Bruce Willis' wife in the original Die Hard movie.

We'll share here a few looks at his movie and TV work, then direct you to one of his most powerful TV performances in an episode of the original The Outer Limits.

First of all, this is a lovely overview of James Shigeta's career from 2006 when he was honored at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival:

One of the young Shigeta's most prominent movie roles was in 1961's Bridge to the Sun opposite Carroll Baker:

James Shigeta did all his own singing when he co-starred in the big screen version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's charming San Francisco-set musical Flower Drum Song:

He also does some dancing in this elaborate musical number from the movie:

Here is the reunion of Jack Lord and James Shigeta in an episode of Hawaii 5-0 in 1968.  A reunion, you ask?  They co-starred together in a very interesting movie Walk Like a Dragon in 1960:

The one amazing James Shigeta performance that we really want to share with you is in an episode from The Outer Limits entitled "Nightmare".  Shigeta stands out in a cast of stand-outs, including a very young Martin Sheen.

In case the embed doesn't work, you can watch the episode on Hulu by clicking here.

James Shigeta, June 17, 1929 - July 28, 2014.

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