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[MEDIA] Miyoshi Umeki & Pat Suzuki - Girls of Grant Avenue

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  • madchinaman
    The Girls on Grant Avenue http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,937718,00.html - Frederick Winfield Opie ** Before coming to America, Miyoshi was a
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2006
      The Girls on Grant Avenue


      Frederick Winfield Opie
      ** Before coming to America, Miyoshi was a nightclub singer in Japan.
      ** The first Asian actor to win an Academy Award, for Supporting
      Actress in "Sayonara"
      ** The first, out of five Asian actors ever nominated, to win an
      Academy Award. The second Asian actor who won an Academy Award was
      Haing S. Ngor. Others who have been nominated are Sessue Hayakawa
      (for "The Bridge on the River Kwai") in the same year as Ms. Umeki,
      and Mako (for "The Sand Pebbles"). Most recently, Ken Watanabe was
      nominated in 2004 for "The Last Samurai".
      ** Was already famous as Nancy Umeki in Japan with several hit songs
      and film appearances to her credit before comiong to the U.S. in 1955.
      ** Was nominated for Broadway's 1959 Tony Award as Best Actress
      (Musical) for "Flower Drum Song," a role she recreated in the film
      version of the same name, Flower Drum Song (1961).
      ** Recorded several records on the Mercury label from 1955-1959.
      Before that she recorded for RCA Japan as Nancy Umeki.
      ** 2003 - retired and living in Hawaii
      ** November 2004 - Retired in a small town in Missouri near her son
      and family.


      I went out at the Eastern Gate,

      I saw the girls in clouds;

      Like clouds they were, and soft and


      But in the crowds

      I thought on the maid who is my light,

      Down-drooping, soft as the grey


      She is my mate.

      —Chinese Love Lyric, 680 B.C.

      Clouds of girls drift across the stage. Girls soft and bright, girls
      fast and funny, girls with dreamy looks and pouty looks, girls with
      languid smiles and impudent grins, girls with unruly bangs and neat
      velvety chignons, girls with eyes slanted a little and girls with
      eyes slanted a lot. Amid all the girls, one stands out in twilight
      softness. When she first appears, her slow, sloe eyes look down, ever
      so shy. Then she bounces her head in a pert little Chinese kowtow and
      the hoarse, sweet husk of her voice sounds hauntingly soft. "Ten
      thousand benedictions, Sir . . ."

      Mei Li, the "picture bride," has traveled far to greet her future
      father-in-law in the stubbornly Oriental parlor of his San Francisco
      home. And she has arrived on time. Until now, Flower Drum Song has
      been nothing but the newest Rodgers and Hammerstein hit musical—
      brisk, bright, opulently staged, professional. When Miyoshi Umeki
      glides onstage to star in her first Broadway show, her first four
      words capture the house. The warmth of her art works a kind of
      tranquil magic, and the whole theater relaxes.

      But that small voice and wistful smile need something to set them
      off. The need is quickly fulfilled—by Linda Low, a buxom, button-
      nosed stripper from the Celestial Bar, whom the musical's plot casts
      as Mei Li's rival. Bold, brassy and bubbling with unabashed sex,
      Linda belts out a song that tells all:

      I'm a girl, and by me that's only great!

      I am proud that my silhouette is curvy,

      That I walk with a sweet and girlish


      With my hips kind of swivelly and

      swervy . . .

      The swivel hips belong to Singer Pat Suzuki, and, like Miyoshi, the
      chubby Nisei is bouncing through her first Broadway part. Whatever
      else may be said for or against Flower Drum Song, it brings to
      Broadway two of the most endearing stars in many a season—surrounded
      by a fascinating Oriental chorus line that will give the most jaded
      Stage-Door Johnnies a new incentive.

      Scouting for the Khan. In a season when all the streets of
      Manhattan's theater section seem eastbound,* assembling this chorus
      line took on a scope that recalled nothing less than the recruitment
      of Kublai Khan's harem. Like the Great Khan's emissaries—who, Marco
      Polo reported, graded their finds "at 16, 17 and 18 or more carats,
      according to the greater or lesser degree of beauty"—Rodgers and
      Hammerstein operatives went to work in Hong Kong, Paris, London, San
      Francisco, Chicago and New York. Director Gene Kelly and
      Choreographer Carol Haney scoured theaters, nightclubs and Y.W.C.A.s.
      Co-Author Joseph Fields judged a San Francisco Chinatown beauty
      contest and watched for talent that would look right on Flower Drum's
      riotous Grant Avenue.

      The scouts could not possibly hope to find a full bag of authentic
      Chinese, settled for any vaguely Oriental features. Dancer Denise
      Quan is really Canadian of Chinese origin. Shawnee Smith is American
      Indian (Hopi) and English. Vicki Racimo is a promising piano student
      (at Manhattan's Juilliard School) of Filipino-English origin. Mary
      Huie, of Chinese origin, was working as a clerk for Revlon when a
      scout spotted her on Manhattan's Sixth Avenue (she thought she was
      facing an attempted pickup when the stranger approached her
      with: "How would you like to be in a Broadway show?").

      Study in Contrasts. Wherever they come from, all the girls would get
      a high Kublai Khan rating. Oddly enough, perhaps the easiest of all
      recruiting jobs involved the 20-carat stars. Early last spring
      Rodgers saw Pat Suzuki on Jack Paar's television show and recognized
      her right away as his stripper, Linda Low. After Miyoshi's Oscar-
      winning performance in the movie Sayonara, both Rodgers and
      Hammerstein realized that Mei Li's lines had been written for no one

      The two girls make a fascinating study in feminine contrasts. Miyoshi
      takes life as it comes, one small step at a time. Pat grasps for it
      all—hungry, anxious, impatient. Japan-born Miyoshi moves slowly,
      precisely, with cautious grace; at 29, she is American by solemn
      determination, but she still lives in the ordered, traditional world
      of her tight little island home. California-born Pat Suzuki, 28, is
      American by instinct, chafed by restrictions, careless of customs,
      and in a hurry. It is possible to see in Pat and Miyoshi the
      embodiment of the ancient, universal Chinese principles of Yang and
      Yin—the opposites of active and passive, sun and shadow, fire and

      One thing Pat and Miyoshi seem to have in common: for as long as
      either of them can remember, each of them seems to have been
      rehearsing her part in Flower Drum Song.

      Head in a Bucket. Miyoshi's rehearsals began in the green hill town
      of Otaru, on the big northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, high above
      Otaru Bay. The last of nine children, all two years apart, she grew
      up in a jampacked household, the family circle swollen by two
      servants and seven extra boys, all apprentices from her father's
      thriving iron factory. No one paid much attention to her, Miyoshi
      remembers. She was too little. But she managed to steal into the
      neighborhood Kabuki theater, and had money enough for "ice" candy.
      Today, onstage, she sings her Flower Drum song:

      My father says that children keep


      Rivers keep flowing, too.

      My father says he doesn't know why.

      But somehow or other they do.

      One brother recognized the little girl's love for music and took her
      for tap-dancing and harmonica lessons. After a while Miyoshi switched
      to the mandolin. ("I didn't like mandolin, either. When I didn't
      like, I quit.") Next came piano. Says Miyoshi: "I just loved any
      sound that you could do it with instrument."

      Most of all, Miyoshi would have liked to make music with her own
      voice, but that was impossible: she had bad throat trouble. Mornings,
      when she first woke up, she could barely speak. When she finally got
      her voice cranked up, it came out lower than any of the other
      kids'. "Children have such high voice," she remembers
      wistfully. "They read their lessons together, way up there. And I
      read my lesson, way down there." Then, one day during music class at
      school, the teacher heard a new voice and asked in surprise. "Who's
      that?" Suddenly Miyoshi Umeki could sing.

      At home she sang incessantly, to the intense irritation of both her
      mother and father, who disapproved of her fast, American-style tunes
      (which she picked up from records). So Miyoshi took to walking around
      the house with a bucket on her head to spare her parents the pain of
      her songs. After she went to bed, she would duck under her covers and
      go on singing. When her father refused to buy her a piano, she pasted
      a pattern of paper keys on the dining-room table and practiced

      Song Is Heart. War came when Miyoshi was 13. After V-J day, when
      American ships appeared in Otaru Bay, things began to look up again.
      So did Miyoshi. She looked up at the tall, uniformed foreign sailors
      and discovered that she liked them. But the discovery was not made
      without guilt. Miyoshi says: "You can't look at eyes. It's not
      feminine. You should look down. It's not really insult, it's not
      pretty." Her English-speaking brother brought three of the Americans
      to the Umeki home as guests. There were Edward Giannini, a clarinet-
      playing T-4 in the 417th Army Service Forces Band, Sergeant Joseph
      Bardner, and a third soldier whose name the Umeki family never
      learned. They knew him as "G Minor" because he always muttered "G
      minor, G minor" as he played his guitar.

      Through the early winter of 1945, the three G.I.s went to the Umeki
      home almost every night. Usually the plump 16-year-old sat in the
      background eating apples, but one night Giannini egged her into
      trying a song. (At the time, Rodgers and Hammerstein, having
      triumphed with Oklahoma!, had just opened Carousel.) Miyoshi was
      still self-conscious because her voice was not the usual high-pitched
      Japanese voice, but Giannini put her at her ease. "This American man
      gave me courage," says Miyoshi. "He said, 'Don't feel ashamed of your
      voice. Song is not only voice; is heart, mind.' "

      Until the day they left, the G.I.s kept visiting the Umekis with
      presents—bacon, shaving cream, hair oil. Miyoshi put the hair oil on
      her face and tried to brush her teeth with the shaving cream, but she
      knew a gift when she saw one.

      Strange Custom. Although Miyoshi's friends were gone ("My mother was
      crying too hard, it broke her heart"), there were still some soldiers
      left in Otaru, and the shy little girl began to sing with G.I. bands
      in their service clubs. Once she was paid 300 yen (about 90¢) for a
      night's work. "Old family have strange custom, girl shouldn't work,"
      she says. "I felt bad, because now I'm getting paid, really working.
      I guess it's too young to get paid. I gave it to my father."

      "My father he was gone," Miyoshi explains. "I mean, he die. We have
      little temple in house, and everybody live there, even after die.
      They always with us. I put money in temple for my father, but my
      mother said, 'Your father say that it's all right you spend.' So I
      bought coal for stove."

      Whenever there was something special like sweets in the house, it was
      offered first to the dead in the temple in "God's Room." "We have to
      leave it with them one day, then we could have it," Miyoshi says. But
      the hungry girl could not wait a whole day knowing that there was
      candy in God's Room. She would succumb to temptation and open the
      temple, despite her fear of ancestral punishment. "I prayed: I have
      to have this. I got to have this candy. I'm going to take this candy,
      so please don't grab me.' " Then she would snatch the candy and
      run. "I really think they going to grab me."

      Right in the Eyes. Nights, Miyoshi would listen to the local U.S.
      Army radio station, to Dinah Shore and Peggy Lee and Doris Day, and
      try to copy them. After her graduation from school, her teacher took
      the class to a hotel, gave them a lesson in how to use a knife and
      fork; then they were deemed ready for the world. But the professional
      bands were not ready for Miyoshi ("They thought I was the little
      country bear from Hokkaido"). Eventually, though, she became a hit on
      Japanese radio and TV. For three years she hardly ever had a day off.
      Then she decided she must see America.

      What little money Miyoshi had when she hit the States, she promptly
      spent on presents for her family. Night after night she would sing in
      some small nightclub, say a polite "Thank you" (her only English
      words at the time). She felt lost; even the strange food bothered
      her. She sent to Japan for squid, waited until everyone in her
      apartment house had gone to bed, then cooked the dried delicacy on an
      electric stove. "They all get up and say, 'What's that awful
      smell?' "

      Miyoshi's live-wire agent booked her all over the country—in
      nightclubs, auditoriums, small-town theaters. Then she got on
      Tennessee Ernie Ford's TV show and Arthur Godfrey's morning show. On
      the Godfrey show, Miyoshi was noticed by Warner's casting director,
      who brought her to Josh Logan, who hired her for the role of Katsumi
      in Sayonara.

      On the strength of her Academy Award for her Sayonara performance,
      Miyoshi began to get up to $2,500 a week for singing dates on the
      road. Jerry Lewis offered her $50,000 for a part in his new movie,
      Geisha Boy, then R. & H offered her $1,500 a week to play the part of
      Mei Li in Flower Drum. Pliant and outwardly submissive, yet inwardly
      serene and sturdy, Mei Li was Miyoshi. Now married to a former TV
      director, Win Opie, Miyoshi is certain that she wants to continue
      living in a land where it is really all right to look people in the
      eyes. "Is nice look at eyes," she says solemnly. "Get to know people
      that way."

      Wham! Pearl Harbor. Half the world away from Otaru, in a bumpy
      California crossroads hamlet called Cressy (pop. 400), chunky little
      Chiyoko Suzuki began her rehearsals for Flower Drum just 28 years
      ago. Youngest of a fair-sized Japanese-American family (a brother
      twelve years older, and two sisters, eight and ten years
      older), "Chiby" (Squirt) Suzuki was a loner from the start—a kid who
      seemed to figure she was expected to take care of herself. She went
      to a two-room schoolhouse, rode horses bareback, learned to swim in
      irrigation canals on her father's 100-acre farm, and talked Spanish
      to the Mexican peach pickers. But it was not much fun. At least,
      looking back on her childhood, Chiby Suzuki insists: "I could hardly
      wait to grow up. I didn't like being a kid, because I always had
      certain feelings I couldn't explain. The only things I could dream
      about in those days were the trucks going by on the highway all night
      long. I used to dream of all the places they had been that I would
      like to go some day."

      But there was no place to go. If Chiby got a kick out of anything, it
      was singing. She sang her earliest solo at 3½, when she visited a
      Sunday-school class one Easter and laced into White Lilies with such
      gusto that the rest of the kids quit to let her go it alone. To
      everyone in town, Chiby seemed like just another American kid; people
      began to call her "Pat." At a "couple of county things" she stopped
      the show with her unbridled rendition of I Am an American.

      "Then, wham!" says she. "Pearl Harbor."

      Along with the rest of the Suzuki family, Pat was shipped to the
      Amache relocation camp at Lamar, Colo. There life was a matter of
      school as usual. She did not sing much, and about the only memories
      she has are of thunderstorms, dust storms, and the Nisei boy scouts
      who went out every morning in the shifting sand to raise the American

      Bean Cake. After the war the Suzukis spent a year on a Colorado sugar-
      beet farm, renting their own land to help make a stake. Then they
      went home to Cressy. For Pat, it was as bad as ever. "I was kind of a
      homely kid. I was never a school type—I wasn't rah rah."

      When Pat listened to her radio and heard music from the Edgewater
      Beach Hotel, she wanted to see Chicago. She could visualize just what
      the lake and beach would look like. When she saw paintings, she
      wanted desperately to see the places the artists had painted. And she
      never forgot some advice her father had once given her: "As you get
      older, you get afraid to take chances. When you're young, you have
      the drive. You should use your youth."

      In 1948 (the year Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote South Pacific) Pat
      took off for Mills College near San Francisco. It seemed a safe
      distance from Cressy. She worked as a typist, did odd jobs at school,
      was a receptionist in a Chinese restaurant. She bounced on to Modesto
      Junior College, then to San Francisco City College and to San José
      State. She studied voice, biology, philosophy, art, art history,
      woodworking. During her two years at San José State she sang in a
      small nightclub on weekends, and she began to develop a style. Says
      Cartoonist Walt ("Pogo") Kelly: "She was a real dish of Yo-Kan, a
      cute little, sweet little bean cake. She could have licked the brass
      section of Phil Spitalny's all-girl orchestra with one tonsil."

      Waiting for R. & H. "I was a big slob," says Pat of her days at San
      José State. Translated by a friend, this means that she was a
      nonconformist Nisei. "Pat and I ran around with Caucasians," says the
      friend. The strained social relations resulted in many heartaches,
      and when the hurt was deep enough, Pat became deeply Japanese. Once
      when a boy she was fond of threw her over, Pat sliced off the
      ponytail hairdo that has since become her trademark. "I'm shorn of my
      pride anyway," she said, "so I cut my hair." Her parents would have
      recognized the Oriental sign of disgrace.

      Trying to get to Europe in 1954, she made it as far as New York
      before she ran short of cash. She wound up with a walk-on part in the
      road company of Teahouse of the August Moon, and one day while on
      tour she wandered into Seattle's Colony, an offbeat supper club. She
      talked Owner Norm Bobrow into letting her try a few numbers with the
      band, brought down the house. Three years later, Pat was still at the
      Colony. "How long will she stay?" Bobrow's friends kept asking him.
      He always gave them the same answer: "Until Rodgers and Hammerstein
      write a musical for her."

      Safety in Numbers. R. & H. did not quite write Flower Drum Song for
      Pat, but at times it seemed close to becoming her show. As Linda Low—
      hymning "Grant Avenue, San Francisco" with all the fire-cracking
      verve of Chinatown itself—Pat worked with so much authority that by
      the time the show opened in Boston, she was practically in command.
      Stage mikes had to be turned down to keep her lusty voice somewhere
      within range of Miyoshi's. "Pat have very very sweet voice when she
      little girl," says her 66-year-old father, Chiyosaku Suzuki. "I like
      better her singing when young."

      Nor does Papa Suzuki entirely approve of his daughter's Flower Drum
      role. He does not like to think Pat has drifted so far from ancestral
      tradition. Especially he dislikes the striptease with which she stops
      the show. "I don't like it when she start taking off like this." He
      tries a tentative little laugh and begins to peel off his coat. "We
      see show in Boston and makes Mama to sweat. In Boston, more strip and
      very small pants. I'm little scared as I think accidentally come off
      her pants." Says Pat reassuringly: "We ill wear double pants. Pop."

      East-West Love. In the philosophical concept of Yang and Yin, the two
      elements grow and shrink each at the other's expense, but never
      wholly obliterate each ather, so that the end result is a kind of
      universal harmony. This is more or less what happens backstage at
      Flower Drum Song, according to testimony not only from pressagents—
      those untrustworthy upbeat philosophers—but according to anybody else
      connected with the show. And practically everybody gives the credit
      to the Oriental qualities of patience and politeness. Says Production
      Supervisor Jerry Whyte, a tough veteran of R. & H. shows since
      Oklahoma!: "I dread to think another show with two principals running
      nip and tuck like this one. But here you see no rivalry. They have a
      genuine friendship for each other."

      The Oriental spell extends beyond Miyoshi and Pat. Wilbur, the stern-
      eyed stage-door guard, feels that the Oriental chorus girls are
      politer and less brassy than the usual types; the director and the
      choreographer feel that the whole cast is more disciplined and
      quicker to learn. Says Oscar Hammerstein: "It's a strange flavor they
      have. They don't fawn, they don't scrape, they listen carefully. I
      don't think they're any more intelligent than other people, but I
      think the intelligence is less obscured by neuroticism." Translates
      Dick Rodgers: "We have no nuts."

      The East-West love feast that surrounds Flower Drum Song is no
      accident, for Rodgers and Hammerstein themselves have reached an
      almost Oriental serenity in an otherwise hectic and often squalid
      business. As much as any of their Chinese characters, R. & H. have
      family feeling. Since they have a permanent production outfit (unlike
      most other theater men, who fold up after each show), they have given
      employment to generations of performers. Example: one of Flower
      Drum's brightest young dancers, Patrick Adiarte, 15, started at eight
      as one of the younger children in The King and I, kept on playing the
      parts of older boys as he grew; meanwhile, his mother was a dancer in
      The King and I. As much as any of the Chinese in Flower Drum Song, R.
      & H. believe in tradition, have gone to the same opening-night party
      for 15 years (given by a friend, Jules Glaenzer, vice president of
      Carder's). On tour they still receive ceremonial visits from long-
      married and matronly chorus girls who were in one of their early

      If Wang Chi-yang, Flower Drum Song's venerable elder, likes the feel
      of money and distrusts outside financial institutions, so do Rodgers
      and Hammerstein. Where other producers more often than not must hunt
      down angels, R. & H. have the problem of fighting off outside
      investors, mostly use their own capital or that of family members and
      close friends. And they go about their business with Confucian calm;
      voices are virtually never raised at an R. & H. rehearsal, except in

      Saving Grace. Their determined serenity is sometimes derided; says
      Cole Porter: "I could spot Dick's songs anywhere. There is a certain
      holiness about them." But with serenity goes an unfailing
      professional competence. In Flower Drum-Song they do not shrink from
      such corn as a hula-hooping little girl and that ancient scene about
      the Chinese maiden who does not understand Western kissing; but there
      is always a saving grace of humor or taste, or at least
      professionalism. As their own producers, they ruthlessly cut their
      favorite songs or scenes if they detect that alarming rustle of
      inattention among spectators. "What I like about R. & H.," says
      General Stage Manager Jimmy Hammerstein, Oscar's No. 2 son, "is that
      they're conditioned to what works. If it works, they keep it in; if
      it doesn't, they scrap it. They listen with real objective ears."

      During Flower Drum's Boston tryout, when Nightclub Comic Larry Storch
      did not work out in the role of Sammy Fong, he was quickly replaced
      by a more experienced stage veteran, Larry Blyden. A sentimental song
      was cut, and Blyden's part was beefed up; Hammerstein spent two days
      writing the lyrics of a new song, and Rodgers retired to the Shubert
      Theater ladies' room (which during rehearsals was equipped with a
      piano) and wrote the music in less than six hours. (His record: South
      Pacific's Bali Ha'i, which he wrote in five minutes over after-dinner
      coffee in a crowded room.) Result of the Boston change: Don't Marry
      Me, one of the brightest numbers in the show.

      Big Brother. Throughout the road try-out of any of their shows, and
      beyond the Broadway opening, R. & H. are omnipresent. In their
      separate ways, they are intensely paternal toward their cast—
      Hammerstein gently smiling but a little shy and withdrawn, Rodgers
      quick, effervescent and always ready with a hug for a chorus girl.
      Says one member of the cast: "Hammerstein is the Great White Father,
      but Rodgers is Daddy."

      If there is anything about the R. & H. paternalism that the Flower
      Drum cast dislikes, it is the installation of closed-circuit TV in
      the St. James Theater, where the show has settled down for its New
      York run. Not that anyone objects to the stage manager keeping track
      of the action. But Hammerstein has ordered a cable run to his town
      house so that he too can monitor the show. Says Larry Blyden: "It's
      like Big Brother looking over your shoulder. It gives me the

      But this is a minor irritation, considering that they will all be
      around New York for a long time—Great White Father and Daddy,
      Miyoshi, Pat and all the kids—just a big Oriental family beating
      their flowery drum. Meanwhile, the girls are getting accustomed to
      New York. Pat is getting vitamin injections for extra energy, and
      Miyoshi, in a remarkable East-West synthesis, has taken to
      champagne. "I can't stop drinking it," she says. "It tastes like


      Miyoshi Umeki

      Sometimes Credited As: Nancy Umeki
      Born: Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan on 1/3/1929
      Professions: Actor, singer

      As a teenager in her native Japan, Miyoshi Umeki began her show
      business career as a singer and dancer. She often performed on radio
      programs and in nightclubs.

      In the 1950s, she attempted to translate that success in the USA,
      landing a spot on "Arthur Godfrey and His Friends", one of the many
      music-variety series then in vogue.

      In 1957, Umeki was cast as the Japanese woman who falls in love with
      an American soldier (Red Buttons) despite the US government's policy
      banning interracial marriage in "Sayonara". As the doomed bride, the
      beautiful actress offered a heart-breaking turn that earned her that
      year's Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress.

      As the studio system was in the beginnings of its decline, actresses
      in general were beginning to have a difficult time finding good
      roles. For an Asian woman, the problems were further compounded.
      Despite winning an Oscar, Umeki was unable to land a suitable follow-
      up and instead turned to Broadway where she starred in the 1958
      Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Flower Drum Song", playing Mei Li,
      an illegal Chinese immigrant who arrives in the USA searching for a

      While not on par with the best of the Rodgers and Hammerstein
      catalogue, "Flower Drum Song" was pleasant and popular, earning
      several Tony Award nominations, including one for its leading lady.
      When Universal adapted the material for the big screen, the studio
      took the rather unusual step of hiring Umeki to recreate her stage
      role. (Often those who appeared on Broadway were replaced by more
      bankable stars.)

      Although she acquitted herself in the 1961 film version of "Flower
      Drum Song", Umeki still found additional roles scarce. In fact, the
      actress was to appear in only three additional movies, "Cry for
      Happy" (1961), "The Horizontal Lieutenant" (1962) and "A Girl Named
      Tamiko" (1963).

      Taking time off for motherhood, Umeki moved back to the small screen,
      garnering legions of fans among baby boomers as the wise and
      dependable housekeeper Mrs. Livingston on the ABC sitcom "The
      Courtship of Eddie's Father" (1969-72). After the series ran its
      course, she operated a dance studio in North Hollywood for close to
      20 years.

      In 1999, there was a flurry of misinformation about the actress when
      author Donald Reuter claimed he had tried to track her down without
      success for a book he was working on. Convinced she had "vanished",
      his comments reprinted in tabloid newspapers -- and the fact Umeki
      was one of the few living Oscar winners not present at a tribute on
      an annual telecast of the awards -- fueled speculation about her
      whereabouts. The reality, though, was hardly a mystery; Umeki had
      retired to Hawaii.

      son:Michael Opie

      Winfield Opie, husband

      Oscar Best Supporting Actress "Sayonara" 1957

      ** 1963 Last feature film appearance, "A Girl Named Tamiko"
      ** 1961 Recreated stage role in film version of "Flower Drum Song"
      ** 1958 - 1959 Starred on Broadway in "Flower Drum Song"; earned Tony
      Award nomination as Best Actress in a Musical
      ** 1957 Made feature debut in "Sayonara"; won Oscar as Best
      Supporting Actress
      ** As a teenager, performed on Japanese radio shows and as a singer
      in nightclubs; performed with the Tusnoda Sextet; billed as Nancy
      ** Moved to USA in the 1950s
      ** Took time away from career to raise her son
      ** Co-starred as Mrs. Livingston on "The Courtship of Eddie's Father"
      ** Operated a school of dance in North Hollywood in the 1970s, 1980s
      and early 1990s
      ** Retired to Hawaii
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