Flower Drum Song and Die Hard Actor James Shigeta Dies at 81

By Alex | 2 years ago
Flower Drum Song and Die Hard Actor James Shigeta Dies at 81

Asian-American actor James Shigeta, one of the first Hollywood actor of Asian descent, passed away on June 28, 2014. He was best known for his roles “Flower Drum Song” and “Die Hard.” Read on to find more about Movie News Guide’s (MNG) scoop on James Shigeta and his unfortunate death.

According to New York Times, his brother Clarence confirmed that the 81-year-old actor died in his sleep. The cause of death was due to pulmonary failure.


Shigeta was born in Hawaii on June 17, 2014. He was considered as a Sansei, a term used to describe a third-generation American with Japanese ancestry. Shigeta went to New York to study acting. He stopped studying in order to be part of the Marine Corps during the height of the Korean War. During that time, he was assigned to entertain the troops until he was given a higher position as a Staff Sergeant.

Shigeta continued to embark on a singing career. He won the top place in the TV talent show called “The Original Amateur Hour,” which kicked off his career as a talented performer. He caught the attention of the Japan-based Toho Studios. Despite not being fluent in Japanese, Shigeta became one of the top recording and acting stars in his home country.

In addition to his singing career, he came back to the United States in order to pursue his love for acting. He made his mark in Hollywood scene as a well-known Asian-American lead actor in the ‘60s. He starred in the detective film “The Crimson Kimono,” where he played opposite Victoria Shaw and Glenn Corbett. His breakthrough role as Detective Joe Kogaku earned him a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer.

Throughout his acting career, he was known for his role as Wang Ta in the film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song” from Broadway. It also starred Nancy Kwan and Miyoshi Umeki. His other prominent role was in the 1988 film “Die Hard” starring Bruce Willis. Shigeta took on the role as the kindhearted CEO Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi, who remained brave in the middle of a hostage crisis.

He also starred in several TV series including the classics “Mission: Impossible,” “Hawaii 5-O,” “Beverly Hills 90210” and Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” He also lent his voice to the General Li character in Disney’s “Mulan.” He last appeared in the 2009 indie film “The People I’ve Slept With,” which was directed by Charles Yang.

That’s it for our latest scoop on James Shigeta. We at Movie News Guide (MNG) share our condolences with James Shigeta’s family and friends.  Stay tuned for more news and updates on your favorite TV series, upcoming movies and Hollywood celebrities.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons/ABC Network