The actor whose 50-year career included a star turn in Flower Drum Song and a memorable roles in Die Hard and Midway, died today in Los Angeles. James Shigeta was 81. The Hawaii native had scores of film and TV credits from the late 1950s into the 2000s. In 1960, he shared a Best Male Newcomer Golden Globe Award with George Hamilton, Troy Donahue and Barry Coe after making his screen debut as a detective in The Crimson Kimono. Notable film roles followed in such early 1960s films as Walk Like A Dragon with Jack Lord, with whom he’d reteam years later for an early episode of Hawaii Five-O; Cry For Happy opposite Glenn Ford and Donald O’Connor; and Bridge To The Sun with Carroll Baker. He then starred in the 1961 film adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song, which scored five Oscar nominations.
Shigeta had more film roles later in the decade, but his career focused more on the small screen. He appeared on such dramas as Ben Casey, Perry Mason and I Spy and later recurred on Medical Center. Shigeta piled up the TV credits throughout the 1970s — Kung Fu, Ironside, Mission: Impossible, Emergency! — before playing Japanese Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo in Midway (1976). The sprawling World War II epic, the second film to screen in seat-rattling Sensurround in theaters, starred such Hollywood heavyweights as Ford, Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson and Toshiro Mifune.
Shigeta’s prolific TV career continued with roles on dozens of shows including Little House On The Prairie, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Magnum, P.I., and Simon & Simon, but he’s probably best known to younger audiences for the 1988 action classic Die Hard. He played Joe Takegi, the stoic though doomed president of Nakatomi Trading who was hosting a Christmas party when numerous really bad dudes showed up. After refusing to give in to the demands of ringleader Hans Gruber, he met a brutal demise.
Shigeta continued to work in films and TV, with stops in such more recent series as Babylon 5, Cybill and, yes, Beverly Hills, 90210.