James Shigeta


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Name James Shigeta
Born June 17 1929
Died July 28 2014
Birth Location Honolulu
Generational Identifier

Sansei

Hawai'i-born singer and actor who played romantic leads in several Hollywood movies in the late '50s and early '60s. Born in Honolulu in 1929, the third of six children of a Nisei father and Issei mother, Shigeta graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1947. While attending the University of Hawaii, he won a local contest for Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour radio talent show and went on to win the national contest in 1950 with a performance of the song "Night and Day." This launched his professional singing career in Hollywood and Las Vegas, where he performed under the name "Guy Brion." After a stint in the Marine Corps, he became a singing star in Japan, leading to a recording and movie contracts in the U.S. He played romantic leads in the Hollywood films The Crimson Kimono (1959), Walk Like a Dragon (1960), Flower Drum Song (1961), and Bridge to the Sun (1961), becoming the only Asian American male actor to do so since the days of silent film star Sessue Hayakawa. Though the lead roles dried up, he continued to play supporting roles for the next forty plus years. He passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 85 in 2014.

For More Information

Shimizu, Celine Parreñas. Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies. Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2012.

"Trades His Tux for Marine Togs." Scene, April 1952, 22–24

Wang, Oliver. "Between the Notes: Finding Asian America in Popular Music." American Music 19.4 (Winter 2001): 439–65.