Actress Miiko Taka, whose film debut came in a 1957 film titled Sayonara starring Marlon Brando, has died at 97. The film was a Korean War-set drama about “defiant desire.”
News of her death appears on January 4 on social media by a grandson. Details of her death were not available. Her son told The Hollywood Reporter through a spokesperson that his family didn’t want to take part in an obituary.
Miiko Taka appeared with Glenn Ford and her Sayonara co-star Miyoshi Umemi in the war comedy Cry for Happy (1961). She starred alongside Bob Hope in A Global Affair (1963) and opposite James Garner (another Sayonara actor) in Norman Jewison’s The Art of Love (1965). Taka starred with Cary Grant in his last film, Walk Don’t Run (1966), set during the Tokyo Olympics.
Miiko Taka Was Not First Choice For Her Role In ‘Sayonara’
Sayonara is directed by Joshua Logan. Paul Osborn adopts it from a 1954 novel by James Michener. It featured Brando as U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Lloyd “Ace” Gruver and Taka as an elegant Japanese dancer named Hana-ogi. They fall for each other. But they also face hostility in an era that frowned on interracial romances and marriages.
Logan sought to cast an unknown after his first choice for the role, Audrey Hepburn, turned him down. Taka happens to be working as a clerk at a travel agency in Los Angeles when she gets hired. But she had no acting experience.
In his review for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther called her “a flute-like beauty — a really lovely, serene and soothing impulse.”
Actress Was Born In Seattle, Raised In Los Angeles
The Warner Bros. film receives 10 Oscar nominations. This includes best picture, and it won four Oscars. Red Buttons and Umemi took the supporting acting trophies. (Umemi was the first woman of Asian descent to receive an Academy Award.) In 1958, Miiko Taka visited Britain for the first time.
Miiko Shikata was born in Seattle on July 24, 1925, and raised in Los Angeles. During World War II, she and her family get sent to a Japanese internment camp outside Phoenix.
Meanwhile, Taka introduced Sayonara to audiences in the trailer. On the poster, she is “described as an exquisite new Japanese star in James A. Michener’s story of defiant desire.” Rare for its time, the film dealt head-on with racism and prejudice. It had what many consider the first onscreen kiss on the mouth between a leading white star and an Asian. Finally, Miiko Taka followed up Sayonara with an appearance on a 1959 episode of Hawaiian Eye and other TV and film work.