Miiko Taka, Marlon Brando’s co-star in “Sayonara,” dies at 97

Miiko Taka, who made her film debut with a starring turn opposite Marlon Brando in Sayonara, the 1957 Korean War-set drama about “defiant desire,” has died. She was 97.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, news of her death was posted January 4 on social media by a grandson. 

The outlet adds that details of her death were not available, with her son saying through a spokesperson that his family did not want to participate in an obituary.

Taka also appeared with Glenn Ford and her Sayonara co-star Miyoshi Umeki in the war comedy Cry for Happy (1961), alongside Bob Hope in A Global Affair (1963), opposite James Garner (another Sayonara actor) in Norman Jewison’s The Art of Love (1965) and with Cary Grant in his last film, Walk Don’t Run (1966), set during the Tokyo Olympics.

In 1958, Taka visited Britain for the first time and was proclaimed “one of the most exciting film discoveries for many years.”


Miiko Shikata was born in Seattle on July 24, 1925, and raised in L.A. During World War II, she and her family were sent to a Japanese internment camp outside Phoenix.

Taka introduced Sayonara to audiences in the trailer, and 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 and had what many consider the first onscreen kiss on the mouth between a leading white star and an Asian.

Taka followed up Sayonara with an appearance on a 1959 episode of Hawaiian Eye and showed up on TV in the 1960s on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy and The Wild Wild West.

Her big-screen résumé also included the war films Hell to Eternity (1960) and Operation Bottleneck (1961), a remake of Lost Horizon (1973), Paper Tiger (1975), The Big Fix (1978) and The Challenge (1982).

She also appeared on the acclaimed NBC 1980 miniseries Shogun, starring Richard Chamberlain.


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