As the studio system was in the beginnings of its decline, actresses in general were beginning to have a difficult time finding good roles. For an Asian woman, the problems were further compounded. Despite winning an Oscar, Umeki was unable to land a suitable follow-up and instead turned to Broadway where she starred in the 1958 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Flower Drum Song," playing Mei Li, an illegal Chinese immigrant who arrives in the USA searching for a husband. While not on par with the best of the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalogue, "Flower Drum Song" was pleasant and popular, earning several Tony Award nominations, including one for its leading lady. When Universal adapted the material for the big screen, the studio took the rather unusual step of hiring Umeki to recreate her stage role. (Often those who appeared on Broadway were replaced by more bankable stars.)Although she acquitted herself in the 1961 film version of "Flower Drum Song," Umeki still found additional roles scarce. In fact, the actress was to appear in only three additional movies, "Cry for Happy" (1961), "The Horizontal Lieutenant" (1962) and "A Girl Named Tamiko" (1963). Taking time off for motherhood, Umeki moved back to the small screen, garnering legions of fans among baby boomers as the wise and dependable housekeeper Mrs. Livingston on the ABC sitcom "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (1969-72). After the series ran its course, she operated a dance studio in North Hollywood for close to 20 years. In 1999, there was a flurry of misinformation about the actress when author Donald Reuter claimed he had tried to track her down without success for a book he was working on. Convinced she had "vanished," his comments reprinted in tabloid newspapers -- and the fact Umeki was one of the few living Oscar winners not present at a tribute on an annual telecast of the awards -- fueled speculation about her whereabouts. The reality, though, was hardly a mystery; Umeki had retired to Hawaii.
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