A very belated tribute to an actor I’ve actually seen only in a couple of films, but whom I like a lot: James Shigeta. The Hawaiian-born Shigeta passed away on July 28 this year, and it came to me as a shock a couple of days ago when I discovered that he was gone—and that no newspaper and none of the sites I occasionally visit—mentioned it. The news, however, made me remember the first film in which I saw James Shigeta: Flower Drum Song, one of his earliest films. Very different from his debut film (the superb The Crimson Kimono, one of my favourite noirs), but enjoyable in its own way—and an interesting commentary, both deliberate and unwitting, on immigrants in the US.
Every time I’ve reviewed an old Hollywood film (come to think of it, any old film) that either deals with racism or has tones—overt or covert—of racism, I’ve ended up being reminded of The Crimson Kimono. Invariably, I’ve noticed, to the advantage of The Crimson Kimono. It was time, I decided, to publicise this little-known noir film a bit. Not merely because it’s a decent noir with a somewhat shocking (for its time) beginning, but also because it is far ahead of its time in addressing the subject of racism.