Reiko Sato


Reiko Sato (December 19, 1931 – May 28, 1981) was an American dancer and actress.

Reiko Sato
Born(1931-12-19)December 19, 1931
Los Angeles, California, US
DiedMay 28, 1981(1981-05-28) (aged 49)
Los Angeles, California, US
Years active1950–69

Early lifeEdit

Sato was born in Los Angeles, California, to an issei Zen Buddhist priest, Ken-ichi Sato and his wife Chieko.[1] She and her family were interned at the Gila River War Relocation Center during World War II.[2] Her mother became a real estate investor after the war; Reiko also had an older brother, Keiichiro, and a younger brother, Koji. She graduated from Belmont High School in 1949, later attending Los Angeles City College. She continued her studies in ballet.


Sato is best known for playing seamstress Helen Chao in the 1961 feature film Flower Drum Song. She also had a dramatic role in The Ugly American, receiving personal coaching from actor Marlon Brando with whom she had a relationship. She had been on contract with Fox and Universal, but nothing materialized, and she retired from Hollywood.

She had performed as the original Princess of Ababu in the Broadway production of Kismet, as well as the movie. In 1955, she played the female lead of Lotus Blossom in the second national tour of John Patrick's play The Teahouse of the August Moon opposite Larry Parks.[3] She was also in the Broadway play, Destry Rides Again, having two roles.[1] Sato was scheduled to return to Broadway as part of a 1966 musical Chu Chem, but its chaotic Philadelphia tryout led to the production being cancelled before reaching New York.

She participated in regional theater as well, performing in the Valentina Oumansky Dramatic Dance Ensemble on September 24, 1970 in Hilo, Hawaii.[4]

Final yearsEdit

Sato spent her final years involved in various organizations promoting equality for Asian-American performers. She lived on Mulholland Drive. She died of a brain aneurysm on May 28, 1981.[5] Half of her ashes were sent to a Buddhist temple. The other half were "spirited away" to Marlon Brando's private island.[1] Her authorized biography, Reiko Sato by Samuel Clemens was published on February 4, 2022.


Year Title Role Notes
1950 Mother Didn't Tell Me Suki Uncredited
1950 Woman on the Run Susie
1953 Target Hong Kong Dice Girl Uncredited
1955 House of Bamboo Charlie's Girl Uncredited
1955 Kismet 1st Princess of Ababu
1957 Sûpâ jaiantsu - Kaiseijin no majô
1960 Hell to Eternity Famika
1961 Flower Drum Song Helen Chao
1963 The Ugly American Rachani, Deong's Wife (final film role)


  1. ^ a b c Robinson, Greg (August 11, 2015). "Reiko Sato". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 5, 2020.
  2. ^ "Japanese American Internee Data File: Reiko Sato". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 2019-08-18.
  3. ^ "Reiko Sato – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB". Retrieved 2022-01-06.
  4. ^ Clemens, Samuel (2022). Reiko Sato. Sequoia Press. p. 64. ISBN 9798885895675.
  5. ^ Robinson, Greg (2016). The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches. University Press of Colorado. p. 220. ISBN 9781607324294.

External linksEdit