American actress Peggy Neal clowns around with Shinichi Yanagisawa in Shochiku's The X from Outer Space (1967).
One of the most interesting facets of Japanese movies are the Americans (and other Westerners) who often appear in various productions. This is especially true of the films of the 1960s when it wasn't uncommon for these Westerners, who usually had little to no acting experience, to be featured in a leading role of a film.
While a number of these Western actors have been found and interviewed over the years, one who remains a mystery is Peggy Neal. She appeared in three films, all for different studios: Terror Beneath the Sea (1966) for Toei, The X from Outer Space (1967) for Shochiku, and Las Vegas Free-for-All (1967) for Toho.
According to Stars and Stripes, she was 18 years old in September of 1965, and the June 1966 Yomiuri article below states that Ms. Neal "just turned 19," which would contradict unconfirmed reports that she was only 17 when she made Terror Beneath the Sea.
The following was published in the Japanese Fantasy Film Journal #14, which reprinted an article from the Yomiuri dated June 2, 1966:
Peggy, who has been picked for the leading feminine role from among a horde of applicants, is a junior at Sophia University's International Division. She is majoring in economics, political science and psychology. This is her first experience in motion pictures although she has been modeling since four. Although Peggy lived in Nagoya for two years as a child, she says she has all but forgotten Japanese. She expressed great gratitude to Chiba who is teaching her the finer points of acting. But knowing little English, he has to teach her mostly by gesture.
In September 1965, Stars and Stripes published an article by James C. Stevenson entitled "Have Knowledge Fever? Sophia Has Cure," which quotes Ms. Neal several times toward the beginning:
A need-to-know fever has struck American college students in Japan, and Tokyo's Sophia University is helping provide the cure.
The reason for the fever? "It's the diplomatic position that we've been put in," explained 18-year-old Peggy Neal, who lives at Kanto Mura Housing Area.
"We're more than just university students here in Japan," Peggy said. "We are ambassadors of goodwill for our country."
Peggy, a sophomore in the university's International Division, is one of some 459 American students -- mostly military and civilian members of the Armed Forces and their dependents -- enrolled at the university.
"As university students," Peggy explained, "we get an opportunity to associate and exchange our democratic views with some of Japan's top students and educators.
Through us they get a better understanding of our way of life, and we learn more about their way of life."
Sophia -- in Yotsuya, the Koji-machi District of Tokyo -- was founded in 1913 by the members of the Society of Jesus. In 1949 it established the International Division to assist U.S. forces in Japan in continuing their education.
"Today," Peggy said smilingly, "It's somewhat like a miniature United Nations. In addition to the large number of American students, foreign students from 20 other countries also attend the university."
I hope someday Peggy Neal's story can be told in the form of an interview. I know I'd love to hear about the making of the three films she starred in. This is one mystery that I hope gets solved soon.