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Pat Morita

Morita as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, 1984
Born Noriyuki Morita
June 28, 1932(1932-06-28)
Isleton, California, U.S.
Died November 24, 2005 (aged 73)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1967–2005

Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (June 28, 1932 – November 24, 2005) was an American actor who was well-known for playing the role of Arnold on Happy Days and known as Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid movie series, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1984.[1]


Early life

Noriyuki Morita was born in Isleton, California.[2] He developed spinal tuberculosis at the age of two and spent the bulk of the next nine years in Northern California hospitals, including the Shriners Hospital in San Francisco. He was for long periods wrapped in a full body cast and was told he would never walk.[citation needed]

After a surgeon fused four vertebrae in his spine, Noriyuki finally learned to walk again at the age of 11. By then, his Japanese American family had been sent to an internment camp to be detained for the duration of World War II. He was transported from the hospital directly to the Gila River camp in Arizona to join them. It was at this time that he met a Catholic priest from whom he would later take his stage name "Pat". For a time after the war, the family operated Ariake Chop Suey, a restaurant in Sacramento, California. Teenage "Nori" would entertain customers with jokes and serve as master of ceremonies for group dinners.[citation needed]

Television and movie career

The handprints of Pat Morita in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

His first movie role was as a stereotypical henchman in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). He also was cast as Rear admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka, in the film Midway in 1976. Later, a recurring role as South Korean Army Captain Sam Pak on the sitcom M*A*S*H helped advance the comedian's acting career.

He had a recurring role on the show Happy Days as Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi, owner of the diner Arnold's. After the first season (1975–1976), he left Happy Days to star as inventor Taro Takahashi in his own show, Mr. T and Tina, the first Asian American sitcom on network TV. The sitcom was placed on Saturday nights by ABC and was quickly canceled after a month in the fall of 1976. In 1977, Morita starred in the short-lived Blansky's Beauties as Arnold. Morita eventually returned to Happy Days, reprising his role in the 1982–1983 season. He appeared in an episode of The Odd Couple and had a recurring role on Sanford and Son in the mid-1970s.

Morita gained worldwide fame playing wise karate teacher Kesuke Miyagi who taught young "Daniel-san" (Ralph Macchio) in The Karate Kid, a film that included the famous quote "Wax on, wax off" and also taught young "Julie-san" (Hilary Swank) in The Next Karate Kid, although in real life he did not know karate and spoke much better English. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as well as a Golden Globe and reprised his role as the sensei Mr. Miyagi in three sequels. Although he had been using the name "Pat Morita" for years, producer Jerry Weintraub suggested that Pat be billed with his given name to sound more ethnic.[3]

Morita went on to play Tommy Tanaka in the TV movie Amos (for which he received Golden Globe Award and Emmy Award nominations), starring Kirk Douglas. He then starred as the title character in the ABC detective show Ohara which aired in 1987 and ended a year later due to poor ratings. He then wrote and starred in the World War II romance film Captive Hearts (1987). Late in his career, Morita starred on the Nickelodeon television series The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo and had a recurring role on the sitcom The Hughleys. He also made a guest appearance on an episode of Married With Children. He went on to star in Talk To Taka as a sushi chef who doles out advice to anyone that will hear him. In 1998, Morita voiced the Emperor of China in Disney's 36th animated feature Mulan and reprised the role in Kingdom Hearts II and Mulan II, a direct-to-video sequel.[citation needed]

Morita had a cameo appearance in the 2001 Alien Ant Farm music video "Movies". Morita's appearance in the video spoofed his role in The Karate Kid. He would also reprise his role (to an extent) in the stop-motion animated series Robot Chicken. In the episode, he is assumed to be Mr. Miyagi, but he immediately denies that by saying, "First of all, I'm Pat F'in Morita, ya nutsack!" He teaches Joey Fatone karate in order to defeat the Yakuza thugs that killed the other 'N Sync members.[citation needed]

One of Morita's last TV roles was as Master Udon on the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Karate Island". The episode was dedicated to him after he died about six months after its first run.[4] One of his last film roles was in the 2005 independent feature film, Only the Brave, about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, where he plays the father of lead actor (and director) Lane Nishikawa. His last movie was Royal Kill which also stars Eric Roberts, Gail Kim, and Lalaine and is directed by Babar Ahmed.


In real life, Morita spoke English with an American accent but was frequently cast with a fake Japanese accent.[1]

Morita also graduated from Armijo High School in Fairfield, California


Morita died in his home of kidney failure on November 24, 2005, aged 73. He was cremated and his ashes were laid to rest in Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery.



External links

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