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Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
(June 28, 1932 – November 24, 2005) was an American actor of Japanese descent
who was well-known for playing the roles of Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on Happy
Days and Mr. Miyagi in the The Karate Kid movie series, for which he was
nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1984.
Born Noriyuki Morita
Isleton, California, U.S.
Died November 24,
2005(2005-11-24) (aged 73)
Las Vegas, Nevada,
Years active 1967–2005
Pat Morita was born in
Isleton, California. He developed spinal tuberculosis at the age of two and
spent the bulk of the next nine years in Northern Californian hospitals,
including the Shriners Hospital in San Francisco. For long periods he was
wrapped in a full-body cast and was told he would never walk.
After a surgeon fused
four vertebrae in his spine, Pat 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. Later, he
worked as a data entry clerk for the State of California and at Aerojet-General
Corporation near Sacramento. In the early 1960s, he started his career as a
stand-up comedian known as The Hip Nip, performing in local nightclubs and bars.
Morita was married three
times. His first marriage was soon after he finished high school at Armijo High
School in Fairfield, California. They were married for 14 years and had one
daughter, Erin Morita, born in 1954. Apparently his decision to quit his job and
become a stand-up comedian destroyed his first marriage.
Morita later married his
second wife, Yuki, in 1970. They had two daughters, Aly and Tia. The couple had
to deal with several setbacks during their marriage. First, their $300,000
uninsured, Tarzana, California, home was badly damaged in a mudslide. The family
escaped with just the clothes they were wearing. Shortly afterward, Tia, their
youngest daughter, was diagnosed with kidney disease. Their marriage dissolved
in 1982 after two years of separation.
Morita met his last wife,
Evelyn Louise Guerrero, when she was 15 years old because Evelyn's mother had
the same manager, Sally Marr. Morita and Evelyn met again years later, and were
married in Las Vegas on March 26, 1994; they remained together until his death.
They did not have any children together.
Television and movie career
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
Morita gained worldwide
fame playing wise karate teacher Keisuke Miyagi who taught young "Daniel-san"
(Ralph Macchio) in The Karate Kid. 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: The Karate Kid, Part II (1986), The Karate
Kid, Part III (1989) and The Next Karate Kid (with Hilary Swank). 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.
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.
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."
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. 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. About this time he starred
in a Michael Sajbel movie called Remove All Obstacles as a cold storage
guru. His last movie was Royal Kill, which also stars Eric
Roberts, Gail Kim, and Lalaine and is directed by Babar Ahmed.
Pat Morita died on
November 24, 2005, at his home in Las Vegas of kidney failure at the age of
73. He was survived by his wife of 15 years, Evelyn, as well as his children
from previous marriages, Erin, Aly, and Tia and two grandchildren. He was
also survived by siblings Gloria Imagire, Clarence Saika, Teddy Saika, Peggy
Saika, and his then-92-year-old mother, Dorothy Sueko Saika (1913–2009), of
He was cremated at Palm
Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Thoroughly Modern Millie
The Shakiest Gun in the
Every Little Crook and
Where Does It Hurt?
Cancel My Reservation
I Wonder Who's Killing
Her Now? (1975)
When Time Ran Out (1980)
Full Moon High (1981)
Slapstick (Of Another
Savannah Smiles (1982)
Jimmy the Kid (1982)
The Karate Kid (1984)
Night Patrol (1984)
Alice in Wonderland
(1985) (the horse)
The Karate Kid, Part II
Babes in Toyland (1986)
Captive Hearts (1987)
Collision Course (1989)
The Karate Kid, Part III
Lena's Holiday (1991)
Goodbye Paradise (1991)
Do or Die (1991)
Strawberry Road (1991)
Great Conquest: The
Romance of 3 Kingdoms (1992) (narrator in English version)
Genghis Khan (1992)
Miracle Beach (1992)
Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)
Living and Working in
Space: The Countdown Has Begun (1993)
Auntie Lee's Meat Pies
American Ninja V (1993)
Even Cowgirls Get the
The Next Karate Kid
The Misery Brothers
Captured Alive (1995)
Time master (1995)
Earth Minus Zero (1996)
Bloodsport II: The Next
Spy Hard (1996)
Reggie's Prayer (1996)
Beyond Barbed Wire (1997)
Bloodsport III (1997)
Mulan (1998) (voice of
I'll Remember April
Desert Heat (1999) (film)
Los Gringos (1999) (short
King Cobra (1999)
Hammerlock (2000) (film)
Talk to Taka (2000)
Diamonds in the Rough:
The Legacy of Japanese American Baseball (NBRP documentary short) (narrator)
House of Luk (2001)
The Boys of Sunset Ridge
The Center of the World
Shadow Fury (2001)
Hwasango (2001) (dubbing
voice in MTV version)
The Stone man (2002)
The Biggest Fan (2002)
Cats and Mice (2003)
High Roller: The Stu
Ungar Story (2003)
Rice Girl (2003)
Miss Cast Away (2004)
The Karate Dog (2004)
Elvis Has Left the
The Last Shot (2004)
Mulan II (2004) (voice)
The Number One Girl
Down and Derby (2005)
American Fusion (2005)
Only the Brave (2005)
Robot Chicken (2005)
18 Fingers of Death!
Royal Kill (2009)
1.^ a b "Pat Morita, 73,
Actor Known for 'Karate Kid' and 'Happy Days,' Dies", The New York Times,
November 26, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/26/arts/26morita.html
2.^ "Movie Fans Mourn the
Loss of Film Star Pat Morita". Las Vegas Sun.
http://www.8newsnow.com/Global/story.asp?S=4168787. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
3.^ "Karate Kid actor Pat
Morita dies". BBC. 2005-11-25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4471060.stm.
4.^ Costantinou, Marianne
(2005-11-26). "PAT MORITA: 1932-2005 / S.F. comic became 'Karate Kid' mentor".
San Francisco Chronicle. http://articles.sfgate.com/2005-11-26/news/17398855_1_pat-morita-mr-miyagi-karate-kid.
5.^ Sullivan, Patricia
(2005-11-26). "Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita, 73; Played 'Karate Kid' Teacher".
Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/25/AR2005112500990.html.
6.^ "Pat Morita". The New
York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/person/50707/Pat-Morita/biography.
7.^ "Archive of American
Television". Emmy Legends. http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/pat-morita.
8.^ a b "'Karate Kid'
star Pat Morita dies at 73". MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10202732/.
9.^ Champlin, Charles
(1986-06-22). "Morita's Long Road To Miyagi". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1986-06-22/entertainment/ca-20471_1_role-morita.
10.^ Schuler, Dave (25
November 2005). "Pat Morita, 1932-2005". Theglitteringeye.com. http://theglitteringeye.com/?p=1528.
11.^ "Noriyuki 'Pat'
Morita, 73; Played 'Karate Kid' Teacher". San Francisco Chronicle. http://articles.sfgate.com/2005-11-26/news/17398855_2_pat-morita-mr-miyagi-karate-kid.
Retrieved 2010-05-21. [dead link]
12.^ "Karate Island
Retrieved 2011-11-21. [unreliable source?]
13.^ "Pat Morita (1932 -
2005)". Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=12496745.
Retrieved 2011-11-21. [unreliable source?]
14.^ a b Lipton, Mike
(2005-12-12). "Pat Morita: 1932-2005". People.com. http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20171085,00.html.
15.^ "Pat and Evelyn
Morita Marriage Profile - The Marriage of Evelyn and Pat Morita".
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