June 28, 1932
Isleton, California, U.S.
|Died||November 24, 2005 (aged 73)|
Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (June 28, 1932 – November 24, 2005) was an American actor and comedian. He was known for his roles as Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on Happy Days, Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid film series, Captain Sam Pak on the sitcom M*A*S*H, Ah Chew in Sanford and Son, Mike Woo in The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, and The Emperor of China in Mulan and Mulan II. He was the series lead actor in the television program Mr. T and Tina and in Ohara, a police-themed drama. The two shows made history for being among the few TV shows with an Asian American series lead.
Morita was nominated for the 1984 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, which would be the first of a media franchise in which Morita was the central player.
Morita was born on June 28, 1932 in Isleton, California. Morita's father Tamaru, born in 1897, immigrated to California from Kumamoto Prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu in 1915. Tamaru's wife, Momoe, born in 1903, immigrated to California in 1913. Noriyuki, as Pat was named, had a brother named Hideo (Harry) who was twelve years older.
Morita developed spinal tuberculosis (Pott disease) at the age of two and spent the bulk of the next nine years in the Weimar Institute in Weimar, California, and later at the Shriners Hospital in San Francisco. For long periods, he was wrapped in a full-body cast, and he was told that he would never walk. During his time at a sanatorium near Sacramento, Morita befriended a visiting priest who would often joke that, if Morita ever converted to Catholicism, the priest would rename him to "Patrick Aloysius Ignatius Xavier Noriyuki Morita". Released from the hospital at age 11 after undergoing extensive spinal surgery and learning how to walk, Morita was transported from the hospital directly to the Gila River camp in Arizona to join his interned family. After about a year and a half, he was transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center.
After World War II ended, Morita moved back to the Bay Area and he graduated from Armijo High School in Fairfield, California, in 1949. For a time after the war, the family operated Ariake Chop Suey, a restaurant in Sacramento, California, jokingly described by Morita years later as "a Japanese family running a Chinese restaurant in a black neighborhood with a clientele of blacks, Filipinos and everybody else who didn't fit in any of the other neighborhoods". Morita would entertain customers with jokes and serve as master of ceremonies for group dinners. After Morita's father was killed in 1956 in a hit-and-run accident while walking home from an all-night movie, Morita and his mother kept the restaurant going for another three or four years. Needing a regular job to support his wife and a newly born child, Morita became a data processor in the early 1960s with the Department of Motor Vehicles and other state agencies, graduating to a graveyard shift job at Aerojet General. In due time, he was a department head at another aerospace firm, Lockheed, handling the liaison between the engineers and the programmers who were mapping out lunar eclipses for Polaris and Titan missile projects.
However, Morita suffered from occupational burnout and decided to quit his job and try show business. He began working as a stand-up comedian at small clubs in Sacramento and San Francisco, and took the stage name "Pat Morita", in part due to the presence of comedians including Pat Henry and Pat Cooper, and in part due to memories of the priest he had befriended as a boy. Morita struggled for many years in comedy, until fellow performer—ventriloquist Hank Garcia—told him to try his luck in Los Angeles. Sally Marr, Lenny Bruce's mother, acted as his agent and manager after he moved to Los Angeles, and booked him in the San Fernando Valley and at the Horn nightclub in Santa Monica. Morita sometimes worked as the opening act for singers Vic Damone and Connie Stevens and for his mentor, the comedian Redd Foxx. Morita used the nickname "The Hip Nip".
Morita's first movie roles were as a henchman in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) and a similar role in The Shakiest Gun In The West (1968), starring Don Knotts. Morita had other notable recurring television roles on Sanford and Son (1974–1976) as Ah Chew, a good-natured friend of Lamont Sanford, and as South Korean Army Captain Sam Pak on the sitcom M*A*S*H (1973, 1974). He was also cast as Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka in the war film Midway (1976).
Morita had a recurring role on Happy Days as Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi (the owner of Arnold's Drive-In) during season three (1975–76). He stated that he obtained the moniker when he purchased Arnold's restaurant and people thought it was named after him, explaining that it was too costly to buy enough letter signs needed to rename it "Takahashi". He moonlighted as a martial arts instructor, teaching self-defense classes at the drive-in after hours. Morita also portrayed "Arnold" as a guest star during seasons four and six before returning as a recurring character for season ten and as a main character in the final eleventh season. He also portrayed the character of Arnold on Blansky's Beauties in 1977.
Morita gained particular fame playing wise karate teacher Mr. Miyagi, who taught young "Daniel-san" (Ralph Macchio) the art of Goju-ryu karate in The Karate Kid (1984). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and a corresponding Golden Globe Award, reprising his role in three sequels: The Karate Kid Part II (1986), The Karate Kid Part III (1989) and The Next Karate Kid (1994), the last of which starred Hilary Swank instead of Macchio. Though he was never a student of karate, he learned all that was required for the films. Although he had been using the name Pat for years, producer Jerry Weintraub suggested that he be billed with his given name to sound "more ethnic." Morita put this advice into practice and was recognized as Noriyuki "Pat" Morita at the 57th Academy Awards ceremony. Weintraub initially did not want to cast Morita for the part of Mr. Miyagi, wanting a dramatic actor for the part and labeling Morita a comedic actor. Morita eventually tested five times before Weintraub himself offered him the role.
Morita was the star of two television series. In 1976, he starred 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. He also starred in the ABC detective show Ohara (1987–1988); it was cancelled after two seasons due to poor ratings.
He wrote and starred in the World War II romance film Captive Hearts (1987). Morita hosted the educational home video series Britannica's Tales Around the World (1990–1991). He made an appearance on The Fresh Prince of Belair in the 1994 Season 5 episode “ Love Hurts”.Later in his career Morita starred on the Nickelodeon television series The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo (1996–1998), and had a recurring role on the sitcom The Hughleys (2000). He also made a guest appearance on a 1996 episode of Married... with Children. He went on to star in the short film Talk To Taka as a sushi chef who doles out advice to anyone who will hear him. Morita voiced the Emperor of China in Disney's 36th animated feature Mulan (1998) and reprised the role in Mulan II (2004), a direct-to-video sequel and Kingdom Hearts II.
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. In 2002, he made a guest appearance on an episode of Spy TV. In 2003, he had a cameo on an episode of Yes, Dear, as an unnamed karate teacher, potentially being Miyagi. He would also reprise his role (to an extent) in the stop-motion animated series Robot Chicken in 2005.
Morita's Miyagi is honoured throughout Cobra Kai TV show with flashbacks and audio clips, forever instilling Pat Morita in viewers' memory.
Morita died of kidney failure, following a urinary tract and gallbladder infection, on November 24, 2005, at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the age of 73. Throughout his life, Morita had battled alcoholism. He was cremated at Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Roles created prior to his passing were included in a few posthumous works. He voiced Master Udon in the 2006 SpongeBob SquarePants Season 4 episode "Karate Island" (the episode was dedicated to his memory). He had a role in the independent feature film Only the Brave (2006), about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, where he plays the father of lead actor (and director) Lane Nishikawa (the film included two other Karate Kid stars, Yuji Okumoto and Tamlyn Tomita). He also had roles in Act Your Age (2011), Royal Kill (2009), and Remove All Obstacles (2010).
The fifth episode of the 2018-present series Cobra Kai (a web-streaming follow up to the original Karate Kid films) was dedicated to his memory. Mr. Miyagi is frequently referenced via archival footage from the first three films during the series, having died on November 15, 2011 (6 years after Morita's death).
|1967||Thoroughly Modern Millie||Asian #2|
|1968||The Shakiest Gun in the West||Wong|
|1971||Green Acres||Charlie Lee||Season 6, Episode 25, "Hawaiian Honeymoon"|
|1972||Evil Roy Slade||Turhan|
|1972||Columbo||Houseboy||Episode: "Etude in Black"|
|1972||Every Little Crook and Nanny||Nonaka|
|1972||Where Does It Hurt?||Nishimoto|
|1972||Cancel My Reservation||Yamamoto|
|1972||The Odd Couple||Mr. Wing||Episode: "Partner's Investment"|
|1973||‘’Hawaii Five-O ’’||Phoebe||Season6, Episode 7, “Tricks Are Not Treats”|
|1973–1974||M*A*S*H||Captain Sam Pak||Season 2, Episode 13, "Deal Me Out".
Season 2, Episode 19, "The Chosen People".
|1974||Cannon||Chuck Yamagata||Episode: "The Avenger"|
|1974||Punch and Jody||Takahasi|
|1974–1976||Sanford and Son||Ah Chew||7 episodes|
|1975||I Wonder Who's Killing Her Now?||Heshy Yamamoto|
|1975||Kung Fu||Chan||Season Three Episode 58 Ambush|
|1975–1983||Happy Days||Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi||26 episodes|
|1976||Welcome Back, Kotter||Mr. Takahashi|
|1976||Mr. T and Tina||Mr. Takahashi|
|1976||Farewell to Manzanar||Zenahiro|
|1976||Midway||Rear Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka|
|1977||Blansky's Beauties||Arnold||13 episodes|
|1978||The Incredible Hulk (1978 TV series)||Fred||Episode: "Stop the Presses"|
|1980||Hito Hata: Raise the Banner||Yamada|
|1980||When Time Ran Out||Sam|
|1981||Full Moon High||The Silversmith|
|1982||Savannah Smiles||Father OHara|
|1982||Jimmy the Kid||Maurice|
|1982||Slapstick of Another Kind||Chinese Ambassador Ah Fong|
|1983||The Daltons on the Loose||Jolly Jumper||English dub|
|1984||The Karate Kid||Mr. Miyagi||Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|1984||Night Patrol||Rape Victim|
|1985||Alice in Wonderland||The Horse|
|1986||The Karate Kid Part II||Mr. Miyagi|
|1986||Babes In Toyland||The Toymaster|
|1988||Big Bird in Japan||"Bamboo Princess" Play Narrator||Voice|
|1989||The Karate Kid Part III||Mr. Miyagi||Nominated – Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor|
|1989||The Karate Kid (animated television series)||Mr. Miyagi||Opening narration; 12 episodes|
|1989||Collision Course||Inspector Fujitsuka Natsuo|
|1990||Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes||Yoodo Toda|
|1991||Strawberry Road||Old Man's Brother|
|1991||Harry and the Hendersons||Kenji Sahuara||1 episode|
|1991||Do or Die||Masakana "Kane" Kaneshiro|
|1992||Honeymoon in Vegas||Mahi Mahi|
|1992||Auntie Lee's Meat Pies||Chief Koal|
|1992||Great Conquest: The Romance of 3 Kingdoms||Narrator||English version|
|1992||Genghis Khan||Emperor Wang|
|1993||American Ninja V||Master Tetsu|
|1993||Even Cowgirls Get the Blues||The Chink|
|1993||Living and Working in Space||Cap|
|1994||The Next Karate Kid||Keisuke Miyagi|
|1994||The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Mr. Yoshi||Episode: "Love Hurts"|
|1995||The Misery Brothers||Judge|
|1996||Murder She Wrote||Akira Hitaki||Episode: "Kendo Killing"|
|1996||Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite||David Leung|
|1996||Boy Meets World||Wise Man||Episode: "I Was a Teenage Spy"|
|1996||Spy Hard||Brian, Waiter In Restaurant|
|1996||Bloodsport III||David Leung|
|1996||Earth Minus Zero||Dr. Mobius Jefferson|
|1996–1998||The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo||Michael "Mike" Woo|
|1997||Captured Alive||Sam Kashawahara|
|1997||Beyond Barbed Wire||Narrator||Documentary|
|1998||Family Matters||Mr. Tanaka||Episode: "Grill of My Dreams"|
|1998||The Outer Limits||Dr. Michael Chen||Episode: "In the Zone"|
|1996||Married... with Children||Bank Owner||Episode: "Turning Japanese"|
|1998||Diagnosis Murder||Martin Gaylord||Episode: “Food Fight” Season 5 Episode 23|
|1998||Mulan||The Emperor of China||Voice|
|1998–1999||Adventures with Kanga Roddy||Various Characters||Recurring|
|1999||King Cobra||Nick Hashimoto|
|1999||Los Gringos||The Samurai||Short film|
|2000||Brother||Guy At The Poker Table||Uncredited|
|2000||Talk to Taka||Taka||Short film|
|2000||I'll Remember April||Abe Tanaka|
|2000||Hammerlock||Un Huong Lo|
|2000||Diamonds in the Rough:
The Legacy of Japanese American Baseball
|2001||Son of the Beach||The King||Episode: B.J Blue Hawaii|
|2001||Baywatch: Hawaii||Hideki Tanaka||Recurring role as the father of Kekoa Tanaka|
|2001||House of Luk||Kwang Luk|
|2001||The Boys of Sunset Ridge||Charlie Watanabe|
|2001||The Center of the World||Taxi Driver|
|2001||Shadow Fury||Dr. Oh|
|2001||Hwasango||Vice Principal Jang Hak-Sa||Dubbed version|
|2002||The Stone man||Professor Stevens|
|2002||The Biggest Fan||Richard Limp|
|2003||High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story||Mr. Leo|
|2003||Yes, Dear||Karate Teacher||Episode: "When Jimmy Met Greggy"|
|2004||Miss Cast Away||Himself||Cameo|
|2004||Elvis Has Left the Building||Man In Turban|
|2004||Mulan II||The Emperor of China||Voice|
|2004||The Karate Dog||Chin Li|
Episode: "S&M Present"
|2005||Down and Derby||Ono Yakimoto|
|2005||American Fusion||Lao Dong|
|2006||Spymate||Kiro||Filmed in 2003|
|2006||Only the Brave||Seigo Takata|
|2006||The Number One Girl||Mr. Sakata|
|2006||18 Fingers of Death!||Freeman Lee|
|2006||SpongeBob SquarePants||Master Udon||Voice;|
Episode: "Karate Island"
|2006||Kingdom Hearts II||The Emperor of China||Voice|
|2009||Royal Kill||Exhibition Manager||Last acting role|
|2010||Remove All Obstacles||The Guru||Short film|
|2010||Interviews of Ninja's Creed||Interviewee||Documentary|
|2011||Act Your Age||Tom|
|2013||Blunt Movie||Mr. Miyami|
|2014||Rice Girl||Peter Ong||(final film role)|
|2015||The Real Miyagi||Interviewee||Documentary|
|2018–present||Cobra Kai||Mr. Miyagi||Archival footage|
|2019||Pat Morita: Long Story Short||Manuscript Writer & Interviewee||Documentary|
|2021||More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story||Archival footage & Interviewee||Documentary|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pat Morita.|