Pat Morita

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Pat Morita
Pat Morita 1971 publicity photo.jpg
Morita in 1971
Noriyuki Morita

(1932-06-28)June 28, 1932[1]
Died November 24, 2005(2005-11-24) (aged 73)
Occupation Actor
Years active 1959–2005 (his death)
Kathleen Yamachi
(m. 1953; div. 1967)

Yukiye Kitahara
(m. 1970; div. 1989)

Evelyn Guerrero
(m. 1994; his death 2005)
Children 3

Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (June 28, 1932 – November 24, 2005)[1] was an American film and television actor who played Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on Happy Days (1975–1983), Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid film series and The Toymaster in Babes in Toyland. Morita was nominated for the 1985 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid.[2] Morita also voiced the Emperor of China in the Disney animated film Mulan (1998) and portrayed Ah Chew in Sanford and Son (1974–1976).

Morita was the series lead actor in the television program Mr. T and Tina (1976) and in Ohara (1987–1988), a police-themed drama. The two shows made history for being among the few TV shows with an Asian American series lead.

Early life

Morita was born in Isleton, California.[3] Morita's father Tamaru, born in 1897, had immigrated to California from Kumamoto Prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu in 1915.[4] Tamaru's wife Momoe, born in 1903, had emigrated to California in 1913.[5] Noriyuki, as Pat was named, had a brother named Hideo (Harry) who was twelve years older.[6][7]

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 was told that he would never walk.[8] It was during his time at a sanatorium near Sacramento that he was given his stage name, "Pat." 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.[9] After about a year and a half, he was transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center.[10]

For a time after the war, the family operated Ariake Chop Suey, a restaurant in Sacramento, California.[11] Morita would entertain customers with jokes and serve as master of ceremonies for group dinners.[12]

He struggled for many years as a stand-up comic. Sally Marr, Lenny Bruce's mother, acted as his agent and manager in his early days. Morita sometimes worked as the opening act for singers Vic Damone and Connie Stevens and comedian Redd Foxx. Foxx later gave him a role on his sitcom Sanford and Son in the early 1970s.

Television and movie career

Early work

Morita's first movie roles were as a stereotypical henchman in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) and another similarly-stereotypical role in The Shakiest Gun In The West (1968), starring Don Knotts. Later, a recurring role as South Korean Army Captain Sam Pak on the sitcom M*A*S*H (1973, 1974) helped advance the comedian's acting career.[13] He also was cast as Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka in the war film Midway (1976).

Morita (with Ron Howard, left) played Arnold Takahashi on the TV series Happy Days in the 1975–76 season.
The handprints of Pat Morita in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park

He had a recurring role on the show Happy Days as Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi, owner of the diner Arnold's for the show's third season (1975–1976) and made guest appearances in 1977 and 1979. After the season's end, he left the show 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. Morita revived the character of Arnold on Blansky's Beauties in 1977 and eventually returned to Happy Days for the 1982–1983 season. Morita had another notable recurring television role on Sanford and Son (1974–1976) as Ah Chew, a good-natured friend of Lamont Sanford.

The Karate Kid

Morita gained particular fame playing wise karate teacher Mr. Miyagi, who taught young "Daniel-san" (Ralph Macchio) the art of karate in The Karate Kid.[14] 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."[15] Morita put this advice into practice and was recognized as Noriyuki "Pat" Morita at the 57th Academy Awards ceremony.[16] Weintraub 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.[17]

Post-Karate Kid

Morita in the 1990s

Morita went on to play Tommy Tanaka in the Kirk Douglas-starring television movie Amos, receiving his first Primetime Emmy Award nomination and second Golden Globe Award nomination for the role. He then starred in the ABC detective show Ohara (1987–1988); it was cancelled after one season due to poor ratings. He then 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). 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 Kingdom Hearts II and Mulan II (2004), a direct-to-video sequel.[18]

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. He would also reprise his role (to an extent) in the stop-motion animated series Robot Chicken in 2005.

One of Morita's last television roles was as Master Udon on the 2006 SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Karate Island". The episode was dedicated to him, airing about 6 months after his death. One of his last film roles was 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. About this time he also starred in a Michael Sajbel movie called Remove All Obstacles (2010) as a cold storage guru. This was a 9-minute industrial short advertising doors used for cold storage warehouses.[19] Pat also took a small role in the independent film Act Your Age, filmed in central Illinois and released in April 2011. His last movie was Royal Kill (2009), starring Eric Roberts, Gail Kim, and Lalaine, directed by Babar Ahmed.


Morita died of kidney failure on November 24, 2005, at his home in Las Vegas at the age of 73.[20] He was survived by his wife of 11 years, Evelyn and his three daughters from a previous marriage.[13][20]

He was cremated at Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery in Las Vegas, Nevada.[21]

Dedicated TV episodes

  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Karate Island" (original air date May 12, 2006), for which he voiced Udon, was dedicated in his memory.
  • The fifth episode of the series, Cobra Kai was also dedicated in his memory.[22]


Year Title Role Notes
1964 Jidôsha dorobô
1967 Thoroughly Modern Millie Oriental #2
1968 The Shakiest Gun in the West Wong
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"
1973–1974 M*A*S*H Captain Sam Pak
1974 Punch and Jody Takahasi
1974–1976 Sanford and Son Ah Chew
1975 I Wonder Who's Killing Her Now? Heshy Yamamoto
1975–1983 Happy Days Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi
1976 Welcome Back, Kotter Mr. Takahashi
1976 Farewell to Manzanar Zenahiro
1976 Midway Rear Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka
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 Ah Fong, the Chinese Ambassador
1984 The Karate Kid Mr. Miyagi
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
1987 Captive Hearts Fukushima
1989 The Karate Kid Part III Mr. Miyagi
1989 Collision Course Investigator 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
1991 Lena's Holiday Fred
1991 Goodbye Paradise Ben
1992 Honeymoon in Vegas Mahi Mahi
1992 Miracle Beach Gus
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
1993 Space Rangers Nazzer
1994 The Next Karate Kid Mr. Miyagi
1994 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Mr. Yoshi Episode: "Love Hurts"
1995 Timemaster Isaiah
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 Reggie's Prayer Principal
1996 Bloodsport III David Leung
1996 Earth Minus Zero Dr. Mobius Jefferson
1996–1998 The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo Mike 'Grandpa' 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 Mulan The Emperor of China Voice
1998–1999 Kanga Roddy Recurring Character
1999 King Cobra Nick Hashimoto
1999 Inferno Jubal Early
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
Narrator NBRP Documentary
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 Prof. Stevens
2002 The Biggest Fan Richard Limp
2003 High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story Mr. Leo
2004 Miss Cast Away
2004 Elvis Has Left the Building Man in Turban
2004 Mulan II The Emperor of China Voice
2004 The Karate Dog Chin Li
2005 Robot Chicken
2005 Down and Derby Ono Yakimoto
2005 American Fusion Lao Dong

Posthumous credits

Year Title Role Notes
2006 Spymate Kiro
2006 The Number One Girl Mr. Sakata
2006 Only the Brave Seigo Takata
2006 18 Fingers of Death! Freeman Lee
2006 SpongeBob SquarePants Master Udon Voice;
Episode: "Karate Island"
2007 Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix 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
2013 Mulan: 15th Anniversary Interviewee Documentary
("Voices of Mulan" Segment)
2014 Rice Girl Peter Ong (final film role)
2015 The Real Miyagi Interviewee Documentary
2018 Cobra Kai Mr. Miyagi Archival footage
2019[23] Pat Morita: Long Story Short Manuscript Writer & Interviewee Documentary


  1. ^ a b "Pat Morita, 73, Actor Known for 'Karate Kid' and 'Happy Days,' Dies", The New York Times, November 26, 2005
  2. ^ "Karate Kid actor Pat Morita dies". BBC. 2005-11-25. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
  3. ^ Costantinou, Marianne (2005-11-26). "PAT MORITA: 1932–2005 / S.F. comic became 'Karate Kid' mentor". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
  4. ^ "National Archives: Tamaru Morita". The National Archives. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  5. ^ "National Archives: Momoe Morita". The National Archives. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  6. ^ Herman, Karen (13 October 2000). Pat Morita Interview. Archive of American Television. Academy of Television, Arts & Sciences Foundation. Event occurs at 5:28. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  7. ^ "National Archives: Hideo Morita". The National Archives. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  8. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (2005-11-26). "Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita, 73; Played 'Karate Kid' Teacher". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
  9. ^ Thurber, Jon (November 26, 2005), "Pat Morita, 73; Actor Starred in 'Karate Kid' Movie Series", The Los Angeles Times
  10. ^ Herman, Karen (13 October 2000). Pat Morita Interview. Archive of American Television. Academy of Television, Arts & Sciences Foundation. Event occurs at 25:00. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Featured Memorial – Pat Morita Obituary". 2005. Retrieved July 20, 2013.*a "After the war, Morita's family tried to repair their finances by operating a Sacramento restaurant. It was there that Morita first tried his comedy on patrons." — ¶ 11.
  12. ^ "Archive of American Television". Emmy Legends. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
  13. ^ a b "'Karate Kid' star Pat Morita dies at 73". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 2012-11-03. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  14. ^ Champlin, Charles (1986-06-22). "Morita's Long Road To Miyagi". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
  15. ^ Schuler, Dave (25 November 2005). "Pat Morita, 1932–2005". Retrieved 2011-11-21.
  16. ^ Haing S. Ngor winning Best Supporting Actor. 13 July 2008 – via YouTube.
  17. ^ Parker, Ryan (June 22, 2017). "Pat Morita Had to Test 5 Times for Mr. Miyagi in 'The Karate Kid'". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
  18. ^ "Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita, 73; Played 'Karate Kid' Teacher". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-05-21. [dead link]
  19. ^ "Order Your Free Copy of HCR's new movie – "Remove All Obstacles"". Archived from the original on July 8, 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-21.
  20. ^ a b Lipton, Mike (2005-12-12). "Pat Morita: 1932–2005". Retrieved 2011-11-21.
  21. ^ "Pat and Evelyn Morita Marriage Profile – The Marriage of Evelyn and Pat Morita". Retrieved 2011-11-21.
  22. ^ Rothman, Michael (May 2, 2018). "How 'Cobra Kai' paid tribute to 'Karate Kid' icon Pat Morita aka Mr. Miyagi". ABC News. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  23. ^!patmorita/efk85

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