PAT MORITA Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Noriyuki Morita                                                                     
Born: 28 June 1932 Isleton, California, U.S.                                               
Died: 24 November 24, 2005 Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.                                         
Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (June 28, 1932 - November 24, 2005) was an American                 
Academy Award-nominated actor who was probably best known for playing the roles           
of Arnold on the TV show Happy Days and Mr. Miyagi in the The Karate Kid movie             
tetralogy, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting           
Actor in 1984.                                                                             
Morita was born in Isleton, California, to Japanese immigrants; his father was a           
farmer and owned a restaurant. Morita developed spinal tuberculosis at age                 
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. Often alone and             
isolated, young Morita made sock puppets to entertain himself.                             
After a surgeon fused four vertebrae in his spine, Noriyuki finally learned to             
walk again at age 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                 
Noriyuki graduated from Armijo High School in Fairfield, California, and shortly           
thereafter moved back to the Sacramento area, where he took a job with Aerojet-General,   
an aerospace company that designed and manufactured rocket engines, including             
those for the US Navy's UGM-27 Polaris.                                                   
It was only after working his way up to head of a computer operations department           
that Morita, by now a husband and father, and also seriously overweight, decided           
he had taken the wrong path in life. He quit and became a standup comedian.               
Often billed as "the Hip Nip" in his stand-up act, he became a member of the Los           
Angeles improvisational comedy troupe The Groundlings.                                     
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). 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 Mesuma "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 also had a recurring role on             
the NBC sitcom Sanford and Son in the mid-1970s, playing a Japanese chef named             
Ah Chew.                                                                                   
Morita gained worldwide fame playing wise karate teacher Keisuke 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. 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. Morita never formally practiced a martial art and             
most of his karate scenes were performed by stunt double (and noted shito-ryu             
karate-ka) Fumio Demura. 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 star 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 a recurring role on the sitcom The Hughleys. He also starred in             
the short film, Talk To Taka, somewhat reprising his role of Arnold, as a Sushi           
Chef that doles out advice to anyone that will hear him. In 1998, Morita gave             
voice to the Emperor of China in Disney's 36th animated feature Mulan, and                 
reprised the role in Mulan II, the sequel released only on video.                         
Morita also 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                 
trains Joey Fatone how to do karate in order to defeat the Yakuza thugs that               
killed the other 'N Sync members.                                                         
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 the episode's 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. His last           
movie was Royal Kill which also stars Eric Roberts, Gail Kim, and Lalaine and is           
directed by Babar Ahmed.                                                                   
Like many Asian American actors, Morita spoke English with an "American accent",           
but was frequently typecast with a Japanese or Korean accent.                             
Morita died on November 24, 2005 at the age of 73 at his home in Las Vegas.               
Morita was buried at Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery. Surviving him is             
his wife of 12 years, Evelyn Morita, and 3 children.