Pat Morita

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Pat Morita
Pat Morita 1971 publicity photo.jpg
Morita in a 1971 publicity photo
Born Noriyuki Morita
(1932-06-28)June 28, 1932[1]
Isleton, California, U.S.
Died November 24, 2005(2005-11-24) (aged 73)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Cause of death Kidney failure
Occupation Actor
Years active 1960–2005 (his death)
Spouse(s) Kathleen Yamachi (m. 1953–67) (divorced),
Yukiye Kitahara (m. 1970–89) (divorced),
Evelyn Guerrero (m. 1994–2005) (his death)

Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (June 28, 1932 – November 24, 2005)[1] was an American film and television actor who was well known for playing the roles of Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on Happy Days and Mr. Kesuke Miyagi in the The Karate Kid movie series, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1985.[2] He's also known for portraying the Emperor of China in the Disney animated film Mulan and Ah Chew in Sanford and Son.

Morita was the series lead actor in the television program Mr. T and Tina, regarded as the first American sitcom centered on a person of Asian descent, and Ohara, a police-themed drama. Both made history for being some of the few TV shows to this day with an Asian American series lead. Both television shows were aired on ABC, but they were both short-lived.

Early life[edit]

Morita was born in Isleton, California.[3] His parents, Tamaru and Momoye Morita, had immigrated to California from Kumamoto Prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu around 1912. He had a brother named Harry who was twelve years older.[4]

Morita developed spinal tuberculosis (Pott disease) 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.[5] It was during his time at a sanitarium 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.[6]

For a time after the war, the family operated Ariake Chop Suey, a restaurant in Sacramento, California.[7] Morita would entertain customers with jokes and serve as master of ceremonies for group dinners.[8]

Television and movie career[edit]

Morita's first movie role was as a stereotypical henchman in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Followed by The Shakiest Gun In The West starring Don Knotts in yet another stereotypical role in 1968. 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.[9] He also was cast as Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka in the 1976 war film Midway.

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 again in the tenth season (1982-1983). 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 as Ah Chew, a good-natured friend of Lamont Sanford, from 1974 to 1976.

Morita gained robust fame playing wise karate teacher Keisuke Miyagi, who taught young "Daniel-san" (Ralph Macchio) the art of karate in The Karate Kid.[10] He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and a corresponding Golden Globe, reprising his role in three sequels: The Karate Kid, Part II (1986), The Karate Kid, Part III (1989) and The Next Karate Kid (1994, with Hilary Swank). Though 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."[11] Morita put this advice into practice and was recognized as Noriyuki "Pat" Morita at the 57th Academy Awards ceremony.[12]

Morita went on to play Tommy Tanaka in the Kirk Douglas-starring television movie Amos, receiving his first Emmy nomination and second Golden Globe nomination for the role. He then starred in the ABC detective show Ohara which aired in 1987; it ended a year later due to poor ratings. He then wrote and starred in the World War II romance film Captive Hearts (1987). From 1990 to 1991, Morita has hosted the educational home video series, Britannica's Tales Around the World. Later 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 who 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.[13]

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.

One of Morita's last television roles was as Master Udon on the 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 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 also starred in a Michael Sajbel movie called Remove All Obstacles as a cold storage guru. This was a 9-minute industrial short advertising doors used for cold storage warehouses.[14] Pat also took a small role in the independent film, Act Your Age, filmed in central Illinois and released in April 2011.[15] His last movie was Royal Kill, which also stars Eric Roberts, Gail Kim, and Lalaine, and is directed by Babar Ahmed.


Morita died on November 24, 2005, at his home in Las Vegas of kidney failure[16] at the age of 73.[17] He was survived by his wife of 11 years, Evelyn, his children from previous marriages, Erin, Aly and Tia, two grandchildren, siblings Gloria Imagire, Clarence Saika, Teddy Saika, Peggy Saika and his then-92-year-old mother, Dorothy Sueko Saika (1913–2009), of Milpitas, California.[9][17]

He was cremated at Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery in Las Vegas, Nevada.[18]

The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Karate Island" (original air date May 12, 2006), for which he voiced Udon, was dedicated to his memory.


Title Year Notes
Thoroughly Modern Millie 1967
The Shakiest Gun in the West 1968
Evil Roy Slade 1972
Every Little Crook and Nanny 1972
Where Does It Hurt? 1972
Cancel My Reservation 1972
Punch and Jody 1974
I Wonder Who's Killing Her Now? 1975
Happy Days 1975-1976, 1982-1983 Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi
Midway 1976 Rear Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka
Farewell to Manzanar 1976
When Time Ran Out 1980
Full Moon High 1981
Slapstick of Another Kind 1982
Savannah Smiles 1982
Jimmy the Kid 1982
The Karate Kid 1984
Night Patrol 1984
Alice in Wonderland 1985
The Karate Kid, Part II 1986
Babes in Toyland 1986
Captive Hearts 1987
Collision Course 1989
The Karate Kid, Part III 1989
Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes 1990
Lena's Holiday 1991
Goodbye Paradise 1991
Do or Die 1991
Strawberry Road 1991
Great Conquest: The Romance of 3 Kingdoms 1992 Narrator of English version
Miracle Beach 1992
Honeymoon in Vegas 1992
Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun 1993
Auntie Lee's Meat Pies 1993
American Ninja V 1993
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues 1993
The Next Karate Kid 1994
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air 1994 Episode: "Love Hurts"
The Misery Brothers 1995
Captured Alive 1995
Timemaster 1995
Murder She Wrote 1996 Episode: Kendo Killing
Earth Minus Zero 1996
Boy Meets World, episode: "I Was a Teenage Spy" 1996
Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite 1996
The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo 1996
Spy Hard 1996
Reggie's Prayer 1996
Beyond Barbed Wire 1997 (Documentary) (Narrator)
Bloodsport III 1997
Family Matters 1998 Episode: Grill of my dreams
Mulan 1998 The Emperor of China (voice)
Kanga Roddy 1998 - 1999 Recurring Character[19]
Desert Heat 1999
I'll Remember April 1999
Los Gringos 1999 Short Movie
King Cobra 1999
Inferno 1999
Hammerlock 2000
Brother (2000)
Talk to Taka (2000) Short Movie
Diamonds in the Rough:
The Legacy of Japanese American Baseball
(2000) NBRP Documentary (Narrator)
House of Luk (2001)
The Boys of Sunset Ridge (2001)
The Center of the World (2001)
Shadow Fury (2001)
Hwasango (2001) Dubbed version
The Stone man (2002)
The Biggest Fan (2002)
High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)
Miss Cast Away (2004)
The Karate Dog (2004)
Mulan II (2004) The Emperor of China (voice)
Elvis Has Left the Building (2004)
Robot Chicken (2005)
Down and Derby (2005)
American Fusion (2005)
posthumous releases:
Spymate (2006)
18 Fingers of Death! (2006)
SpongeBob SquarePants (2006) Episode: Karate Island
Only the Brave (2006)
The Number One Girl (2006)
Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix (2007) The Emperor of China (voice)
Royal Kill (2009) Last Filmed Role
Remove All Obstacles (2010) Short Movie
Act Your Age (2011)
Blunt Movie (2013)
Mulan: 15th Anniversary (2013) Documentary Interviewee
("Voices of Mulan" Segment)
Rice Girl (2014)
The Real Miyagi (2015) Documentary (Interviewee)
Pat Morita: Long Story Short (2017)[20] Documentary (Manuscript Writer & Interviewee)


  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. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (2005-11-26). "Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita, 73; Played 'Karate Kid' Teacher". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  6. ^ Thurber, Jon (November 26, 2005), "Pat Morita, 73; Actor Starred in 'Karate Kid' Movie Series", The Los Angeles Times 
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ "Archive of American Television". Emmy Legends. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  9. ^ a b "'Karate Kid' star Pat Morita dies at 73". MSNBC. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  10. ^ Champlin, Charles (1986-06-22). "Morita's Long Road To Miyagi". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  11. ^ Schuler, Dave (25 November 2005). "Pat Morita, 1932–2005". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  12. ^ Haing S. Ngor winning Best Supporting Actor. 13 July 2008 – via YouTube. 
  13. ^ "Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita, 73; Played 'Karate Kid' Teacher". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-05-21. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Order Your Free Copy of HCR's new movie – "Remove All Obstacles"". Archived from the original on July 8, 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-21. 
  15. ^ "Act Your Age (2011)". IMDb. 1 April 2011. 
  16. ^ "Pat Morita (1932–2005)". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2011-11-21. [unreliable source?]
  17. ^ a b Lipton, Mike (2005-12-12). "Pat Morita: 1932–2005". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  18. ^ "Pat and Evelyn Morita Marriage Profile – The Marriage of Evelyn and Pat Morita". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^!patmorita/efk85

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