December 6, 2005 by

Pat Morita

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood

pmorita.jpgNoriyuki “Pat” Morita, the veteran actor who ran the malt shop on “Happy Days” and taught Daniel-san how to defend himself against bullies in “The Karate Kid,” died on Nov. 24. Cause of death was not released. He was 73.
The son of Japanese immigrants, Morita grew up in northern California and spent much of his childhood in a full body cast suffering from spinal tuberculosis. Although doctors told him he’d never walk, Morita proved them wrong and regained his mobility by the time he was 11. When the hospital released him, an FBI agent escorted Morita and his family to a Japanese-American internment camp, where they lived for several years during World War II.
Once released from captivity, Morita’s family moved to Sacramento and ran a Chinese food restaurant. At 30, he decided to become a stand-up comedian. Within five years, Morita worked his way up from performing gigs at area nightclubs and bars to entertaining millions on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show.” He performed in clubs all over the U.S. and was the first Japanese-American to headline a show in Las Vegas.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Morita landed small roles on numerous television programs, including “The Odd Couple,” “Green Acres” and “M*A*S*H,” then joined the cast of “Happy Days” as Matsuo “Arnold’ Takahashi. He would eventually appear in more than 100 films and TV shows, and provide the voice of the Emperor of China in the Disney animated features, “Mulan” and “Mulan II.”
In 1984, Morita tackled his most famous role, that of handyman-turned-mentor Kesuke Miyagi in the film, “The Karate Kid.” His efforts to teach a young boy (played by Ralph Macchio) the basics of karate with household chores spoke to a generation of children who mimicked the “crane kick” from the finale of the movie and signed up for martial arts classes.
“The Karate Kid” grossed $91 million at the box office and spawned three sequels, all of which starred Morita. For his work in the original movie, Morita earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. He also received an Emmy nomination for the 1985 TV movie, “Amos.” His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 6633 Hollywood Blvd.
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3 Responses to Pat Morita

  1. Asril

    I’ve watched the whole Karate Kid series and somehow, the lessons still apply to life today as it was dispensed by Sensei Miyagi years ago. Pat, you will be missed and may God bless you…

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