If you watched the 1984 martial arts drama film The Karate Kid, then you must be familiar with the wise and dry-witted Mr Miyagi played by Pat Morita. You sure remember Miyagi right? Daniel-san’s (Ralph Macchio) mentor who taught karate and at the same tried to catch flies with chopsticks. The role didn’t only bring the Japanese American actor to the spotlight, but also defined his career and earned him an Oscar nomination in 1985.
The Karate Kid was not Pat Morita’s first appearance on the big screen; he played Ah Chew in the NBC sitcom Sanford and Son that aired on the network from 1974–1976 and as Taro Takahashi (Japanese inventor) in a 1976 sitcom Mr T and Tina. Between 1987 and 1988 he appeared as Lt. Ohara in the TV series Ohara. Morita was the voice behind the character of the Emperor of China in the 1998 Disney animated film Mulan.
The actor died in November 2005 at his Les Vegas home at the age of 73. Find out the cause of his death and other details about his life
Birth And Early Life
Morita was born in Isleton, California on the 28th day of June 1932 as Noriyuki Morita immigrant parents to California Tamaru and Momoe Morita. Noriyuki had an older brother named Hideo (Harry) but was sickly as a child. At the age of two, he developed spinal tuberculosis which kept him hospitalized for the next nine years of his life. He was wrapped in a full-body cast most of those years and was told that he will never be able to walk. At the age of eleven, he was discharged from the hospital after undergoing spinal surgery.
As soon as he began learning to walk after the surgery, Pat Morita was immediately moved to the Gila River camp in Arizona to join his family, after spending about a year and a half at the camp, he has moved again, this time to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center.
For some time after the second World war, the family ran an Ariake Chop Suey restaurant in Sacramento, California, giving Morita the opportunity to entertain customers with jokes as they ate. Not long after, he began serving as an MC for group dinners.
After a while, Pat Morita decided to try his hands on stand-up comedy and he had Sally Marr (Lenny Bruce’s mother), as his agent and manager in his early days. During his early days, he worked as the opening act for singers like Connie Stevens and Vic Damone and even for Redd Foxx. Foxx would later give him a role on his sitcom Sanford and Son.
His first role was as a stereotypical henchman in a 1967 musical-romantic comedy movie Thoroughly Modern Millie, he reprised the character the following year in The Shakiest Gun In The West, which also starred Don Knotts.
He later landed a recurring role on the sitcom M*A*S*H as South Korean Army Captain Sam Pak which aired on the CBS network at that time. The sitcom helped the comedian’s acting career. In 1976, he played Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka in Midway (an American technicolor war film). In 1984, he landed the role of Mr. Miyagi in the martial arts drama film The Karate Kid, which earned him an Oscar nomination in 1985.
Pat Morita also starred in Happy Days, Mr T and Tina, Blansky’s Beauties, Ohara. He voiced the character of the Emperor of China in the 1998 Disney animated film Mulan. One of his last roles was as Master Udon in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants in 2006 entitled Karate Island. Others are Only the Brave, Remove All Obstacles, Your Age. His last movie was 2009 psychological thriller film Royal Kill, which also starred Eric Roberts, Lalaine, and Gail Kim.
The Japanese-American actor was worth $5 million at the time of his death. His net worth was basically from his decades of acting.
Cause Of Death
Pat Morita died at his home in Las Vegas on November 24, 2005, of kidney failure; he was aged 73. He was cremated at the Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Morita was survived by wife of 11 years, Evelyn and three daughters from a previous marriage. At the time of his death, Pat and Evelyn had been married for eleven years.