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Pat Morita

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Pat Morita (born 森田 沢之 Noriyuki Morita June 28, 1932 – died November 24, 2005)[1]played the part of Ah Chew, one of Lamont's friends, who Fred often insults at almost every oppurtunity. was a revered American character actor of Japanese descent who was well known for playing the roles of Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on Happy Days and Kesuke Miyagi in the The Karate Kid movie series, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1984.[2]

Early lifeEdit

Pat was born in Isleton, California.[3] He developed spinal tuberculosis at the age of two and spent the bulk of the next nine years in Northern California in hospitals, including the Shriners Hospitals for Children in San Francisco. For long periods he was wrapped in a full-body cast and was told he would never walk.[4]

After a surgeon fused four vertebrae in his spine, Pat finally learned to walk again at the age of 11. When he walked out of the hospital, an FBI agent escorted him directly to his Japanese-American family, which had been sent to an Japanese American internment camp to be detained for the duration of World War II.[5]

A young Pat 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 dinners.[6] Later, he worked as a data entry clerk for the State of California and at Aerojet-General Corporation near Sacramento. In the early 1960s, he started his career as a stand-up comedian known as The Hip Nip, performing in local nightclubs and bars. He also spent time as a member of the improvisational comedy troupe, The Groundlings.

Personal and FamilyEdit

Morita was married three times. His first marriage was soon after he finished high school at Armijo High School in Fairfield, California. They were married for 14 years and had one daughter, Erin Morita, born in 1954.

Morita later married his second wife, Yuki, in 1970. They had two daughters, Aly and Tia. The couple had to deal with several setbacks during their marriage. First, their $300,000 uninsured, Tarzana, California, home was badly damaged in a mudslide. The family escaped with just the clothes they were wearing. Shortly afterward, Tia, their youngest daughter, was diagnosed with kidney disease. Their marriage dissolved in 1982 after two years of separation.

Morita met his last wife, Evelyn Louise Guerrero, when she was 15 years old because Evelyn's mother had the same manager, Sally Marr. Morita and Evelyn met again years later, and were married in Las Vegas on March 26, 1994; they remained together until his death. They did not have any children together.

Television and movie careerEdit

His first movie role was as a stereotypical henchman in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). He also was cast as Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka, in the film Midway in 1976. 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.[7]

Pat had a recurring role on the ABC-TV sitcom series Happy Days as Matsuo "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-TV 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 had a recurring role on Sanford and Son in the mid-1970s.

Morita gained worldwide fame playing wise karate teacher Keisuke Miyagi who taught young "Daniel-san" LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) in The Karate Kid.[8] 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: The Karate Kid, Part II (1986), The Karate Kid, Part III (1989) and The Next Karate Kid (1994, with Hilary Swank). Noriyuki never actually studied karate and only learned enough for the film The Karate Kid. 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.[9]

Morita went on to play Tommy Tanaka in the TV movie Amos (for which he received Golden Globe Award and Emmy Award nominations, starring Kirk Douglas. He then starred 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 had a recurring role on the ABC-TV sitcom The Hughleys. He also made a guest appearance on an episode of Fox-TV's Married With Children. He went on to star in Talk To Taka as a sushi chef who doles out advice to anyone that 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.[10]

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. 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."

One of Pat'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 its first run.[11] One of his last film roles was in the 2005 independent feature film, Only the Brave, about the 442nd 442nd Regimental Combat Team, where he plays the father of lead actor (and director) Lane Nishikawa. About this time he starred in a Michael Sajbel movie called Remove All Obstacles as a cold storage guru. Pat also took a small role in the independent film, Act Your Age, filmed in central Illinois and released in April, 2011.[12] His last movie was Royal Kill, which also stars Eric Roberts, Gail Kim, and Lalaine and is directed by Babar Ahmed.

ReferencesEdit

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