Pat Morita, 1932-2005

The actor Pat Morita has died:

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Actor Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 73.

Morita died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas of natural causes, said his wife of 12 years, Evelyn. She said in a statement that her husband, who first rose to fame with a role on “Happy Days,” had “dedicated his entire life to acting and comedy.”

In 1984, he appeared in the role that would define his career and spawn countless affectionate imitations. As Kesuke Miyagi, the mentor to Ralph Macchio’s “Daniel-san,” he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as “wax on, wax off” to guide Daniel through chores to improve his skills.

Morita said in a 1986 interview with The Associated Press he was billed as Noriyuki “Pat” Morita in the film because producer Jerry Weintraub wanted him to sound more ethnic. He said he used the billing because it was “the only name my parents gave me.”

He lost the 1984 best supporting actor award to Haing S. Ngor, who appeared in “The Killing Fields.”

Morita was quite a guy. The son of migrant workers, he had spinal tuberculosis as a kid, was interned in Arizona during World War II, and worked as a computer technician for a while.

It’s extremely tough for an Asian performer to break into show biz in the United States but he managed to do it. He had hundreds of movie and television appearances to his credit over a career that spanned nearly forty years.

UPDATE: Shakespeare’s Sister remembers Mr. Myagi.

8 comments… add one
  • I loved The Karate Kid, they played it again the other day and it is still good. Funny to see the fashions of then, I don’t miss the 80s for the clothes or the big hair that’s for sure!

  • I had the pleasure and honor to work with Pat Morita in my movie, “18 Fingers of Death” in which he plays my father. This was my debut as a writer, producer, director and star all in one project. It was important to me that Pat played this character because he has the rare combination as an actor to bring heart, humor and respect to his performance. Thank you Master Pat Morita for blessing me with your energy and spirit. Movies are forever. We shall remember you forever.

  • milkman

    Pat was a terrific actor i will miss him. I think one ofhis best works was in that spongebob episode.

  • patman

    great actor

  • zoe

    Still missing you Pat Morita, you were funny and touched hearts, a special fellow who didn’t let his very difficult beginning in life stop him from seeing humour in life and leaving his mark! “Wax on, wax off.”

  • Hussain E

    I had the pleasure of watching Karrate Kid III on utube and i enjoyed the meaning behind the film that we can see btwn the dialogue btwn may he rest in peace Pat Morita and Danial, when they talk about the root of the bonsai tree, and how it managed to survive… these messages are timeless bec they apply to all of us at some points of our lives. and Pat had a way of delivering the message with humor and grace. May he rest in peace…

  • I am amazed at Pat’s amazing timing in his lines to make you laugh.
    The way he could use his eye’s to capture the scene and take it away for his own. As a writer in my 70’s as a born again christian, I hope he is in heaven when I get there. When I see him I will just start laughing I am sure.. T. ps he will be there laughing with God..

  • Norine Gallimore

    I am greatly saddened to know that ” Miyagi ” has died but to know that he is now a citizen in heaven is a great joy !

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