Noriyuki “Pat” Morita died on November 24, 2005 at the age of 73; he was an American film and television actor.
Born in Isleton, California, he 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. It was during his time at a sanitarium near Sacramento that he was given his stage name, “Pat”.
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.
Was the first American-born Asian nominated for an Academy Award. It was for his role of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid (1984).
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). 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.
The scene that sealed his nomination for best supporting actor in The Karate Kid(1984), in which Miyagi gets drunk and weeps over the death of his wife and child in the Manzanar Internment Camp was nearly cut out of the film.
The studio thought the scene was unnecessary and wanted it cut. But director John G. Avildsen argued that the scene was important to Miyagi’s character and finally the studio relented and allowed the scene to be kept in.
Also, during the casting of the film, the studio wanted legendary Japanese actor Toshirô Mifune to play Miyagi but Avildsen and producer Jerry Weintraub thought Mifune’s interpretation of the character was far too serious for what the film needed.