Who was Pat Morita?
The late Japanese-American actor and comedian Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita was born in Isleton, California USA, under the zodiac sign of Cancer on 28 June 1932. Pat was able to overcome all obstacles and appeared in close to 200 TV series and movies, while he’s probably still remembered best for starring as Miyagi in the evergreen 1984 family action movie “The Karate Kid”, which John G. Avildsen directed, and which also starred Elizabeth Shue and Ralph Macchio. It follows a martial arts master who’s begun coaching a bullied boy, and the movie won three of its seven award nominations, including Pat’s Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Family and disability
Pat was raised in Isleton alongside his 12 years senior brother Hideo ‘Harry’, by their Japanese immigrant parents Momoe and Tamaru.
Pat was only two when he was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis, and spent the majority of the following eight years i the Weimar Institute, prior to being treated at San Francisco’s Shriners Hospital. He was often wrapped in a full-body cast, and it was believed that Pat would never be able to walk unaided.
He was 11 when he was released from the hospital and started to learn to walk again, however, Pat was then immediately taken to his parents who were interned at the Gila River Camp, a concentration camp built to keep Japanese Americans there during World War II; a year later, Pat was moved to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center.
Following the end of Second World War, Pat and his family moved back to San Francisco where he studied at Armijo High School, matriculating in 1949.
Career before acting
Pat then began helping his parents run their restaurant Ariake Chop Suey, which he described as a place for people who didn’t fit in anywhere. His father was murdered in a hit-and-run in 1956, and Pat and his mother then continued running the restaurant for a couple more years.
In the first half of the ‘60s, Pat began working as a data processor at the Department of Motor Vehicles, while he eventually began working at the rocket and mission propulsion manufacturer Aerojet General, the a few years later, Pat began working at the aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Corporation as a department head.
He eventually became bored with the job, and chose to test his luck in show business; although Pat failed to succeed as a comedian in San Francisco, everything changed when he moved to Los Angeles, California and began winning roles in both movies and TV series.
Before HAPPY DAYS or THE KARATE KID, Pat Morita was a comedian working at Redd Foxx's nightclub. "This is my pal,…
Roles in movies
Pat made his debut film appearance aged 35, in the popular 1967 romantic musical comedy “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, directed by George Roy Hill, and which starred Julie Andrews, James Fox and Mary Tyler Moore. It follows Millie Dillmount from New York City who’s determined to marry her boss – the movie won six of its 17 award nominations, including an Oscar win for Best Music, Original Music Score.
Some of Pat’s following roles were in the 1968 western comedy “The Shakiest Gun in the West”, and in 1972 the western comedy “Evil Roy Slade” and the mystery comedy “Cancel My Reservation”. What marked the ‘70s for him was perhaps portraying Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka in the historical action “Midway”, directed by Jack Smight, and which starred Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda and James Coburn. The film covers the major Battle of Midway during World War II, a catastrophic defeat for the Japanese..
Some of Pat’s most notable performances in the ‘80s were in the family sports action “The Karate Kid Part II” and the adventure family fantasy “Babes in Toyland” both in 1986, and the 1989 family action “The Karate Kid Part III”.
In 1992, he played Mahi Mahi in the hit romantic thriller comedy “Honeymoon in Vegas”, written and directed by Andrew Bergman, and which starred James Caan, Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker. It follows Jack who’s lost $65,000 in a poker game in Las Vegas, Nevada while the winner’s promised to return his winnings if he’s allowed to spend the weekend with Jack’s fiancée Betsy; the movie was nominated for four awards. Pat could then have been seen appearing in the 1993 romantic action comedy “American Ninja 5”, the 1996 sports action “Bloodsport 2”, and the 1999 family war drama “I’ll Remember April”.
Most of the movies in which Pat appeared in the first half of the 2000s failed to attract any attention, with the exception of the 2003 biographical drama “High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story”, which starred Michael Imperioli, Andrew N. S. Glazer and Al Bernstein; it follows the life of professional poker player Stuey Ungar, and the movie won three awards.
One of his final roles was voicing The Emperor in the 2004 animated adventure comedy “Mulan II”, having previously voiced the same character in the evergreen 1998 movie “Mulan”. Many films featuring Pat have been released since his death, as a way to pay tribute; some of the most recent amongst these include the 2011 comedy “Act Your Age”, the 2013 romantic comedy “Blunt Movie” and the 2014 adventure family comedy “Rice Girl”.
— Cat Ling the Rice Girl Patriots fan (@myricegirl) December 1, 2019
Roles in TV series
Pat made his debut TV series appearance in the 1967 episode “The Recruiting Poster” of the war comedy “Gomer Pyle: USMC”, but he only began attracting attention in 1975, when cast to play the supporting character Matsuo ‘Arnold’ Takahashi in the critically acclaimed musical family comedy “Happy Days”. Garry Marshall created the series, which starred Mario Ross, Henry Winkler and Ron Howard, and follows the lives of members of the Cunningham family; the series aired until 1984, and won 19 of its 38 award nominations.
In 1987 and 1988, Pat starred as Lieutenant Ohara in the crime thriller “Ohara”, created by Hal Sitowitz and Ronald M. Cohen, and which also starred Robert Clohessy and Rachel Ticotin. It follows the life of a Los Angeles Police Department officer Ohara, and the series was nominated for two awards.
The ‘90s saw Pat appear in an episode of many series, including the science fiction comedy “The Munsters Today”, the family fantasy comedy “Harry and the Hendersons” and the science fiction action adventure “Space Rangers”. From 1998 through 2000, he starred as Uncle Pat in the family drama “Adventures with Kanga Roddy”, which also starred Alison Miller and Mickey Thomas, and follows Kanga Roddy as he’s teaching children dance, music and martial arts.
Pat’s three final TV series roles were in five episodes of the crime action adventure “Baywatch” (2000-2001), the 2002 episode “Yes Master” of the drama “Body & Soul”, and the 2003 episode “When Jimmy Met Greggy” of the comedy “Yes, Dear”.
Pat wrote the 1987 romantic war movie “Captive Hearts” and two episodes of the 1988 crime thriller series “Ohara”.
He received special thanks (posthumously) for the 2005 sports documentary movie “The Way of the Karate Kid”, the 2007 romantic sports film “American Pastime”, and the 2018 episode “Counterbalance” of the hit action comedy series “Cobra Kai”.
Pat was occasionally invited to appear in talk-shows – some of his final appearances were in “An Evening at the Improv”, “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “Lista Top 40”.
Awards and accolades
Pat received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 4 August 1994.
He was nominated for two Golden Globes in 1985 and 1986, for his performance in “The Karate Kid” and “Amos”, respectively.
Love life and relationships
Pat was married to his third wife, American retired actress Evelyn Guerrero at the time of his passing; the two exchanged vows on 26 March 1994. Evelyn appeared in 39 TV series and movies prior to retiring in 1999. She was 17 years younger than Pat; they had no children together.
Pat’s first wife was non-celebrity American Kathleen Yamachi, and they had a daughter Erin Morita together; the two married on 13 June 1953, and divorced in 1970.
Pat’s second wife was non-celebrity American of Asian descent Yukiye Guerrero, and they had two daughters Aly and Tia together; Pat and Yukiye married on 28 December 1970 and divorced in 1989.
Interesting facts and hobbies
Pat was nicknamed ‘Hip Nip’ by a drummer, and he liked it so much that he used it as his stage name while working as a stand-up comedian.
He revealed that he was never able to do karate, and was only good at acting.
Pat often joked about famous American actor John Wayne becoming a millionaire only thanks to the Japanese.
He wasn’t expecting to be nominated for an Oscar for his performance in “The Karate Kid”, and was uncomfortable when his name was read at the ceremony.
Pat enjoyed playing billiards with his friends.
He was writing his own autobiography, but never managed to finish and publish it.
Death and wealth
Pat died from kidney failure on 24 November 2005, aged 73; he was an alcoholic from the start of his career, and it’s believed that alcohol contributed to his death. His remains were cremated.
Pat’s net worth was estimated at over $2.5 million at the time of his death.