Pat Morita

From J-Wiki

Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (June 28, 1932 – November 24, 2005) was an American actor, voice actor, and comedian, known for his roles as Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on Happy Days (1975–1983), Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid film series, Mike Woo in The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, and The Emperor of China in Mulan and Mulan II. Morita was nominated for the 1985 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. Morita also portrayed Ah Chew in Sanford and Son (1974–1976).

Morita was the series lead actor in the television program Mr. T and Tina (1976) and in Ohara (1987–1988), a police-themed drama. The two shows made history for being among the few TV shows with an Asian American series lead.

Morita was born in Isleton, California in 1932. Morita's father Tamaru, born in 1897, had immigrated to California from Kumamoto Prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu in 1915. Tamaru's wife Momoe, born in 1903, had emigrated to California in 1913. Noriyuki, as Pat was named, had a brother named Hideo (Harry) who was twelve years older.

Morita developed spinal tuberculosis (Pott disease) at the age of two and spent the bulk of the next nine years in the Weimar Institute in Weimar, California, and later at the Shriners Hospital in San Francisco. For long periods he was wrapped in a full-body cast and was told that he would never walk. During his time at a sanatorium near Sacramento, Morita befriended a visiting priest who would often joke that, if Morita ever converted to Catholicism, the priest would rename him to "Patrick Aloysius Ignatius Xavier Noriyuki Morita". Released from the hospital at age 11 after undergoing extensive spinal surgery and learning how to walk, Morita was transported from the hospital directly to the Gila River camp in Arizona to join his interned family. After about a year and a half, he was transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center.

For a time after the war, the family operated Ariake Chop Suey, a restaurant in Sacramento, California. Morita would entertain customers with jokes and serve as master of ceremonies for group dinners.

Morita began working as a stand-up comic after graduating from Armijo High School in Fairfield, California. He took the stage name "Pat Morita", in part due to the presence of comedians including Pat Henry and Pat Cooper, and in part due to memories of the priest he had befriended as a boy. Morita struggled for many years in comedy. Sally Marr, Lenny Bruce's mother, acted as his agent and manager in his early days. Morita sometimes worked as the opening act for singers Vic Damone and Connie Stevens and for his mentor, the comedian Redd Foxx. Foxx later gave him a role on his sitcom Sanford and Son in the early 1970s.

This is included in a collection of wiki entries referenced in the canonical Gen X Nikkei thought-piece 101 Ways to Tell You’re Japanese American by Tony Osumi and Jenni Kuida, published in 1996.

Noteable Appearances in the 70s[edit]

Date Show Episode # Episode Title Role
1969.10.09 The Courtship of Eddie's Father S1.E04 The Littlest Kidnapper Duke Komosori
1974.10.11 Sanford and Son S4.E05 There'll Be Some Changes Made (Sanford and Son) Ah Chew
1974.10.18 Sanford and Son S4.E06 Going Out of Business (Sanford and Son) Ah Chew
1975.01.24 Sanford and Son S4.E17 Strange Bedfellows (Sanford and Son) Ah Chew
1975.01.31 Sanford and Son S4.E18 The Masquerade Party (Sanford and Son) Ah Chew
1975.03.14 Sanford and Son S4.E24 The Over-the-Hill Gag (Sanford and Son) Ah Chew
1975.11.21 Sanford and Son S5.E10 Sanford and Rising Son (Sanford and Son) Ah Chew
1976.03.12 Sanford and Son S5.E23 Sergeant Gork (Sanford and Son) Colonel Hiakowa
1976.03.11 TV Movie 1976 Farewell to Manzanar Zenahiro
1976.10.30 Mr. T and Tina S1.E05 I Thought He'd Never Leave Taro Takahashi
1976.09.25 Mr. T and Tina S1.E04 Tina Really Truly Gets Fired Taro Takahashi
1976.10.02 Mr. T and Tina S1.E03 What Makes Sumo Run? Taro Takahashi
1976.10.16 Mr. T and Tina S1.E02 The Americanization of Michi Taro Takahashi
1977.12.24 Love Boat S1.E12 The Painters Vincent
1978.04.25 Man from Atlantis S1.E15 Imp Fred
1978.05.20 Love Boat S1.E25 Pacific Princess Overtures Mr. Yamashiro
1978.11.24 The Incredible Hulk S2.E09 Stop the Presses Fred
1981.04.28 The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo S2.E014 Roller Disco Karate Kaper (The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo) Mrs. Cummings Assistant

Additional Appearances[edit]

  • Chico and the Man as Pat Yamaguchi : "Charo Takes Over" (1977)
  • Welcome Back, Kotter as Taro Takahashi : "Career Day" (1976)
  • Playboy After Dark (TV Series) Episode #1.22 (1969) … Self
  • Match Game (TV Series) - Panelist (1976)
    • Episode #4.147
    • Episode #4.146
    • Episode #4.145
    • Episode #4.144
    • Episode #4.143
  • Late Night with David Letterman (TV Series)
    • Episode #5.3 (1986)
  • The 38th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (TV Special) - Nominee
  • The 42nd Annual Golden Globe Awards (1985) - Nominee
  • The 43rd Annual Golden Globe Awards (1986) - Nominee
  • The 57th Annual Academy Awards (1985) - Nominee (as Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (TV Series)
    • Episode #28.94 (1989)
    • Episode dated 8 October 1970 (1970)
    • Episode dated 26 August 1970 (1970)
    • Episode dated 11 July 1970 (1970)
    • Episode dated 5 August 1969 (1969)