As Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid, Pat Morita created a legacy that is still felt in Hollywood today, most prominently in Netflix series, Cobra Kai.
Despite the actor’s death, Mr Miyagi’s work lives on, with Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) trying to become the sensei and guiding light to teenagers needing balance in their lives, in the way Miyagi was to him.
The feeling is clearly mutual on screen as well as off for Macchio, who has spoken of Morita fondly for the advice he gave out at significant points in his life.
In season three of Cobra Kai, as Daniel’s life begins to unravel, more of the character’s life will be explored, further cementing the importance of Morita’s work within the universe.
Here’s what you need to know about the actor and the life he led.
Who is Pat Morita?
Pat Morita – both Noriyuki Morita – was a Japanese-American actor, who was born and raised in the States after his parents separately emigrated from Japan in the 1910s.
Throughout his childhood, he had a serious of life threatening illnesses and conditions, including spinal tuberculosis at the age of two that required him to live in a full body cast and seek nearly 10 years of treatment to ensure he could even be able to walk.
At the age of 11, he was moved to Arizona to live in an internment camp with his family in the midst of World War II, orchestrated by the government after the attack on Pearl Harbour.
When his family were released after the war ended in 1945, Morita moved back to California with his family and together they opened a Chinese restaurant.
Speaking about this period of his life to LA Times in 1986, he joked they were: ‘a Japanese family running a Chinese restaurant in a black neighbourhood, with a clientele of blacks, Filipinos and everybody else who didn’t fit in any of the other neighbourhoods.’
In 1956, his father was killed in a hit-and-run, and he became a data processor to help fund the family.
However, after finding the job lacking, he later tried his hand as a stand-up comic, and over the years he then moved over to Hollywood, where among his first roles he was credited as ‘Oriental #2’ in Julie Andrews film Thoroughly Modern Millie.
He began to make a name for himself and over the years appeared in a string of sitcoms and shows, making him one of the first Asian-American actors to become a regular face on TV.
In 1975, he joined classic sitcom Happy Days as Matsuo ‘Arnold’ Takahashi. In 1983, he was cast as Mr Miyagi, meeting Ralph Macchio for the first time. He returned for the three sequels that followed.
He was married three times: to Kathleen Yamachi from 1953 to 1967, Yukiye Kitahara from 1970 to 1989, and Evelyn Guerrero from 1994 to his death in 2005.
Other recurring roles include: Baywatch, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, and he voiced The Emperor in Disney cartoon favourite, Mulan.
When did Pat Morita die?
Morita died in a Las Vegas, Nevada hospital on November 24, 2005, at the age of 75.
The cause of his death has been conflicted, with his daughter Aly claiming it was of heart failure, and his manager Arnold Soloway stating Morita died of kidney failure while awaiting a transplant.
He was survived by Evelyn Guerrero, his wife of 11 years, and three daughters from his previous marriage.
Macchio released a statement shortly after the news broke, which read: ‘It was both my honour and privilege to have worked with him and create a bit of cinema magic together.
‘My life is all the richer for having known him. I will miss his genuine friendship. Forever my Sensei.’
What has Ralph Macchio and William Zabka said about Pat Morita?
For Macchio, the relationship he had with Morita was instantaneous, stating that he found his sensei ‘the second they auditioned together’.
Speaking in Vanity Fair in 2020, Macchio explained: ‘Pat Morita and I got in a room together, just grabbed the pages, started reading. It was effortless.
‘That magic that happened on the screen happened the first day we picked up the pages. He had Miyagi in his skin, in his mind, in his consciousness.
‘I for whatever the reason, had the yin to the yang, literally the balance, that was the beginning of the cinema magic that resonates to this day.’
Ahead of season two was released on YouTube Premium, Ralph said that he would’ve refused to do the show without Pat being honoured.
‘The number one most important thing before I signed on to do the show, was that the essence of Mr. Miyagi and his teachings, the relationship they had and how it formed and shaped his life was there,’ he told Forbes.
‘And if it had somehow been lost, it would be about re-finding it’
Credit: Original article published here.