Comedian and actor Noriyuki "Pat" Morita received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of the wise martial arts instructor Mr. Miyagi in the popular "Karate Kid" movie in 1984.
A surprise hit among the summer movies in 1984, "The Karate Kid" starred Morita as Kesuke Miyagi, a handyman at an apartment complex in Los Angeles who befriends a recently arrived boy from New Jersey named Daniel, played by Ralph Macchio.
Two sequels of "The Karate Kid" featured Morita and Macchio. In "The Next Karate Kid," the fourth installment in the series, the producers came up with a plot twist, replacing Macchio — by then in his early 30s — with another kid struggling against classmates. This time, however, the kid was a girl, played by Hilary Swank.
Morita began his career as a data processor for the state Department of Motor Vehicles and then Aerojet General Corp.
Feeling out of place and disliking the work, Morita decided to try his hand at show business. He found gigs as a comedian in San Francisco and soon packed up his family and moved to Los Angeles.
He found more substantial stand-up comedy work, was given the nickname "The Hip Nip" and was eventually booked on ABC's "The Hollywood Palace" variety show. He worked anywhere and any time — sometimes 50 weeks a year — through the mid-'60s. One engagement in Honolulu, filling in for singer Don Ho, left an impression.
He opened for top acts, including Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis and Diana Ross and the Supremes, and eventually became a headliner in Las Vegas showrooms and at Playboy Clubs across the country.
In 1967, he made his film debut in "Thoroughly Modern Millie," and two years later he made his debut as a series regular on the sitcom "The Queen and I," which quickly came and went.
He surfaced again in 1974 and 1975 on "Sanford and Son," playing Ah Chew, a pal of Lamont Sanford.
The next stop on the dial was on "Happy Days" as Arnold, the owner of the malt shop where Fonzie and his pals hung out. But he left that show quickly to star in his own ABC comedy series, "Mr T. and Tina," becoming the first Japanese American to star in series TV. The show, however, lasted only a month.
In 1987, ABC gave him a chance to headline a detective show, "Ohara," which went through several plot changes in a run that lasted a couple of seasons.
He found work throughout his career in lead roles, bit parts and voice-overs. He starred in the 1990 buddy-cop flick "Collision Course," which is notable in that "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno was his costar. He provided the voice of the emperor of China in the 1998 animated film "Mulan." His other films include "Honeymoon in Vegas," "Spy Hard" and "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues."
|1984||Best Supporting Actor||The Karate Kid||Nomination|