With the release this weekend of the remake of 1984′s The Karate Kid, theater audiences were introduced to an all-new “Mr. Miyagi” – played by familiar funnyman/martial artist Jackie Chan. And while he certainly did a respectable job in the role, helping the film to earn $56 million for its opening weekend, we couldn’t help but reflect on the magical performance of the late Pat Morita, who always brought a certain charm to everything he appeared in. We thought we would take a moment to look back at his career, one that won the hearts of millions of retro fans along the way.
While Noriyuki “Pat” Morita’s television career actually began on M*A*S*H, where he had a recurring role as Army Captain Sam Pak, he first endeared himself to TV audiences in 1975 on the enormously popular sitcom, Happy Days, playing Arnold Takahashi, owner of Arnold’s Diner. Let’s take a look:
Morita left Happy Days after the first season to star in his own series, Mr T. and Tina, but the series only lasted 9 episodes. From there, he reprised his “Arnold” character on another short-lived series, Blansky’s Beauties, before returning to Happy Days in 1982. Two years later, audiences would meet Mr. Miyagi, in the 1984 sleeper-hit, The Karate Kid. The role would earn Morita an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the kindly old karate master in the film. Here is a classic scene from the movie, where Mr. Miyagi proves to Daniel that he has actually been learning something from the old man, during all those hours of seemingly unimportant manual labor:
So popular was The Karate Kid that Morita would reprise the role in two sequels, as well as a Saturday morning cartoon series:
Sadly, the actor passed away in 2005, at the age of 73, but he certainly left us some magical performances to remember him by. As we take a moment to look back at the career of Pat Morita, we invite you to share your memories of this beloved performer and his work with all of us at Retroland.