Early lifeBorn in Isleton, California, the son of an itinerant fruit worker, Morita developed spinal tuberculosis at age two and spent the bulk of the next nine years in Northern California hospitals, including the Shriners Hospital in San Francisco. He was for long periods wrapped in a full body cast and was told he would never walk. The boy, often alone and isolated, made sock puppets to entertain himself.
After a surgeon fused four vertebrae in his spine, Noriyuki finally learned to walk again at age 11. By then, his Japanese American family had been sent to an internment camp to be detained for the duration of World War II. The boy was transported from the hospital directly to the camp in Arizona to join them.
For a time after the war, the family operated Ariake Chop Suey, a restaurant in Sacramento, California. Teenage Nori would entertain customers with jokes and serve as master of ceremonies for group dinners.
Noriyuki graduated from high school in Fairfield, California and shortly thereafter moved back to the Sacramento area, where he took a job with Aerojet-General, an aerospace company that designed and manufactured rocket engines.
It was only after working his way up to head of a computer operations department that Morita, by now a husband and father, and also seriously overweight, decided he had taken the wrong life path. He quit and became a standup comedian.
Comedy and improv
Pat Morita, often billed as the Hip Nip in his standup act, became a member of the Los Angeles improvisational comedy troupe The Groundlings.
TV roles lead to movies
A recurring role as a Korean national on the sitcom M*A*S*H helped advance the comedian's acting career.
Although Morita gained worldwide fame playing a wise karate teacher in The Karate Kid and its sequels, he never formally practiced a martial art and most of his karate scenes in movies were performed by stunt double (and noted shito-ryu karate-ka) Fumio Demura.
Although he had been using the name Pat Morita for years, producer Jerry Weintraub suggested that Pat be billed with his given name to sound more ethnic.
Morita spoke perfect American English yet he was frequently typecasted with a Japanese or Korean accent.
Morita died on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005, at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, of natural causes at age 73. He is buried at Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery. He is survived by his second wife, actress Evelyn Guerrero, and three daughters from a previous marriage to his first wife, Yuki.
Pat Morita Facts
|Birth Name||Noriyuki Morita|
|Birthday||June 28, 1932|
|Birthplace||Isleton, California, USA|
|Date of death||November 24, 2005 (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, age 73)|
|Height||5' 3" (1m60) How tall is Pat Morita compared to you?|