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Monday, November 28, 2005

Bye, Mr. Miyagi

R.I.P. Pat Morita

LOS ANGELES - Actor Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid" earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 73.

Morita died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas of natural causes, said his wife of 12 years, Evelyn. She said in a statement that her husband, who first rose to fame with a role on "Happy Days," had "dedicated his entire life to acting and comedy."

In 1984, he appeared in the role that would define his career and spawn countless affectionate imitations. As Kesuke Miyagi, the mentor to Ralph Macchio's "Daniel-san," he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as "wax on, wax off" to guide Daniel through chores to improve his skills.

Morita said in a 1986 interview with The Associated Press he was billed as Noriyuki "Pat" Morita in the film because producer Jerry Weintraub wanted him to sound more ethnic. He said he used the billing because it was "the only name my parents gave me."

For years, Morita played small and sometimes demeaning roles in such films as "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and TV series such as "The Odd Couple" and "Green Acres" His first breakthrough came with "Happy Days" and he followed with his own brief series, "Mr. T and Tina."

"The Karate Kid" led to three sequels, the last of which, 1994's "The Next Karate Kid" paired him with a young Hilary Swank.


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