Saturday, November 26, 2005

 

Farewell "Mr. Miyagi"

Although he appeared in more than 100 productions during his career, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, who passed away two days ago of natural causes at the age of 73, will best be remembered for his Oscar-nominated portrayal of the wise Asian martial arts expert in The Karate Kid film series, and as "Arnold," the often-befuddled owner of the local drive-in restaurant, in the long-running TV sitcom, Happy Days. Ironically, in one episode of Happy Days, the main characters learn that Arnold's actual name is Matsuo Takahashi, when they sign up for karate lessons and he turns out to be their teacher. "Do I look like an Arnold?" he says to the perplexed group of teenagers. It was equally revealing for movie-goers in 1984 to watch Morita branch out on screen in his breakthrough performance in The Karate Kid. In Mr. Miyagi, Morita created one of the great supporting characters in cinema. Injecting the character with warmth, pathos and humor, Morita's believability in the role lifted the films to a slightly higher level. He played the character in all four installments of the series, and in the last, The Next Karate Kid, foreshadowed last year's Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby, as he takes a troubled girl (played by Hillary Swank) under his wing and teaches her karate to give balance to her life.

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