Goodbye, Mr. Miyagi

As a huge Karate Kid fan, the news of Pat Morita’s death saddens me.

“Forever my Sensei…”
_________

from eonline.com

Pat Morita owed his fame to kids, he once said. “You know why? I’m the same height.” A generation raised on Mr. Miyagi might beg to differ.

Morita, who played the iconic martial-arts guru in four Karate Kid movies, and earned an Academy Award nomination for his uncommonly profound car-waxing tips, died Thursday in a Las Vegas hospital. He was 73.

Ralph Macchio, who played Mr. Miyagi’s most prolific pupil, Daniel LaRusso, called Morita’s death a “sad day” for him and his family.

Pat Morita was a truly generous actor, a gifted comic, and an even greater friend,” Macchio said in a statement Friday. “It was both my honor and privilege to have worked with him and create a bit of cinema magic together.”

Morita tutored Macchio in three Karate Kid films: The original 1984 adventure where teen outcast “Daniel-san” learns to stand up to bullies by performing menial tasks, including a little “wax on, wax off” car work, for Mr. Miyagi; 1986’s The Karate Kid, Part II; and 1989’s The Karate Kid, Part III, released when the “kid” was 27. Morita scored his Oscar nod as Best Supporting Actor for the first film.

Morita did one final Karate Kid movie in 1994, The Next Karate Kid, with future Oscar-winner Hilary Swank as his new charge.

If Morita was Mr. Miyagi to children of the 1980s, then he was the Arnold of Arnold’s to children of the 1970s. The actor played the unintelligible owner of the Happy Days gang’s hangout in two stints, 1975-76 and 1982-83.

To children of the 1990s, Morita was the voice of the emperor in Disney’s Mulan.

My fame is largely due to young people, they’re the first ones to discover me,” Morita observed to the Ottawa Sun in 1999, before making the crack about his height, or lack thereof. (He stood about 5 foot, 3 inches.)

Morita’s show business career began in the 1960s in the decidedly un-kid-friendly world of comedy clubs.

In the 1970s, Morita was a prime-time fixture. He guested on several episodes of Sanford and Son, costarred on Happy Days, and became Mr. T before the mohawk-sporting Mr. T became a household initial. (The latter was owed to Morita’s starring role in the short-lived 1976 sitcom, Mr. T and Tina.)

The Karate Kid Oscar nomination didn’t make Morita an A-list movie star, but it did bring him meatier TV work. He earned an Emmy nomination for the 1985 TV-movie Amos, about elder abuse, and headlined the 1987-88 police drama series Ohara.

To look at Morita’s lengthy credit list on IMDb.com is to surmise that Morita didn’t like to go too long between gigs, even if latter-day gigs included 2004’s The Karate Dog, a non-Mr. Miyagi tale about a dog that, well, does karate, and Miss Cast Away, a 2005 spoof comedy featuring a cameo by Michael Jackson.

Morita was born Noriyuki Morita on June 28, 1932. (Some sources say 1930.) His early years were spent apart–up until the age of 11, he lived in a hospital due to spinal tuberculosis; then when his health was restored, in the midst of World War II, he was dispatched to an internment camp for U.S. citizens and residents of Japanese descent.

As Morita said: “I had to find things to laugh at.”

In the end, Morita persevered–and taught others to do the same, in reel life and in real life.

My life is all the richer for having known him,” Macchio said. “I will miss his genuine friendship.”

Robert Wise (1914-2005)

“In a sense, he was the Steven Spielberg of his time.” – Martin Scorsese, on Robert Wise

Robert Wise with actress Audrey Totter on the set of “The Set Up” (1949)

Director and editor Robert Wise behind West Side Story and The Sound of Music died Wednesday. He was 91. The following includes excerpts from the LA Times. 

“He was always treated with great deference and it was not for what he accomplished in films, but for who he was as a human being,” Lawrence Mirisch said a family family and a motion picture agent.

Michael Apted, president of the Directors Guild of America, said in a statement that Wise’s … devotion to the craft of filmmaking and his wealth of head-and-heart knowledge about what we do and how we do it was a special gift to his fellow directors.”

Earning a reputation as a disciplined and impeccable craftsman, he worked in virtually every genre — from high drama and romantic comedy to film noir and the supernatural.”

Among Robert Wise’s best-known 40 films:

  • Somebody Up There Likes Me” (1956)
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951),
  • I Want to Live!” (1958)
  • The Haunting” (1963)
  • The Sand Pebbles” (1966)

In 1998, the modest and self-effacing filmmaker became the 26th recipient of the AFI’s life achievement award, joining the ranks of fellow directors John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Welles in receiving what is widely considered the film industry’s highest career honor.

“Some of the more esoteric critics claim that there’s no Robert Wise style or stamp,” Wise said at the time. “My answer to that is that I’ve tried to approach each genre in a cinematic style that I think is right for that genre. I wouldn’t have approached ‘The Sound of Music’ the way I approached ‘I Want to Live!‘ for anything, and that accounts for a mix of styles.”