November 27, 2005
Written by C.N.
As the Associated Press reports, actor pat Morita has died at the age of 73. of course, he was best-known for his role as Mr. Myagi in the Karate Kid series of movies, but as the article notes, his career and life in general span a much broader set of experiences:
Born in northern California on June 28, 1932, the son of migrant fruit pickers, Morita spent most of his early years in the hospital with spinal tuberculosis. He later recovered only to be sent to a Japanese-American internment camp in Arizona during World War II.
“One day I was an invalid,” he recalled in a 1989 AP interview. “The next day I was public enemy No. 1 being escorted to an internment camp by an FBI agent wearing a piece.” After the war, Morita’s family tried to repair their finances by operating a Sacramento restaurant. It was there that Morita first tried his comedy on patrons.
Because prospects for a Japanese-American standup comic seemed poor, Morita found steady work in computers at Aerojet General. But at age 30 he entered show business full time. “Only in America could you get away with the kind of comedy I did,” he commented. “If I tried it in Japan before the war, it would have been considered blasphemy, and I would have ended in leg irons.”
Even though his Mr. Myagi character may not have been the most enlightening and high-quality depiction of Asian Americans in the history of American cinema, Pat’s quality as an actor and his status as an icon of Asian American culture are unquestioned. Here is a man who overcame two debilitating barriers in his life — physical and then political — to pursue his dream and to blaze a trail for other Asian American actors in the industry.
For that, all of us as Asian Americans owe Pat our gratitude and appreciation. Well done, Pat and may you rest in peace.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Pat Morita Dies at 73" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/11/pat-morita-dies-at-73/> ().
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