Abundantly busy and much loved Asian-American actor who became an on-screen hero to millions of adults and kids alike as the wise and wonderful Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid (1984), the sparkling Noriyuki Morita was back again dishing out Eastern philosophy and martial arts lessons for The Karate Kid Part II (1986) and The Karate Kid Part III (1989), and even for The Next Karate Kid (1994). However, putting all that karate aside, the diminutive Morita actually first started out as a stand-up comedian known as the Hip Nip in nightclubs and bars, and made his first on-screen appearance in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). He quickly adapted to the screen and showed up in small parts in such comedy films as The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), alongside Don Knotts, and in Evil Roy Slade (1972) supporting John Astin. He also appeared in such popular series as Sanford and Son (1972) and M*A*S*H (1972).
Morita got his next break playing the often-perplexed restaurant owner Matsho “Arnold” Takahashi in 26 episodes of the hugely popular sitcom Happy Days (1974) between 1975 and 1976, and again between 1982 and 1983. Morita was quite in demand on the small screen and also scored the lead in his own police drama Ohara (1987), and guest-starred on other high-profile television series including Magnum, P.I. (1980), Murder, She Wrote (1984), Baywatch (1989) and The Hughleys (1998). Although most often used as a minor character actor, he remained consistently busy and occasionally lent his vocal talents to animated features such as Mulan (1998). However, his real strengths lay in portraying slightly oddball or unusual characters in offbeat films. He died at age 73 of natural causes at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 24, 2005.
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