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‘Karate Kid's’ Pat Morita Dies

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Nov 26, 2005 | 7:10am EST

The Karate Kid star Pat Morita has died at his Las Vegas home. He was 73.

The actor and comedian, whose portrayal of Mr. Miyagi in the 1984 movie earned him an Oscar nomination, passed away Nov. 24 of natural causes, according to his wife of 12 years Evelyn.

She says in a statement, "(My husband) dedicated his entire life to acting and comedy."

For years, the actor, real name Noriyuki Morita, played small roles in such films as Thoroughly Modern Millie and TV series such as The Odd Couple and Green Acres. His first breakthrough came with classic TV show Happy Days, and he followed with his own brief series Mr. T And Tina.

The Karate Kid, spawned three sequels ending with 1994's The Next Karate Kid, which paired him with a young Hilary Swank. More recently, Morita provided the voice for a character in the 1998 Disney movie Mulan.

Born in northern California on 28 June 1932 to 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.

After the war, Morita's family tried to repair their finances by running a Sacramento restaurant. It was there that Morita first showed an interest in a show business career, eventually committing to it full time at the age of 30.

He is survived by his wife and three daughters from a previous marriage.

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