More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story

We like to think we know actors. Especially today with social media. But we don’t really. They have lives beyond the screen which are hidden from the public….most of the time. Even someone who had a long career like Pat Morita.

Known to millions as Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, Pat Morita had a career which started off as a stand up comedian then evolved into acting where he appeared in shows like Happy Days and Baywatch and films like Mulan and Bloodsport 2. Became a big part of American pop culture, but much was going on behind the scenes.

While we loved the man who appeared to us on screen there was stuff going on which we didn’t know about. Like the fact that he was confined to a bed due to back issues when he was a young child. He then went from a hospital setting to the internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. This, as you might expect, had a profound effect on Pat and left him with some psychological scars.

He turned his talent for making people laugh into a career as a stand up and actor. His career in the entertainment industry began in the 1960s. Starting off as a stand up comedian, his sets often poked fun at Japanese and Asian people using stereotypes. This led to him doing some acting, but often his roles involved playing racist based Asian characters. He had no options to turn these roles down if he wanted to work as that was all that was available to him.

He began to cope with all of this by drinking. Existing as a largely functional alcoholic, he drank all the time. This had a negative effect on his career and personal life. Married three times, his third wife Evelyn Guerrero is extensively interviewed pulling back the curtain on how destructive his drinking became towards the end of his life. He could not stop even though he saw the damage it was having.

People saw him as a fun and funny man but behind the scenes he was depressed and coped with that by drinking. The end of his life is hard to watch. You basically see a man drinking himself to death. His career was in shambles and he was having financial problems.

What comes from the documentary is that he was a talented man who was also troubled. Throughout his career he suffered from addiction issues in regards to alcohol. Coupled with the racism he had to deal with in life and Hollywood, he did not have an easy time of things. A loved man who was flawed.

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