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Robert Morse, ‘Mad Men’ actor and Broadway star, dies aged 90

Robert Morse, who adapted the Broadway star to a movie career in the 1960s, then re-emerged decades later as one of the stars of “Mad Men,” has died.

He was 90 years old.

Writer and producer Larry Karaszewski, who serves as vice president on the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, tweeted the news of Morse’s death on Thursday.

“My good friend Bobby Morse has passed away aged 90,” he wrote. “A huge talent and a beautiful spirit. Sending love to son Charlie and daughter Allyn. ”

Morse was nominated for an Emmy five times for playing sage Bertram Cooper, the senior partner of the advertising agency at the heart of AMC’s hit series “Mad Men,” from 2007 to 2015. 2010, he shared the SAG Award that “Mad Men” won for outstanding performance by a group in a period drama.

The eccentric Bert Cooper is known for his bows and his collection of Japanese art and architecture; while he is sometimes indifferent to the business of Sterling Cooper, he can be cunning and manipulative when necessary. Cooper died on the night of the first moon landing – and that 2014 episode gave Morse the opportunity to showcase his singing and dancing abilities in a fictional track, imagined by Jon Hamm’s Don Draper. statue, to the tune of “The best things in life are free. ”

Morse also won an Emmy in 1993 for the PBS adaptation of “American Playhouse” from Morse’s one-man show “Tru” about Truman Capote.

Morse, known for his brazen, crooked grin, became a Broadway star in the musical comedy “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Try,” for which he won his first Tony Award. first, as best actor in a musical, in 1962. The huge hit had more than 1,400 performances and was adapted to the big screen in a 1967 film, in where Morse reprized his lead role J. Pierpont Finch.

The actor won his second Tony Award for the one-man show “Tru,” in which he played Truman Capote, appearing on Broadway with 297 performances between 1989 and 1990.

Morse appeared in a number of other films in the 1960s, including Tony Richardson’s funeral satire “The Lover” (1965), which also starred Jonathan Winters. Variety reports: “Robert Morse plays a poet who falls in love with an aesthetic woman (later promoted to embalmer) while arranging for his uncle’s funeral, which is light and airy. , as if a distant soul.”

In 1967, in addition to the film adaptation of “How to Succeed”, Morse co-starred with Walter Matthau in the comedy “A Guide for the Married Man”, in which Morse’s character tries to convince the married man of his Matthau kept his affair with his wife a secret, and his views are illustrated in skits featuring a large number of celebrities.

PaleyFest 2014 Honor of the Paley . Center "Crazy men"
Robert Morse, left, joins actors Vincent Kartheiser, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks on March 21, 2014 in Los Angeles. Frazer Harrison / Getty Images files

(According to a 2014 article on Playbill, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “The Married Man’s Guide” were inspirations for Matthew Weiner as he creating “Mad Men.”)

Morse co-starred with Doris Day in the 1968 comedy “Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?”

From 1968 to 69 Morse co-starred with EJ Peaker in the innovative ABC musical comedy series “It’s Life,” in which the story of how a young couple met, fell in love, and got married is told through through a series of monologues, sketches and songs. and dance routines. He earned his first Emmy Award nomination for his work on the series.

Actor who starred in the Disney comedy “The Boatniks” (1970), and made several guest appearances on series including “Love, American Style” and “Fantasy Island” throughout the 1970s; During the 1980s, he guest-starred on shows including “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

Morse was one of the performers on the children’s album “Free to Be… You and Me” by Marlo Thomas in 1972.

In 1987, he starred in the Cannon Films version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, with Sid Caesar as the Emperor and Morse as the Tailor.

He appeared in the 1993 ABC series “Wild Palms” and was a series regular on the CBS hospital miniseries “City of Angels” by Steven Bochco, starring Blair Underwood, in 2000.

Morse was born in Newton, Massachusetts. He served in the United States Navy during the Korean War. A drama teacher in high school inspired him to become an actor, and upon graduation, he went to New York City’s prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse, where his brother, Richard, was following. acting lessons. He also studied with Lee Strasberg. He made his stage debut in 1949 in the production of “Our Town” in New Hampshire.

Portrait of Robert Morse
Robert Morse in 1964. MGM Studios / via Getty Images . file

He made his Broadway debut in 1955 in “The Matchmaker,” the play Thornton Wilder that would serve as the basis for the musical “Hello, Dolly!”; he played Barnaby Tucker. After appearing with an underrated role in the 1956 film “The Proud and Profane,” starring William Holden and Deborah Kerr, the young actor made his big-screen debut. received two years later in the film adaptation of “The Matchmaker”, starring Shirley Booth. The New York Times reported, “Robert Morse has done a great job in recreating his stage role as his wide-eyed fellow adventurer.”

In 1959, he earned his first Tony nomination, for best actor in a play, for the original musical comedy “Say, Darling”, in which he impersonated director Harold Prince. The following year, he received another Tony nomination, for best actor in a musical, for “Take Me Along”, which was also nominated for best musical and garnered nominations for Jackie Gleason and Walter Pidgeon.

After “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” from 1961 to ’65, Morse starred in the original musical comedy “Sugar,” based on the American comedy classic. Billy Wilder “Some Like It Hot.” It ran for 505 shows in 1972-1973. In 1976, he appeared in the musical “So Long, 174th Street”, which is based on a book by Carl Reiner.

Morse didn’t return to Broadway until he appeared in “Tru” in 1989-90, and he didn’t appear on Rialto again after that. However, in 1995, he starred in the Canadian film “Show Boat”; in 2002, he played Wizard in the musical “Wicked” in San Francisco but was replaced by Joel Gray when it debuted on Broadway; in 2014, he appeared on stage at Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater as part of the cast in Christopher Gattleli’s musical In Your Arms.

Morse was married twice, first to “West Side Story” actress Carole D’Andrea from 1961 until their divorce in 1981.

He is survived by his second wife Elizabeth Roberts, whom he married in 1989; D’Andrea’s three daughters, Andrea Doven, Hilary Morse and Robin Morse, all actors; and Roberts’ two children, son Charles Morse and daughter Allyn Morse.

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