Robert Morse, two-time Tony Award winner, dies at 90

Actor Robert Morse, who won a Tony Award as the hilariously brash corporate climber in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and a second a generation later as the brilliant, troubled Truman Capote in Tru, has died at the age of 90.

Orse died at his home on Wednesday after a short illness, said David Shaul of the BRS/Gage Talent Agency.

Boyishly handsome, Morse first made his name on Broadway in the 1950s and landed a few roles in Hollywood comedies in the 1960s.

“I consider myself an actor — shy,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1964.

“I love acting. It’s a great investment of body and mind… With all humility, you’re hoping to do something worthwhile.”


Robert Morse, left, and Carol Channing perform at a rehearsal for the Road Company production of Sugar Babies in New York, July 18, 1977 (Marty Lederhandler/AP)

More recently, he played the autocratic and eccentric ad agency executive in Mad Men, AMC’s hit drama that debuted in 2007.

The role earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2008.

Morse was already well established on Broadway, with two Tony nominations to his credit, when he rose to national fame at age 30 as the star of Abe Burrows and Frank Loesser’s 1961 Broadway satire of corporate life, How To Succeed…

The show won both the Pulitzer Prize and Tony for Best Musical and ran for three years.

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Morse’s bright-eyed J Pierrepont Finch was a master of corporate ruse – with a big grin – as he rose from window washer in Manhattan to titan at the company World Wide Wicket with the help of a little guidebook on office politics.

The musical’s song titles suggest the button-down, pre-feminist business world: The Company Way, a Yes Man theme song; A Secretary Is Not A Toy, a song that encourages office dalliance; Coffee Break, a tribute to caffeine; and Finch sings the anthem to himself: I Believe In You.

Finch coaxes the aging boss, played by 1920s crooner Rudy Vallee, by singing into the old man’s college fight song Grand Old Ivy.

“Imagine a collaboration between Horatio Alger and Machiavelli and you have Finch, the undaunted hero of this foray into the mercy’s chasm,” wrote the New York Times.

“As played by Robert Morse with unwavering bravura and wit, he is a rumpled, dimpled angel with a touch of Lucifer.”


Tony Award winners, left to right, James Naughton, Best Actor for City Of Angels, Maggie Smith, Best Actress for Lettice And Lovage, Tyne Daly, Best Actress for Gypsy, and Robert Morse, Best Actor for Tru, join New York on June 3, 1990 (Richard Drew/AP)

The 1967 film version of How To Succeed dropped a few songs but otherwise stayed close to the stage original.

Morse was back, as was Vallee.

But Morse’s film career largely fell through.

In 1972 he was back on Broadway – and earned another Tony nomination – for Sugar, the musical version of producer David Merrick’s Some Like It Hot.

Morse starred as Jerry, the role played by Jack Lemmon in the Billy Wilder comedy about two male musicians who dress up as women to escape murderous gangsters.

Tru, a one-man show based on Capote’s writings, revived Morse’s stage career in 1989.

“His Capote is hilarious, a sly imp who’s willing to crack a naughty joke about the Queen Mum, pinch Robert Goulet, or rave about the time he tap-dappled for Louis Armstrong. …” Associated Press drama critic Michael Kuchwara wrote in his review.

“But there is also a desperate side to Capote, and Morse rises above the pain.”

In 1993, the television version of Tru (PBS) Morse won an Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or a Special. (Meanwhile, a 1995 Broadway revival of How To Succeed … brought in another Tony for his finch, Matthew Broderick.)

TV’s Mad Men brought Morse back into the How To Succeed milieu of 1960s-style Manhattan office politics.

When Morse landed in Hollywood after his How To Succeed triumph, columnist Hedda Hopper predicted in 1963: “When Robert Morse gets on screen like he gets on stage, teenagers will scream and mothers will want to adopt him. He has an innate sense of comedy and a funny face to boot.”


Robert Morse, a cast member of Mad Men, appears at the season six premiere of the drama series in Los Angeles March 20, 2013 (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

His films included The Loved One, a 1965 black comedy about an Englishman’s encounter with Hollywood and the funeral industry, based on the satirical novel by Evelyn Waugh.

“I don’t think about whether a picture will help or hinder my career,” Morse told the Los Angeles Times while the film was in production. “I think about who I work with.”

His Lover co-stars included Jonathan Winters, John Gielgud and Tab Hunter.

Born on May 18, 1931 in Newton, Massachusetts, Morse made his Broadway debut in 1955 in The Matchmaker.

He received back-to-back Tony nominations for his next two roles: Best Supporting Actor in a Play in 1959 for Say, Darling and Best Actor in a Musical in 1960 for Take Me Along, which also starred Jackie Gleason.

Suppose Darling was a comedy about a young writer’s experiences when his novel is adapted into a Broadway show. The play was based on the creation of The Pajama Game, and Morse’s character, a “boy producer” who hated being called that, was modeled after Harold Prince, a co-producer of Pajama Game.

Looking back on his career, Morse told the New York Times in 1989, “Things are changing. I’ve never had the chance to be in a play or a film where I played a father or had a family or where I could feel or show something. The wild child in me never had a chance to grow up.”

He said he’s been successful in combating alcohol and drug abuse, but added, “I don’t think drinking has hindered my work. i did my job It was the other 22 hours that I had a problem with.”

Still, he said of his career, “I didn’t think it was going to end or not. I just kept going. One day you hear “We love you, Bobby”. The next day you do voiceovers.”

He is survived by his son Charlie and daughter Allyn.

https://www.independent.ie/style/celebrity/celebrity-news/robert-morse-two-time-tony-winning-actor-dies-aged-90-41574869.html Robert Morse, two-time Tony Award winner, dies at 90

Fry Electronics Team

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