Robert Morse is a well-known American actor and singer who is best known for his performances in Broadway musicals and plays. Morse was born and raised in Newton, Massachusetts. When he was studying at Newton High School, he met Henry Lasker, a drama teacher, who became his inspiration. After graduating from high school, Morse went to New York City to pursue a career in acting. There, he joined his older brother Richard who was studying acting at the renowned academy ‘Neighborhood Playhouse’. After auditioning for a few roles, Morse made his stage debut in the musical ‘On the Town’ (1944 – 1946). Almost a decade later, he started working in films and television shows as well. His was first seen on TV in 1994 in the soap opera ‘The Secret Storm’, while his first film role came two years later, in ‘The Proud and Profane’ (1956). Despite intermittently working as a screen actor, Morse remained committed to Broadway, winning many awards for his performances in musicals. While he has a number of remarkable stage performances to his credit, most of them are from the 1960s, his best-known role remains his portrayal of the ever-ambitious J. Pierpont Finch in ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ (musical).
Childhood & Early Life
Robert Alan Morse was born in Newton, Massachusetts on May 18, 1931. He was the second child of Charles Morse, an assistant manager at a record store, and Mary Silver.
In his childhood, Morse attended many schools, and It was his Newton High School drama teacher Henry Lasker who inspired him to take up acting professionally.
He went to New York City after his high school graduation to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional actor. He joined his older brother Richard who was already in New York, studying acting in ‘Neighborhood Playhouse’.
Morse served in the United States Navy during the Korean War. He became a screen actor in 1954, initially playing many small roles in films and on TV.
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Robert Morse made his debut stage appearance in ‘On The Town’, sometime between 1944 and 1946. ‘The Proud and Profane’ (1956) was his first film, but it was a commercial failure.
His performance as Barnaby Tucker in the Broadway production of ‘The Matchmaker’ was highly appreciated by the critics. The play also proved to be a great success and was immediately adapted into a film (1958), which saw Morse reprising his role in it.
Some of his most notable Broadway performances are ‘Say, Darling’ (1958), ‘Take Me Along’ (1959), ‘Some Like it Hot’ (1959), ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ (1961), and ‘Sugar’ (1972).
Morse entered the world of cinema with ‘The Proud and Profane’ in 1956, and followed it up by working in ‘The Cardinal’ (1963), ‘Honeymoon Hotel’ (1964), ‘The Loved One’ (1965), ‘A Guide for the Married Man’ (1967), ‘Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad’ (1967), ‘Where Were You When the Lights Went Out’ (1968), ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ (1967), ‘Hunk’ (1987), and ‘The Emperor's New Clothes’ (1987).
Morse made very few Broadway appearances in the 1970s, and was only seen in ‘Sugar’ (1972) and ‘So long, 174th Street’ (1976). Around this time, he took a break from Broadway for some years. He returned to stage with ‘Light up the Sky’ (1986), ‘Mike’ (1988) and ‘Tru’ (1989 - 90).
When he was enjoying a very successful run on Broadway, he started making appearances on television as well. Some of his TV roles include ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ (1959), ‘Play of the Week’ (1959 - 1960), ‘Naked City’ (1961), ‘Car 54, Where Are You’ (1964), ‘That's Life’ (1968), ‘Love, American Style’ (1971 - 74), ‘Fantasy Island’ (1978), ‘All My Children’ (1982), ‘One Day at a Time’ (1983), ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ (1984), ‘Murder, She Wrote’ (1985), ‘Trapper John, M.D.’ (1985), ‘The Twilight Zone’ (1985) and ‘Mad Men’ (2007).
Morse also did voice acting in animated films, and his most memorable performance was in the Hanna Barbara series ‘Pound Puppies’ between 1986 and 1987.
Robert Morse was cast as Barnaby Tucker, an adorable apprentice, in ‘The Matchmaker’ (1958), an original Broadway production. It was a huge success and after a 486-performance run, it was adapted into a film in 1958, with Morse again being cast as Barnaby Tucker.
He played the ever-ambitious J. Pierpont Finch in the musical ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’, singing his signature song ‘I Believe in You’ while looking at himself in the mirror. He repeated his performance when the play was made into a film in 1967.
Morse appeared in ‘Tru’ (1989), playing the role of Truman Capote. This was a perfect role for Morse as his character Truman shared many similarities with his real-life persona.
Family & Personal Life
Robert Morse married Carole D’Andrea on April 8, 1961. They had three daughters together: Andrea Morse, Hilary Morse and Robin Morse. Morse divorced Carole in 1981.
His daughters Robin and Hilary are actresses; while Andrea Morse only acted until the age of 25. After that, she quit acting and started working in Tom Cruise's company.
Morse married Elizabeth Roberts in 1989. They have a daughter, Allyn Elizabeth, and a son, Charles Robert.
In his prime, Robert Morse was known to be an energetic and eccentric character with an impish gap-toothed grin. He was reportedly quite difficult to deal with on the sets.
Morse was good at essaying all types of roles, ranging from bizarre to irritating to frenzied and fascinating.