Impish, gap-toothed American comic actor and singer Robert Morse (b. Newton, MA, May 18, 1931) is acclaimed for his performances on Broadway, in both plays and musicals. He won a Theatre World Award and a Tony® nomination for his second appearance on Broadway in Say, Darling (1958), and won two Tonys®, the first in 1962 for Best Actor in a Musical (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), the second in 1990 for Best Actor in a Play (Tru). He has also appeared in about fourteen feature films, several films made for television, and numerous episodes of series shows, winning a 1993 Emmy Award® as Best Actor in a Miniseries or Special for his portrayal of Tru on American Playhouse on PBS.
Robert Alan Morse served in the US Navy during the Korean War, and first broke into television upon his return in 1954, in the original cast of the daytime soap opera The Secret Storm. After a few more little TV roles (and a film appearance as a “casualty”), in 1955 twenty-four-year-old Morse was cast as the adorable apprentice Barnaby Tucker in the original Broadway production of The Matchmaker with Ruth Gordon. After a 486-performance run, it was immediately made into a film (1958), with Morse reprising his role, this time opposite Shirley Booth. Hot on its heels, a musical, Say, Darling (1958), won Morse his first Broadway awards (a Tony® nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play) and increasing popularity. An even more successful musical, Take Me Along (1959) followed, with another Tony® nomination for Morse. Finally, his performance as J. Pierrepont Finch (singing “I Believe in You” to himself in a mirror) in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961) brought him the Tony Award® – and a Pulitzer Prize for Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows. Again Robert Morse repeated his performance on film (1967).
Meanwhile, he had plunged into the world of film with The Cardinal (1963), Honeymoon Hotel (1964), Quick, Before It Melts (1964), the macabre comedy The Loved One (1965), A Guide for the Married Man (1967) with Walter Matthau, and Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad (1967). In 1968, he starred with Doris Day in Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? and on television in That’s Life, a musical variety show nominated for an Emmy®.
Morse returned briefly to Broadway in the early ’70s, first in the original Broadway cast of Sugar (1972) (an adaptation of Some Like It Hot) which gained him another Tony® nomination, then in a very short-lived flop called So Long, 174th Street (1976), after which he was absent from Broadway for thirteen years.
Even during his most successful years on Broadway, Morse had made episodic appearances on TV – in Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1959), Play of the Week (1960), Naked City (1961), Car 54 Where Are You? (1962), and the like. During the late ’70s and ’80s he guested on series television more often: 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 (1985), and The Twilight Zone (1985). He branched out into doing voices for animated films, most memorably for the character Howler in all twenty-six episodes of the Saturday morning Hanna-Barbera cartoon series Pound Puppies (1986–87).
On Broadway again in 1989, Robert Morse won a Tony® for Best Actor in a Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One Person Show for his portrayal of Truman Capote in Tru (1989). He played the role of The Wizard in Wicked in San Francisco in 2002, but before the show opened on Broadway he had been replaced by Joel Grey.
Morse took on a regular television role in 2007 as Bertram Cooper in the AMC dramatic series Mad Men, for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award® as Outstanding Guest Actor in 2008. On behalf of the entire cast, he accepted the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance By An Ensemble in a Drama Series in January 2009.
Morse has been married three times and has five children.