Robert Morse, who began and ended his career with lovable spoofs of corporate America, first winning a Tony Award for his star-making turn in the 1961 Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and later overseeing the offices of Mad Men as the shoe-free sage Bertram Cooper, has died at the age of 90.
His passing was announced on Twitter by screenwriter Larry Karaszewski, who worked with Morse on The People v. O.J. Simpson. “My good pal Bobby Morse has passed away at age 90,” he wrote. “A huge talent and a beautiful spirit.” Neither the cause of death nor the date of passing has been made public.
Morse was born May 18th, 1931, in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of Charles, who managed a movie theater chain, and Mary, a pianist. After a stint in the navy, he had a one-episode run on TV drama The Secret Storm in 1954 and Goodyear Playhouse in 1955 before making his uncredited film debut in 1956’s The Proud and Profane, as a bandage-wrapped casualty of war.
After a frustratingly unproductive time in Hollywood, Morse moved to New York, where he quickly became a Broadway star. His breakthrough came as one of the comical clerks in Thornton Wilder’s classic play The Matchmaker. Just a few years later, How to Succeed in Business ran for over 1,400 performances, winning a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and seven Tony Awards, including a Best Actor trophy for Morse.
He became one of the most in-demand stage actors of his generation, though Hollywood success remained elusive. “The parts I could play they give to Jack Lemmon,” he told The Sunday News of New York in 1965.