Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Barry Morse R.I.P.

Barry Morse, who played Lt. Gerard on The Fugitive and Dr. Bergman on Space 1999, passed on Saturday at the age of 89.

Morse was born in the East End of London on June 10, 1918. By age 15 he had dropped out of school and was working as an errand boy when he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He appeared in his first play as a professional actor, in If I Were King, before he had even graduated. After graduation he toured with various companies, making his debut on London's West End in School for Slavery in 1941. Morse played in such West End productions as The Assassin, A Bullet in the Ballet, Crisis in Heaven, and Escort. Morse also had a career in radio, starring as Paul Temple in the radio show Send for Paul Temple Again among many other shows.

In 1942 Morse made his film debut in a part in The Goose Steps Out. Over the next few years he would appear in such films as Thunder Rock, Late at Night, Mrs. Fitzherbert (where he played Beau Brummell), Daughter of Darkness, and No Trace. In the early Fifties Morse and his family moved to Canada. There he wrote, produced, and narrated the CBC radio series A Touch of Greasepaint. Morse also appeared so frequently on Canadian television that one critic in the Fifties called him "...the test pattern for the CBC."

While Morse appeared on stage, in movies, and on radio, it is probably from television that most viewers know him. In the Fifties he was the host of the Canadian show Haunted Studio and appeared other Canadian shows such as On Camera and Hudson's Bay. In the United States he appeared on Playhouse 90 and The Dupont Show of the Month. In the Sixties his television career would flourish. He was the star of the Canadian series Presenting Barry Morse and appeared in such shows as Way Out (the infamous anthology series based on the stories of Roald Dahl), The U.S. Steel Hour, The Twilight Zone, Sir Francis Drake, The Untouchables, and The Invaders. IT was in the Sixties that he would be cast what may be his best known role. Morse played Lt. Philip Morse, the police officer who pursued wrongly convicted Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. Although the character only appeared in 37 episodes, he made a big impression on viewers.

The Seventies saw Morse play major roles in three British series. The first was The Adventurer, in which he played Mr. Parminter, the man in charge of secret agent Gene Bradley (played by Gene Barry). He also played the role of Alec 'The Tiger' Marlowe in The Zoo Gang. Perhaps his best known television role was that of Professor Victor Bergman in one season of the cult series Space 1999. From the Eighties to the Naughts Morse worked less in television than he earlier had, although he appeared in such miniseries and telefilms as The Martian Chronicles, The Winds of War, Hoover vs. the Kennedys: The Second Civil War, and Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story.

Of course, Morse continued to appear in movies throughout his career. In the Sixties he appeared in such films as Lord Durham, Kings of the Sun, and Justine. In the Seventies he appeared in such films as The Telephone Book, Running Scared, Welcome to Blood City, and The Shape of Things to Come. From the Eighties into the Naughts he appeared in such films as The Changeling, Murder by Phone, Memory Run, and Taxman.

Morse also had a flourishing stage career. Besides appearing on the West End, he also appeared on Broadway. He appeared in Hide and Seek (1957) and Hadrian VII (1969). He directed the play Staircase in 1968.

It is a measure of the talent of Barry Morse that most Americans probably did not realise he was a Cockney who spent most of his life in Canada. Particularly in the Sixties, most English actors found themselves playing English caricatures (examples are Sam's father Maurice on Bewitched and Colonel Crittendon on Hogan's Heroes), Morse was playing the very American Lt. Gerard on The Fugitive. Beyond the determined police lieutenant, Morse played a variety of roles on American television, ranging from a devious Frenchman on The Untouchables to a Martian on The Outer Limits. Indeed, there is perhaps no greater proof of Morse's talent than the fact that he is remembered so well as Lt. Gerard on The Fugitive, even though he only appeared in a minority of the show's episodes. There can be no doubt that he will be rememberd for a long time.

1 comment:

d. chedwick bryant said...

Found his photo, but I really don't remember him, unless he was in a Twilight Zone where e played a negative character.