Tony and Emmy winner Robert Morse died April 20 at the age of 90.
Morse’s son Charlie confirmed his passing to Los Angeles’ ABC affiliate via Deadline, and Morse’s death was announced on Twitter by writer/producer Larry Karaszewski, a vice president on the Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“My good pal Bobby Morse has passed away at age 90,” Karaszewski tweeted. “A huge talent and a beautiful spirit. Sending love to his son Charlie & daughter Allyn. Had so much fun hanging with Bobby over the years – filming ‘People v OJ’ and hosting so many screenings (‘How To Succeed,’ ‘Loved One,’ ‘That’s Life’).”
Morse starred in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on Broadway in 1961, winning a Tony Award. He reprised his role of ambitious window washer J. Pierrepont Finch for the 1967 film adaptation of the musical.
Morse later starred in the 1989 Truman Capote one-man stage show “Tru,” for which he won his second Tony Award. A live performance taped for PBS’ American Playhouse earned the multi-hyphenate actor an Emmy Award. Morse is one of only four actors to win top acting Tonys for play and musical, alongside Rex Harrison, Christopher Plummer, and Zero Mostel.
Morse then went on to famously portray eccentric ad salesman Bert Cooper in AMC’s “Mad Men,” for which he was nominated for five Emmy Awards over the course of the series. Morse, a Massachusetts native and Korean War veteran, iconically gave his character Bert a musical send-off on the series, singing “The Best Things in Life Are Free” in a dream sequence as he transitioned to the after-life.
During a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, Morse shared that the Broadway number was rehearsed and filmed in secret.
“We rehearsed for a few days and then just filmed it over the course of a day or so. No one else knew we were doing it,” Morse said, adding that showrunner Matthew Weiner wanted Morse to perform “from the very beginning.”
Morse added, “I was concerned, because I didn’t want it to be Bobby Morse from ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ or any of the other musicals I did on stage. You know, 30 years on Broadway and all they remember you by is ‘How to Succeed.'”
And the viral reaction to Morse’s “Mad Men” musical number was wholly unexpected.
“I had no idea what I was getting myself into. That episode was a doozy,” Morse continued. “Keep in mind, I’m 83 years old…it’s weird to see people discussing a TV show on their computers and commenting on things that have just happened on TV. You know, you expect a reaction. You expect your relatives to call. But then the show airs, the papers are calling immediately, I’m getting all these messages on my Facebook page, I’ve got press agents telling me I have 12 interviews lined up seven hours later…I mean, this is all new to me. It’s absolutely overwhelming. It’s been humbling to hear the reactions to it.”
See below for tributes to the late icon.
Robert Morse gave us the perfect way to send him off. https://t.co/3dCn5lgaIw
— Esther Zuckerman (@ezwrites) April 21, 2022
RIP Robert Morsehttps://t.co/GEU94pHJCg
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) April 21, 2022
RIP Robert Morse, who was the winsome, gleeful soul of musical theater in How To Succeed In Business, and later did a great job as Truman Capote in Tru. He radiated a wicked joy; it was impossible to watch him without instantly sharing his giddy delight pic.twitter.com/qoI5hxPDLy
— Paul Rudnick (@PaulRudnickNY) April 21, 2022
I highly recommend watching Robert Morse in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It is such a joyful performance, a hilarious film, and if you only know him from his brilliant Mad Men performance, you are in for a treat. https://t.co/QEzjvTw4oV
— Mr. Newberger (@jeremynewberger) April 21, 2022
RIP Robert Morse, who delivered one of my favourite scenes in the history of television pic.twitter.com/x1RaORWVxN
— Patrick Marlborough (@Cormac_McCafe) April 21, 2022
My good pal Bobby Morse has passed away at age 90. A huge talent and a beautiful spirit. Sending love to his son Charlie & daughter Allyn. Had so much fun hanging with Bobby over the years – filming People v OJ & hosting so many screenings (How To Succeed, Loved One, That’s Life) pic.twitter.com/H1vCD3jjul
— Larry Karaszewski (@Karaszewski) April 21, 2022