Howard Jerome Morris
September 4, 1919
|Died||May 21, 2005 (aged 85)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Hillside Memorial Park|
|Other names||Howie Morris|
Mary Helen McGowan
(m. 1945; div. 1962)
Dolores A. Wylie
(m. 1962; div. 1977)
Howard Jerome Morris (September 4, 1919 – May 21, 2005) was an American actor, comedian, and director. He was best known for his role in The Andy Griffith Show as Ernest T. Bass, and as "Uncle Goopy" in a celebrated comedy sketch on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows (1954). He also did some voices for television shows such as The Flintstones (1962-1965), The Jetsons (1962-1987), The Atom Ant Show (1965-1966), and Garfield and Friends (1988-1994).
Morris was born to a Jewish family in the Bronx, New York, the son of Hugo and Elsie (née Theobald) Morris. His father was a rubber company executive. Morris attended New York University on a dramatic arts scholarship. During World War II, Howard was assigned to a United States Army Special Services unit where he was the First Sergeant. Maurice Evans was the company commander and Carl Reiner and Werner Klemperer were soldiers in the unit. Based in Honolulu, the unit entertained American troops throughout the Pacific.
He came to prominence in appearances on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows (a live sketch comedy series appearing weekly in the United States, from 1950 to 1954). In April 1954, Morris joined Caesar and Carl Reiner in "This Is Your Story," an 11-minute takeoff on Ralph Edwards's This Is Your Life. Morris claimed it was his favorite sketch role. As The New Yorker's David Margolick wrote in 2014,
Though the competition is stiff, many feel that this sketch is the funniest that “Your Show of Shows” ever did . . . . That night nearly sixty years ago, the show produced what is probably the longest and loudest burst of laughter—genuine laughter, neither piped in nor prompted—in the history of television.
Never afraid to have talented people around him, Caesar is actually upstaged here by his second second banana (that is, after Reiner): Howard Morris, who plays Duncey’s long-lost Uncle Goopy, who, overcome with emotion, repeatedly clings to and slobbers over his favorite nephew. Shamelessly milking the moment, Morris throws in all sorts of extra embraces, even clinging to his leg as a lumbering Caesar drags him to the couch. It was a dangerous thing to do, but evidently Morris felt he could do it.
 This opinion is shared by The New York Times  and Hollywood.com, among others. Conan O'Brien tweeted in 2014, "Saw this Sid Caesar sketch when I was a kid. It made me want to make people laugh." Billy Crystal later called it a defining early influence: "That's how I used to go to bed. I'd grab my dad's leg, and he'd drag me to bed like Sid Caesar." The sketch can be viewed here, Morris enters at the 4:14 mark.
Morris also appeared twice in 1957 in episodes of the short-lived NBC comedy/variety show The Polly Bergen Show.
Although Morris was a classically trained Shakespearean actor, he is best remembered for playing the wily and over-the-top mountain man character Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show. Also, he played George, the TV mechanic in the episode, "Andy and Helen Have Their Day." He had lampooned southern accents while in the army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He starred in one of the more comical early hour-long Twilight Zone episodes, "I Dream of Genie." Other roles included that of Elmer Kelp in The Nutty Professor, a movie studio clerk in the short film Star Spangled Salesman, and an art appraiser in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. He also had appeared in several Broadway shows including the highly regarded 1960 revival of Finian's Rainbow as Og the leprechaun opposite Bobby Howes as Finian. He played the role of Schmidlap in Way... Way Out and appeared in the movie, Boys' Night Out (1962) starring Tony Randall, Kim Novak and James Garner.
Morris was first heard in animated cartoons in the early 1960s. He and Allan Melvin teamed up for a 50-episode King Features Syndicate series, Beetle Bailey, for which he and Melvin also wrote a number of episodes. He also provided the voices for Gene Deitch's Academy Award-winning Munro, about a four-year-old boy who was drafted into the Army.
Beginning in 1962, Morris played a variety of voices in many Hanna-Barbera series including The Jetsons as Jet Screamer who sang the "Eep opp ork ah ah!" song, (said to be Morris' first work for Hanna-Barbera) and The Flintstones. He was the original voice of Atom Ant and provided the voice of Mr. Peebles in The Magilla Gorilla Show, teaming up again with Allan Melvin who performed the voice for Magilla. In another series, Morris was heard as the voice of Breezly Bruin which was similar in tone with the Bill Scott vocalization of Bullwinkle. Morris had a disagreement with Joseph Barbera prior to production of the 1966–1967 season of Magilla Gorilla and Atom Ant and all of his voices were recast, mostly using Don Messick. Years later, the two men reconciled and Morris was back doing those voices and others. He also lent his voice to Forsythe "Jughead" Jones on Filmation's series The Archies through the life of the franchise, 1968–1977. Moreover, he was the voice of Leonard Blush, "The Masked Singer" - he had a skin condition - as well as the regular voice of the Mount Pilot radio station's host on The Andy Griffith Show.
Morris also voiced the characters Professor Icenstein and Luigi La Bounci in the animated series Galaxy High. He voiced Mayor McCheese and later the Hamburglar (taking over for Larry Storch in 1986) in McDonaldland ad campaign for McDonald's, which Morris also directed. He provided the voice of Wade Duck in the U.S. Acres segments of Garfield and Friends, and voiced Webbly in Bobby's World and Flem in Cow & Chicken. Morris supplied the voice of the koala in TV commercials for Qantas from 1967 through 1992 (saying the tagline, "I hate Qantas"), and voiced the character of Gopher in the Disney featurettes Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree and Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Also in 1989, he voiced a French gangster cat named Monte De Zar (Fat Cat's Cousin) in an episode of Disney's Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Le Purrfect Crime".
While Morris continued to make himself available for voice and sound effect roles, he also began a new career in voice directing. Among the projects he directed are Police Academy, Richie Rich, Bionic Six, Goin' Coconuts, Pole Position, Galaxy High, The Snorks, The Mighty Orbots, Rose Petal Place, The Dogfather, Dragon's Lair, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, Turbo Teen, Cabbage Patch Kids: First Christmas, Little Clowns of Happytown, The Little Wizards, Space Stars and Kidd Video.
Morris directed some episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, Hogan's Heroes, The Dick Van Dyke Show, the black and white pilot episode of Get Smart and later, episodes of One Day at a Time, Bewitched, and single episodes of many other comedy shows.
Morris also directed Doris Day in her final film, With Six You Get Eggroll (1968). Other films he directed were Don't Drink the Water (1969) and Who's Minding the Mint? (1967).
Mel Brooks occasionally cast Morris in his films. For example, he played Brooks' mentor psychiatrist Dr. Lilloman in the comedy High Anxiety (1977), the emperor's court spokesman ("Here, wash this!") in History of the World, Part I (1981), and played a bum named Sailor living in the streets in Life Stinks (1991).
In 1984, he played Dr. Zidell in Splash, a film directed by Ron Howard (the two had first worked together on The Andy Griffith Show). He worked with his old friend and trouping partner Sid Caesar as nervous Jewish tailors in the 1998 movie of Ray Bradbury's The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.
In 1986, he reprised his famous role as Ernest T. Bass in the high-rated television movie Return to Mayberry.
In 1989, he guest starred on Murder, She Wrote.
From 1997 to 1999, he played Flem on Cow and Chicken.
Morris was married and divorced five times. He was first married to Mary Helen McGowan from 1945 to 1962. He married his second wife Dolores A. Wylie later in 1962; the marriage lasted until 1977 when they divorced. Throughout his marriages, he had three daughters and a son, along with three grandchildren.
On May 21, 2005, Morris died of congestive heart failure, at the age of 85. At his funeral, the "Uncle Goopy" sketch was shown; among the eulogizers was Carl Reiner, who praised Morris's ability to improvise. He is entombed in Laurel Gardens Wall crypt at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.