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Howard Morris

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Howard Morris (1919-2005) was a comic actor, director, writer, producer, and voice actor. Perhaps his most prolific work was in animation, which included voicing Jughead Jones in the Filmation Archie series and in a spot on Sesame Street.

Morris' best known on-camera role was deranged rock-throwing hillbilly Ernest T. Bass in five episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, and he became a notable director in TV and occasionally in movies. In 1967, he was one of the directors approached to helm Jim Henson's TV movie concept Moki, about an androgynous man mistaken for a woman. Morris response to Bernie Brillstein was a polite refusal: "This guy Henson's obviously got a nutty visual mind, [but] this story scares the bejesus out of me. It's not exactly dirty—it just ain't quite clean...the guy is very talented and it's a funny idea, but I guess I'm just old fashioned."[1]

Morris began his acting career during World War II, appearing in army productions of Shakespeare tragedies, where he first met Carl Reiner. Post war, both Morris and Reiner became staff writers and performers on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows; Morris' notable roles included a member of the rock trio The Crewcuts and, in one well-known sketch, the hysterical Uncle Goopy, who appears on a reunion show, affectionately latches onto Caesar's leg and refuses to let go. From there, he went on to appear on such series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Make Room for Daddy, and even the 1967 Tarzan TV series. Morris also directed episodes of Andy Griffith Show, as well as The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Hogan's Heroes, and the pilot for Get Smart. In films, he helmed Who's Minding the Mint (with Milton Berle), With Six You Get Egg Roll, and The Cocoanuts (with Donny Osmond and Marie Osmond). He also produced the short-lived 1972 TV series The Corner Bar.

In films, Morris played Jerry Lewis' sad-sack father in The Nutty Professor and also had roles in 1960s comedies like Forty-Pounds of Trouble and Boys' Night Out with Tony Randall. Later on, Morris appeared on-camera in films directed by old colleagues like Andy Griffith Show alum Ron Howard's Splash (as a professor) and several films from Your Show of Shows writer Mel Brooks (High Anxiety, History of the World: Part I, and Life Stinks).

Morris' voice roles included playing Beetle Bailey in the 1960s King Features animated series and he was heard in the Oscar-winning short film Munro. Morris originated the part of Gopher in Disney's Winnie the Pooh featurettes and was a favorite of Hanna-Barbera Studios, with turns as rock star Jet Screamer in The Jetsons, many roles in The Flintstones, Mr. Peebles in Magilla Gorilla, and the original voice of Atom Ant, until the actor told Joseph Barbera to perform an "anatomically impossible" task[2], and was replaced by Don Messick. He was the original voice of Hamburglar for McDonald's commercials, which he often directed. His last roles included guest spots on Baywatch and an appearance on the 2004 TV Land Awards.

Sources

  1. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones (page 128)
  2. Tribute by Mark Evanier

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