Legendary actor Robert Morse has died. The star of Broadway, television, and film had an illustrious career that stretched over an astonishing seven decades. He is likely best known to modern audiences for his role as Bertram “Bert” Cooper in the hit AMC period piece drama Mad Men; his recurring role as the deceptively soft-spoken, ruthless senior partner at Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency was a highlight of the show. Before he portrayed that character on one of the breakout prestige series of the early 2000s, he was already an accomplished actor with innumerable award nominations and wins under his belt. Robert Morse’s death was reported by his son to news outlets. The actor was 90 years old, and his cause of death has not yet been disclosed.
Robert Morse was born in Newton, Massachusetts, and already has his career ambition to become an actor by the time he was in high school. He served in the Korean War in the U.S. Navy, and then moved to New York City to join his older brother, who was studying at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse. At some point during this period, he studied under legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg. He made his Broadway debut in 1955 in The Matchmaker; the Thornton Wilder play would later go on to be adapted as the more famous musical Hello Dolly. While Morse had already made his film debut in an uncredited part in a William Holden-Deborah Karr picture, he later starred in the film version of The Matchmaker with Shirley Booth.
He would achieve his next level of success in the starring role of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Robert MOrse portrayed J. Pierrepont Finch, a slyly ambitious window-washer who manages to climb the corporate ladder to its heights through underhanded means, while still remaining a more charming and likable character than the business tycoons he swindles. The musical was based on a satirical novel of the same name by Shephard Mead, and was an immediate success. It ran for nearly 1,500 performances in its original and won seven Tony Awards (in addition to the Pulitzer and New York Drama Critics’ Circle award). Robert Morse himself won the first of his two Tony Awards for Best Performance by a Leading Actor and would star in the 1967 film adaptation.
Robert Morse would star in numerous films, dozens of television programs, and theatrical productions throughout his career. He would win his second Tony for portraying author Truman Capote in the one-man show Tru, which he also reprised in an Emmy-winning television adaptation. In addition to his fan-favorite performance on Mad Men, Morse would continue to perform in many varied roles like voicing Santa Claus on multiple episodes of Teen Titans Go! and real-life journalist Dominick Dunne on FX’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Morse leaves behind an enormous and influential body of work, and we are all the better for his career. Rest in peace, Robert Morse.