As someone who is both a huge Mad Men fan, and a person who will always without fail start singing “The Company Way” whenever a fish sandwich is mentioned, this one hits pretty hard. Robert Morse, known to Broadway people as J. Pierrepont Finch, to TV people as Bert Cooper, and to record-playing kids of the 70s and 80s as Dudley Pippin, died yesterday at the age of 90.
Deadline reports Robert died in Los Angeles. His death was confirmed by his son Charlie and was announced formally on social media by Larry Karaszewski, a writer, producer and VP 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 wrote. “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).”
Information regarding Robert Morse’s death, like the cause of death, hasn’t been made available at this time. He leaves behind his wife of 33 years Elizabeth Roberts, and five children.
Robert Morse started doing drama in high school and upon graduation, he moved from his birthplace in Massachusetts to New York City. He immediately landed roles in film and in theater early in his 20s, like in The Proud and the Profane, and The Matchmaker on Broadway. Arguably the role that truly made him a household name (at least in musical theater circles) was starring as J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He also reprised the role when it was eventually adapted into a film. How to Succeed is entirely too serendipitous of a title, because Robert really did achieve an astounding amount of success after appearing in that show. After being nominated twice previously for Tony Awards for Say, Darling and Take Me Along, he finally won his first from How to Succeed. He would go on to be nominated for two more Tonys, winning his second in 1990 for playing Truman Capote in the play Tru (he also won a Primetime Emmy in 1993 for the same role when the play was recreated for the PBS series American Playhouse). And as mentioned earlier above, if you’re a kid who ever listened to the iconic self-esteem-boosting Marlo Thomas album Free to Be…You and Me, then you’ll recognize Robert Morse appearing in two acts as the friendless Dudley Pippin.
Robert Morse worked steadily throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, like starring in the ABC series That’s Life, and appearing in just about every random TV series from Fantasy Island to Murder, She Wrote, to All My Children. Then in 2007, Robert Morse experienced the career resurgence of all career resurgences when at 75 years old he was cast as the eccentric old bowtied advertising coot Bertram Cooper in Mad Men. Robert’s Bert is forever etched into my brain, thanks to many of Bert’s notable quotes, the most usable of which being the exasperated “Mr. Campbell, who cares?“. It’s a one-size fits all insult, even if the person you’re muttering it to isn’t named Pete Campbell. Robert was nominated five times for a Primetime Emmy for his role on Mad Men, but only one won award for it (a SAG for Outstanding Ensemble). And if you watched American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, then you’ll likely remember the very accurate casting of Robert as American journalist Dominick Dunne.
Robert Morse also has the unique distinction of providing his own perfectly-directed exit from this world. In the Season 7 episode of Mad Men, “Waterloo,” Bert (SPOILER) dies, but later appears to Don Draper as a ghost, and leaves the office for good with a spooky little performance of “The Best Things in Life Are Free” from the musical Good News. Robert Morse would probably be okay with Jon Hamm in the shot too, but only because Jon couldn’t steal a single moment of focus from Robert’s perfect shoe-less performance.
Rest in peace, Robert Morse.