Robert Xavier Morse (born May 18, 1931) is an American actor and singer. Morse is best known for his appearances in musicals andplays on Broadway. He has also acted in movies and television shows. His best known role is that of J. Pierrepont Finch in the 1961 Broadway musical and 1967 film How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He currently plays the recurring role of Bertram Cooper on the AMC television show Mad Men.
Morse was born on May 18, 1931 in Newton, Massachusetts at St. Mary's General Hospital. He was the second of Joseph Xavier's and Edna Morse's eight children and mostly raised in Boston, Massachusetts his family having moved there when he was one. He was ten when his father died in a car accident, and his mother, who suffered a nervous breakdown afterwards, was committed to a mental institution in Florida. Therefore, young Robert and his siblings were forced to live with their maternal grandparents, John and Nancy Porter, in Cambridge. Around this time, unable to escape the stresses in his life, Morse would regularly pay trips to the movie theater, seeing the new movies of the day and quickly developing idols like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Leslie Howard,Orson Welles, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, while Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston and Billy Wilder were his favorite directors. Beginning at age thirteen, he began appearing in school productions such as Romeo and Juliet, When Christopher Columbus Discovered America and The Dark Alleys of New York. It was also around age thirteen that he declared his plans to become an actor and hoped that nothing would stand in his way. He graduated from high school in 1949 and spent the next year working as a ditch digger, newspaper deliveryman, waiter, drugstore clerk and bodybuilder before joining the Navy and being sent off to fight in Korea in 1950. After serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, Morse appeared on Broadway as an actor.
He created the role of Barnaby in The Matchmaker on Broadway in 1955 opposite Ruth Gordon and reprised the role in the 1958 film adaptation of The Matchmaker, this time opposite Shirley Booth. That same year, he won the Theatre World Award and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for Say, Darling. Morse had to lobby David Merrick for a role in Take Me Along, as there was a question as to whether he could, at 28, play a convincing 16 year old; he could and did. What was considered the final step toward full stardom was his performance as J. Pierrepont Finch in the Pulitzer Prize-winning How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It won him the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical in 1962. He also starred in the 1967 movie version.
In 1964, Morse co-starred in the comedy film Quick, Before It Melts. In 1965, Morse appeared in the black comedy film The Loved One, a movie based on the Evelyn Waugh novel of the same name that satirized the funeral business in Los Angeles, in particular the Forest Lawn Cemetery. In 1967, he co-starred in A Guide for the Married Man, oppositeWalter Matthau. In 1968, he appeared in the comedy Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? opposite Doris Day. In the same year, he appeared in the 1968 television seriesThat's Life, which attempted to blend the musical genre with a situation comedy centered on newlyweds "Robert" and "Gloria" (played by E. J. Peaker).
Morse was in the original Broadway cast of Sugar, a 1972 musical stage adaptation of Some Like It Hot, for which he was nominated for another Tony. He won a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show for his portrayal of Truman Capote in Tru (1989). In 1992, he recreated his performance for the PBS series American Playhouse and won the Emmy Award as Best Actor in a Miniseries or Special. In 2002, Morse was cast in the role of the Wizard of Oz in the San Francisco run of the musical Wicked, but quit the show before it opened on Broadway. He was replaced by Joel Grey.
Morse joined other performers, including Marlo Thomas, in creating the 1972 Free to Be... You and Me children's album.
He also provided the voice for the cartoon character Howler in Hanna Barbera's Pound Puppies. Another famous role he played was Jack in the 1979 animated Rankin/Bass specialJack Frost. In The First Easter Rabbit, also by Rankin/Bass, he was the voice of the main character, Stuffy.
Morse has appeared in numerous TV shows, beginning in 1955 with the soap opera The Secret Storm and including mysteries, comedies, and variety shows. He appeared as Boss Hogg's devious nephew, Dewey Hogg, in The Dukes Of Hazzard sixth season episode "How to Succeed in Hazzard" (1984). He had featured roles in the 1993 miniseries Wild Palms and the 2000 medical drama City of Angels. In 1995, Morse portrayed Grandpa in the Fox telefilm Here Come the Munsters.
Beginning in 2007, Morse took on a recurring role in the AMC dramatic series Mad Men as Bertram Cooper, a partner in the advertising agency Sterling Cooper, for which role he was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding guest actor in 2008, 2010 and again in 2011.
Morse has been married twice and has five children.