Robert Morse, the Tony-winning Broadway star of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying who got a late-career boost thanks to his role as Bertram Cooper on AMC’s Mad Men, has died. Morse’s death was confirmed by his friend producer Larry Karaszewski (via Variety), who referred to him as a “huge talent and a beautiful spirit.” Morse was 90.
Born in Massachusetts in 1931, Morse wanted to be an actor from a young age and moved to New York City after graduating high school. He studied acting with his brother at the Neighborhood Playhouse and got his first onstage acting role in a 1949 production of Our Town. He made it to Broadway in 1955, appearing in Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker—the play that would later be adapted into the musical Hello, Dolly!—and his first properly credited movie role was in the 1958 film adaptation of the play.
Morse got his first Tony nomination a year after that, for Best Featured Actor In A Play, for his work in the comedy Say, Darling. He was also nominated the year after that for Take Me Along, and in 1962 he won the Best Actor In A Musical award for How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. The musical, which is about a window washer with grander career aspirations, originally ran on Broadway for four years and got a movie adaptation in 1967.
After starring in the musicals Sugar, based on Some Like It Hot, and So Long, 174th Street, Morse’s Broadway career stalled. He returned to the stage in 1989 to star in the one-man show Tru about Truman Capote, winning his second Tony in the process and later picking up an Emmy for his performance in PBS’ American Playhouse adaptation of the show.
It would be his only Emmy win, but Morse landed nearly a half-dozen additional nominations thanks to his work on Mad Men as Bert Cooper, the (seemingly) eccentric senior parter at the Sterling Cooper advertising agency. Though he didn’t win any Emmys for the memorable role, he (along with the rest of the cast) did get the Outstanding Ensemble In A Dram Series trophy at the 2011 Screen Actors Guild awards. Bert Cooper died in the show’s seventh season while watching the moon landing, later reappearing to Jon Hamm’s Don Draper in a vision where he sang and danced to “The Best Things In Life Are Free” (giving Morse a chance to resurrect his old Broadway talents).
Morse, whose final role was as the villainous incarnation of Santa Claus on Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans Go!, is survived by his wife and five children.