Robert Morley


Biography of Robert Morley

Robert Adolph Wilton Morley (26 May 1908 – 3 June 1992) was an English actor who, often in supporting roles, was usually cast as a pompous English gentleman representing the Establishment. In Movie Encyclopedia, film critic Leonard Maltin describes Morley as "recognisable by his ungainly bulk, bushy eyebrows, thick lips and double chin, [...] particularly effective when cast as a pompous windbag". More politely, Ephraim Katz in his International Film Encyclopaedia describes Morley as a "a rotund, triple-chinned, delightful character player of the British and American stage and screen."

Morley made his West End stage debut in 1929 in Treasure Island at the Strand Theatre and his Broadway debut in 1938 in the title role of Oscar Wilde at the Fulton Theatre. Although soon won over to the big screen, Morley remained both a busy West End star and successful author, as well as tirelessly touring.

A versatile actor, especially in his younger years, he played roles as divergent as those of Louis XVI, for which he received an Academy Award Nomination as Best Supporting Actor (Marie Antoinette 1938). He gave powerful performances in the (1960) filmOscar Wilde and as a missionary in The African Queen (1951), but did not receive Oscar nominations for either.

As a playwright he co-wrote and adapted several plays for the stage, having outstanding success in London and New York with Edward, My Son, a gripping family drama written in 1947 (with Noel Langley) in which he played the central role of Arnold Holt. But the disappointing film version, directed by George Cukor at MGM Elstree in 1949, instead starred the miscast Spencer Tracy, who turned Holt, an unscrupulous English businessman, into a blustering Canadian expatriate. His 1937 play Goodness, How Sad was turned into a 1940 Ealing Studios film Return to Yesterday directed by Robert Stevenson.

Morley also personified the conservative Englishman in many comedy and caper films. He was also the face of BOAC (later British Airways) in television commercials of the 1970s. British Airways: 'We'll take more care of you'. Later in his career, he received critical acclaim and numerous accolades for his performance in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?. Renowned for repartee and for being an eloquent conversationalist, Morley gained the epitheton of being a "wit".

He narrated the Chuck Jones award-winning 1965 cartoon The Dot and the Line, a 10-minute animated short film for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Morley was honoured by being the first King of Moomba appointed by the Melbourne Moomba festival committee and, in typical humility, he accepted the crown in bare feet. Morley was in Australia touring his one-man show, The Sound of Morley.

In his book British Film Character Actors, Terence Pettigrew wrote 'Morley, who has more wobbly chins than a Shanghai drinking club, enjoys poking fun at life's absurdities, among whom he generously includes himself.'

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