Robert Morley: English actor (1908 - 1992) | Biography, Filmography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Robert Morley
English actor

Robert Morley

Robert Morley
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro English actor
A.K.A. Robert Adolf Wilton Morley
Was Actor Screenwriter Writer Stage actor Film actor
From United Kingdom
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature
Gender male
Birth 26 May 1908, Semley, United Kingdom
Death 3 June 1992, Reading, United Kingdom (aged 84 years)
Star sign Gemini
Children: Sheridan Morley
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (-1928)
Wellington College
Elizabeth College
Commander of the Order of the British Empire  
Robert Morley
The details (from wikipedia)


Robert Adolph Wilton Morley, CBE (26 May 1908 – 3 June 1992) was an English actor who was usually cast as a pompous English gentleman representing the Establishment, often in supporting roles. 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 rotund, triple-chinned, delightful character player of the British and American stage and screen." In his autobiography, Responsible Gentleman, Morley said his stage career started with managements valuing his appearance for playing "substantial gentleman" roles — as a doctor, lawyer, accountant or other professional member of society.

Early life

Morley was born in Semley, Wiltshire, England, the son of Gertrude Emily (née Fass) and Robert Wilton Morley, a Major in the British Army. His mother came from a German family that had immigrated to South Africa. Morley attended Wellington College, Berkshire, which he hated, followed by RADA. As he was a famous "Old Wellingtonian", generations of headmasters tried to contact him, without success, with Morley stating "the only reason for me visiting Wellington would be to burn it down".


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 appearing in touring productions.

Still from the trailer for Marie Antoinette (1938)

A versatile actor, especially in his younger years, he played Louis XVI in Marie Antoinette (1938), for which he received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

As a playwright he co-wrote several plays for the stage. His 1937 play Goodness, How Sad was turned into an Ealing Studios film, Return to Yesterday (1940), directed by Robert Stevenson. Later, he had outstanding success in London and New York with Edward, My Son, a gripping family drama written in 1947 in collaboration with Noel Langley. Morley played the central role of Arnold Holt, but in the disappointing film version Spencer Tracy was miscast, turning Holt, an unscrupulous English businessman, into a blustering Canadian expatriate. Edward, My Son (1949) was directed by George Cukor for MGM-British. Morley's acting career continued with roles as a missionary in The African Queen (1951), The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (1953), as W. S. Gilbert, and in Oscar Wilde (1960). In 1959 he appeared in an Alfred Hitchcock Presents adaptation of a Stanley Ellin short story entitled, 'Specialty of the House'.

Ken Annakin's Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines was released 16 June 1965. In the British period comedy film, Morley is featured among an international ensemble cast including Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, Terry-Thomas, James Fox, Red Skelton, Benny Hill, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Gert Fröbe and Alberto Sordi. The film, revolving around the craze of early aviation circa 1910, is about a pompous newspaper magnate (Morley) who is convinced, by his daughter (Miles) and her fiancé (Fox), to organize an air race from London to Paris. A large sum of money is offered to the winner, hence it attracts a variety of characters who participate. The film received positive reviews, describing it as funny, colourful, clever and having captured the early enthusiasm for aviation. It was treated as a major production, one of only three full-length 70 mm Todd-AO Fox releases in 1965 with an intermission and musical interlude part of the original screenings. Because of the Todd-AO process, the film was an exclusive roadshow feature initially shown in deluxe Cinerama venues, where customers needed reserved seats purchased ahead of time. The film grossed $31,111,111 theatrically and on home video $29,950,000. Audience reaction both in first release and even today, is nearly universal in assessing the film as one of the "classic" aviation films.

Morley also personified the conservative Englishman in many comedy and caper films. He was the face of BOAC (later British Airways) as the merry television commercial spokesman of the 1970s with "We'll take good care of you" for British Airways. Later in his career, he received critical acclaim and numerous accolades for his performance in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?. During the 1980s, Morley hosted a celebrity cooking show on Cable TV, Celebrity Chefs. In 1980, Morley hosted (providing explanatory introductions) the 14-episode Granada Television anthology series Ladykillers.

He was renowned as a witty raconteur and for being an eloquent conversationalist.

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."

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1974 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews.

Personal life and honours

Robert Morley married Joan Buckmaster (1910–2005), a daughter of Dame Gladys Cooper. Their elder son, Sheridan Morley, became a writer and critic. They also had a daughter, Annabel, and another son, Wilton.

Morley was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1957 and was also offered a knighthood in 1975 but declined.

Morley lived for decades at Wargrave, Berkshire.


Morley died in Reading, Berkshire, from a stroke, aged 84.

Theatre career

  • First stage appearance in Dr Syn (Hippodrome, Margate, 28 May 1928)
  • First London role, a pirate in Treasure Island (Strand Theatre, Christmas 1929)
  • Touring, plus Playhouse Oxford and Festival Cambridge repertory, (1931–1933)
  • Oakes in Up in the Air (Royalty Theatre, London 1933)
  • Touring with Sir Frank Benson (1934–35)
  • Ran a repertory company with Peter Bull (Perranporth, Cornwall, 1935)
  • Title role in Oscar Wilde (Gate Theatre Studio, Villiers Street, London, 1936)
  • Alexandre Dumas in The Great Romancer (Strand Theatre and New Theatre, 1937)
  • Henry Higgins in Pygmalion (Old Vic Theatre, 1937)
  • Title role in Oscar Wilde (Fulton Theatre, New York, October 1938)
  • Title role in Springtime for Henry (Perranporth, 1939)
  • Descius Heiss in Play with Fire (try-out version of The Shop at Sly Corner, Theatre Royal, Brighton, 1941)
  • Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner (Savoy Theatre — and on tour — 1941–43)
  • Charles in Staff Dance (also wrote, touring UK, 1944)
  • Prince Regent in The First Gentleman (New Theatre and Savoy, 1945–46)
  • Arnold Holt in Edward, My Son (also co-wrote, His Majesty's Theatre, 1947; also played this role at the Martin Beck Theatre New York 1948, and in Australia and New Zealand, 1949–50)
  • Philip in The Little Hut (Lyric Theatre, 1950)
  • Hippo in Hippo Dancing (also adapted, Lyric, 1954)
  • Oswald Petersham in A Likely Tale (Globe Theatre, 1956)
  • Panisse in the musical Fanny (Drury Lane, 1956)
  • The Tunnel of Love (directed, Her Majesty's, 1957)
  • Sebastian Le Boeuf in Hook, Line and Sinker (also adapted, Piccadilly Theatre, 1958)
  • Once More, with Feeling (directed, New Theatre, 1959)
  • Mr Asano in A Majority of One (Phoenix Theatre, 1960)
  • Title role in Mr Rhodes (Theatre Royal Windsor, 1961)
  • The Bishop in A Time to Laugh (Piccadilly, 1962)
  • The Sound of Morley (One-man show, touring Australia 1966–67)
  • Sir Mallalieu Fitzbuttress in Halfway Up the Tree (Queen's Theatre, 1967)
  • Frank Foster in How the Other Half Loves (Lyric, 1970; also North America, 1972, and Australia, 1973)
  • Barnstable in A Ghost on Tiptoe (also co-wrote, Savoy, 1974)
  • Pound in Banana Ridge (Savoy, 1976)
  • Toured Robert Morley Talks to Everyone (1978)
  • Picture of Innocence (co-wrote and toured UK and Canada, 1978)
  • Hilary in Alan Bennett's The Old Country (Theatre Royal, Sydney, 1980)

Complete filmography

  • Scrooge (1935) as Rich man (uncredited)
  • Marie Antoinette (1938) as King Louis XVI
  • You Will Remember (1941) as Tom Barrett / Leslie Stuart
  • Major Barbara (1941) as Andrew Undershaft
  • The Big Blockade (1942) as German: Von Geiselbrecht
  • This Was Paris (1942) as Van Der Stuyl
  • Partners in Crime (1942, Short) as Judge (uncredited)
  • The Foreman Went to France (1942) as Mayor Coutare of Bivary
  • The Young Mr. Pitt (1942) as Charles James Fox
  • I Live in Grosvenor Square (aka A Yank in London) (1945), as Duke of Exmoor
  • The Ghosts of Berkeley Square (1947) as Gen. "Jumbo" Burlap
  • The Small Back Room (1949) (credited as "A Guest") as The Minister (uncredited)
  • Edward, My Son (1949) as Cameo (uncredited)
  • Outcast of the Islands (1951) as Elmer Almayer
  • The African Queen (1951) as Reverend Samuel Sayer
  • Curtain Up (1952) (opposite Margaret Rutherford) as Harry Derwent Blacker
  • The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (1953) as W.S. Gilbert
  • Melba (1953) as Oscar Hammerstein I
  • The Final Test (1953) as Alexander Whitehead
  • Beat the Devil (1953) as Peterson
  • The Good Die Young (1954) as Sir Francis Ravenscourt
  • The Rainbow Jacket (1954) as Lord Logan
  • Beau Brummell (1954) as King George III
  • The Adventures of Quentin Durward (1955) as Louis XI of France
  • A Likely Tale (1956, TV Movie) as Oswald Petersham / Jonah Petersham
  • Loser Takes All (1956) as Dreuther
  • Around the World in 80 Days (1956) as Gauthier Ralph
  • Fanny (1956, TV Movie) as Panisse
  • Law and Disorder (1958) as Judge Crichton
  • The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958) as Uncle Lucius
  • The Doctor's Dilemma (1959) as Sir Ralph Bloomfield-Bonington
  • The Journey (1959) as Hugh Deverill
  • Libel (1959) as Sir Wilfred
  • The Battle of the Sexes (1959) as Robert MacPherson
  • Oscar Wilde (1960) as Oscar Wilde
  • A Majority of One (1960, TV Movie) as Koichi Asano
  • The Story of Joseph and His Brethren (1961) as Potiphar
  • The Young Ones (1961) as Hamilton Black
  • Go to Blazes (1962) as Arson Eddie
  • The Road to Hong Kong (1962) as Leader of the 3rd Echelon
  • The Boys (1962) as Montgomery
  • Nine Hours to Rama (1963) as P.K. Mussadi
  • Murder at the Gallop (1963) (opposite Margaret Rutherford) as Hector Enderby
  • The Old Dark House (1963) as Roderick Femm
  • Take Her, She's Mine (1963) as Mr. Pope-Jones
  • Ladies Who Do (1963) as Colonel Whitforth
  • Hot Enough for June (1964) as Colonel Cuncliffe
  • Of Human Bondage (1964) as Dr. Jacobs
  • Rhythm 'n' Greens (1964, Short) as Narrator
  • Topkapi (1964) as Cedric Page
  • Genghis Khan (1965) as Emperor of China
  • Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965) as Lord Rawnsley
  • A Study in Terror (1965) as Mycroft Holmes
  • The Loved One (1965) as Sir Ambrose Ambercrombie
  • Life at the Top (1965) as Tiffield
  • The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (1965) as Narrator
  • The Alphabet Murders (aka The ABC Murders) (1965) as Captain Arthur Hastings
  • Treasure Island (1965, Short)
  • Tender Scoundrel (1966) as Lord Swift
  • Hotel Paradiso (1966) as Henri Cotte
  • Lucy in London (1966, TV Movie)
  • Way...Way Out (1966) as Harold Quonset
  • Finders Keepers (1966) as Colonel Roberts
  • The Trygon Factor (1966) as Hubert Hamlyn
  • Woman Times Seven (1967) as Dr. Xavier - episode "Super Simone"
  • Luther (1968 TV movie) as Pope Leo X
  • Hot Millions (1968) as Caesar Smith
  • Some Girls Do (1969) as Miss Mary
  • Sinful Davey (1969) as Duke of Argyll
  • Twinky (1969) as Judge Roxborough
  • Doctor in Trouble (1970) as Captain George Spratt
  • Cromwell (1970) as The Earl of Manchester
  • Song of Norway (1970) as Berg
  • When Eight Bells Toll (1971) as Uncle Arthur
  • Many Moons (1973, Short) as Narrator
  • Theatre of Blood (1973) as Meredith Merridew
  • Great Expectations (1974, TV Movie) as Uncle Pumblechook
  • Hugo the Hippo (1976) as The Sultan (voice)
  • The Blue Bird (1976) as Father Time
  • The Fortune Hunters (1976, TV Movie) as Mr. Justice Bosanquet
  • Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (aka Too Many Chefs) (1978) as Max Vandeveer
  • The Human Factor (1979) as Dr. Percival
  • Scavenger Hunt (1979) as Charles Bernstein
  • Tales Of The Unexpected (1980) as Harry Knox
  • Oh! Heavenly Dog (1980) as Bernie
  • Loophole (1981) as Godfrey
  • The Great Muppet Caper (1981) as British Gentlemen
  • The Deadly Game (1982, TV Movie) as Emile Carpeau
  • High Road to China (1983) as Bentik
  • The Old Men at the Zoo (1983, BBC TV mini-series) as Lord Godmanchester
  • Second Time Lucky (1984) as God
  • Alice in Wonderland (1985, TV Movie) as King of Hearts
  • The Wind (1986, direct to video) as Elias Appleby
  • The Trouble with Spies (1987) as Angus
  • Little Dorrit (1988) as Lord Decimus Barnacle
  • War and Remembrance (1988–1989, TV Series) as Alistair Tudsbury
  • The Lady and the Highwayman (1989, TV Movie) as Lord Chancellor
  • A Troll in Central Park (1994) as Llort (voice) (originally recorded in production before death, but replaced by Charles Nelson Reilly)
  • Istanbul (1989) as Atkins (final film role)


  • Robert Morley's Book of Bricks (1978, ISBN 0 330 25881 8)
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 13 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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