Born in London, England to a cockney family, Barry Morse began his career with performances as a boy soprano on BBC radio in the late 1920s. As a boy scout, he also acted in a number of amateur plays and productions in London's East End as a child. But it was as a 15-year old school dropout and errand boy that he won a full scholarship to the famed Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
Barry as a young boy scout.
Famed actress Dame Sybil Thorndike was one of several notables who reviewed his audition and later told Barry that they had found his presentation to be "curiously touching." At the time, he was the youngest student ever to enter the Royal Academy. He wrapped-up his work in RADA by starring in the title role of King Henry V, a Royal Command Performance for their majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, patrons of the Academy, and also won their coveted radio-acting award.
Barry followed with runs in London's West End and in theatrical productions throughout the United Kingdom, as well as appearing on the BBC�s earliest live television broadcasts beginning in 1937. Barry made his West End debut in a play called School for Slavery, and with Crisis in Heaven directed by John Gielgud. He continued working in many plays, on the West End and throughout England, including The Assassin by Irwin Shaw, in which he created the leading role and received great critical acclaim. He started his movie career playing stooge to the wry and dyspeptic comedian Will Hay in The Goose Steps Out.
He married fellow actress Sydney Sturgess on March 26, 1939 after a two month courtship following their introduction while working together in a repertory theatre company in Peterborough, England. Two children followed; daughter Melanie in 1945 and son Hayward in 1947. Barry and Sydney relocated the family to Canada in 1951, working in live theatre and on CBC Radio, as well as acting in the premiere television broadcasts of CBC Television from Montreal.
When the fledgling Canadian television service started regular broadcasting from their new radio and television headquarters in Toronto, the family settled there, and Barry devoted time to performing and producing the landmark half-hour CBC Radio series, A Touch of Greasepaint and later, Barry Morse Presents on television, among others. Greasepaint, which ran for 14 years, explored the experience of actors through the ages and served as a rough draft for his touring one-man show, Merely Players. He is a five-time winner of Canada's Best Television Actor award.
Pegi Brown, Andrew Allan and Barry Morse at the CBC
His theatrical background is extensive, including work in the USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK. He has performed on Broadway in Hide and Seek, Salad Days, and the lead of Frederick William Rolfe in Hadrian VII for six months. He directed the historic Broadway debut of Staircase starring Eli Wallach and Milo O'Shea, which stands as Broadway's first depiction of homosexual men in a serious way. Beginning in 1984, he traveled the English-speaking world performing his one-man show Merely Players; vignettes of actors from Elizabethan times to the present. His final major stage performances were in Bernard and Bosie: A Most Unlikely Friendship and a run of Merely Players in London. Bringing his one man show to back to the place of his birth was the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream. Other notable stage productions include Sleuth, Man and Superman, The Caretaker, The Voice of the Turtle, and too many others to mention! In his lifetime, Barry performed every play of William Shakespeare and all of the plays of George Bernard Shaw; he also served as Artistic Director of the famed Shaw Festival of Canada.
Barry was probably best known to the public around the world for his television roles as "Lt. Philip Gerard" in The Fugitive with David Janssen and later in the syndicated series Space: 1999 as "Professor Victor Bergman" with Barbara Bain and Martin Landau. His other series starring roles included The Adventurer and The Zoo Gang. He also appeared in some of the most popular miniseries presentations of the day, including The Golden Bowl, The Martian Chronicles, Whoops Apocalypse, Sadat, A Woman of Substance, The Winds of War, Master of the Game, War and Remembrance, Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, and more. His final TV miniseries project was Icon starring Patrick Swayze, based on the best-selling book by Frederick Forsyth.
Barry, throughout his long life, supported a broad range of charitable organizations. These included the Toronto-based Performing Arts Lodges of Canada, the Royal Theatrical Fund, the London Shakespeare Workout Prison Project, Actors' Fund of Canada, The Samaritans, BookPALS, and Parkinson�s disease treatment and research. The Parkinson's cause held a special place in Barry's heart - his wife of more than 60 years, Sydney, was diagnosed and ultimately succumbed to the illness after a 14 year battle with the disease. For the last two decades of his life he worked tirelessly in the USA, Canada, and the UK to raise both funds and awareness of the disease. When asked about his work and his career, Barry once said, "In a lifetime of pulling faces and making noises for a living, I've come to believe that despite all the cliches and the fallacies written and spoken about our trade, there really is no business like show business." It has been determined that in a career spanning more than 70 years, he played over 3,000 roles in film and on television, stage, and radio.
Actors John Colicos, Barry
Morse, and Douglas Rain
in a CBC Radio Recording Session
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