"I've acted so many roles in Montreal and Toronto
that I can't remember my own mug."
From the August 1955 Issue of Liberty Magazine
FOUR ROLES on TV's "Scope" meant four quick changes
(see next 4 photos)
BOUDOIR dandy: on of my four lover roles on one show
POMPOUS husband: I had to propose to a scornful wife
LUSTY old man: I proposed to my ward in Molière bit
LOVE-SICK spooner was my role in Oscar Wilde play
I hate interviews.
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I've been interviewed quite a bit by newpapermen, ever since I recently acquired two handsome awards for my acting in Canadian radio and TV.
I won the 1954-1955 Gold Award of the Canadian Council of Authors & Artists for "consistently high artistic achievement in any entertainment field". I also won the S.W. Caldwell Award -- a bronze plaque given to Canada's "outstanding performer in television".
Mind you, it's not the publicity resulting from my interviews that I hate. As an actor for the past 20 years, I love the spotlight. What I do hate is the way all interviewers use the hackneyed phrase, "the ever-busy Barry Morse", or that lalapalozza "the versatile Barry Morse".
I supposed the reason why interviewers drag out these hoary chestnuts is that -- let's face it -- I am ever-busy and versatile. In his lifetime, the famous Sir Henry Irving played 683 roles. I've played over 2,000 characterizations so far -- more than 600 of them in Montreal and Toronto since I arrived in Canada from England four years ago. I was, incidently, born a cockney 35 years ago over my dad's shop, which sold newpapers, tobacco and off-license beer, in the Bethnal Green slum district of London's East End.
To avoid being subjected to another interview ridden with those two clichés, and just to show how really ever-busy and versatile I am, I propose interviewing myself for Liberty. Here, then, are my own questions and my own answers; dialogue, production, direction, scenery and punctuation marks by Barry Morse:
What is your ambition?
To be an actors' actor. Few actors want to act. What they really want is to exploit their personality, to make their public ego a commodity for sale.
What do you think are the best qualifications for an actor?
The perception of a child, the faith of a martyr, and the constitution of an ox. I'd like to be as many-faeceted an actor as Edmund Kean, who dominated the stage 120 years ago. In one evening's performance, I once read, Kean began by singing a few comic songs; he played all the roles in King Lear; he played a short farce; and he wound up by going an acrobatic turn, Jocko, The Chimpanzee. Now, there was a real actor.
What do you think of the CBC?
I've had many fights with them, and I look forward to many more. But they offer a great volume and variety of work than an actor could find anywhere else in the world. In Canada, I've made 154 stage appearances and acted in two documentary films, but I would have starved if the CBC didn't give me the opportunity to appear in 700 radio shows and 66 TV programs.
What do you think of Canadian radio-TV critics?
They're overly provincial, some of them being little more than hucksters of casting gossip. They prove the old saying that 'a prophet is not without honor save in his own country'. All a Canadian actor had to do is go to New York or London and his worth immediately goes up 100% in their eyes. In the case of immigrants, their value depends directly on how recently they got off the boat. I look forward to the time when the critics here will salute Canadian actors, whenever their performance warrants it, not with a shrug but with a fanfare.
When did a critic rightly rap a play you were in?
Most amusingly, when I was on tour from Montreal in Dinner for Three, a schmaltzy, Continental romance, making it's debut at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. Herbert Whittaker, the Toronto Globe and Mail critic, innocently began his devastating review of this turkey with the sentence, "It was an experience I shall never forget." Herb Kramer, the producer of the show, conveniently forgot all the other panning phrases, and headed all our newspaper advertisement with that single, ambiguous sentence.
What is your favorite medium -- stage, films, TV, or radio?
Twaddle. There's no such thing. There's just acting, and I like acting. In England, it made no difference, whether I was acting in my 14 films or my 450 different theatrical roles. I believe that hobbies are for people who hate their jobs, and because I love acting, I put the same feeling into my work that they put into their hobbies. I'd act down a coal mine, if I had to.
What is your favorite story about your ambidextrous ability?
It's told by the talented Canadian actor, Gerry Sarracini, who nicknames me "TV Test Pattern Morse". Two years ago -- when I was performing on TV virtually every night of the week, except on Saturday, when there were then no drama shows -- Gerry told me that he had a dream. In it, he was watching an NHL hockey game on TV. One team was scoring heavily, and, strangely, all the members of the team seemed to look the same. The camera suddenly brought in a closeup, and to his horror, every player bore the face of Barry Morse. Gerry woke up sweating. "My God!" he screamed. "Now he's got a Saturday night show!"
Thank you for this brilliant interview, Mr. Morse.
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