A Tribute to Sydney Sturgess


Sydney Sturgess


Dorothy (Sydney) Anna Sturgess, was the wife of actor Barry Morse for more than 60 years, and a noted stage actress in her own right, although she did appear in perhaps a dozen television and film roles throughout her career. Sydney was born on March 5th, 1915 in Ipoh, Malaysia. Her mother, Dorothy Palmer, was Canadian and Sydney was the eldest of four children; two brothers and a sister. She carried a distinguished Canadian ancestry -- her great-grandfather was Edward Palmer Q.C. of Prince Edward Island, who was also one of the Fathers of Confederation. Sydney's father was a civil engineer and was assigned to remote countries around the world to build bridges, so the family traveled frequently.


Her teenage years were spent for the most part at St. Stephen's boarding school in Folkestone, Kent, England. She received her dramatic training in England, as well, at the London College of Music where she received an A.L.C.M. in elocution. Upon graduation, she sailed with her family to Chile and taught English there. After two years, she returned to England where she joined the Arthur Brough Players in Folkestone, first as a student and then later as an actress.


She acted in various repertory companies before meeting Barry Morse in Peterborough on January 3rd, 1939. The rest, as has been said, is history! They were married on March 26th of that year. While working in repertory, she gained broad experience as an actress through her work in literally hundreds of stage productions throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Married March 26, 1939

Following their marriage, Sydney often worked in the same repertory companies as her husband Barry, often performing side-by-side with him in the same productions. Sydney's stage credits spanned some 50 years and included performances in England, Canada, and the United States. She appeared in London West End productions with such personalities as Dame Marie Tempest and A.E. Matthews, and later in her career on Broadway opposite Alec McCowen and Barry.


Their children, Hayward and Melanie, were born in 1947 and 1945, respectively. The family emigrated to Canada in 1951, arriving in Quebec on May 5th. They first lived and worked in Montreal, near Sydney's mother and her older brother and sister and their families. Sydney enjoyed successful seasons of theatre at the Montreal Mountain Playhouse, as well as radio work and teaching, until moving to Toronto in 1953 where Sydney continued to work in theatre and radio. She and Barry maintained residence there for the next 40 years.

Stratford Shakespeare Festival, 1955

Her performances ranged the gamut, from acting in Jupiter Theatre's production of Relative Values, The Potting Shed at the Crest Theatre, and with the Canadian Players in Romeo and Juliet and Pygmalion. She also played in George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, as 'Mrs. Darling' in Peter Pan and (according to Barry) played in more productions of Charley's Aunt than perhaps any other actress! In 1958 she wrote and produced her own radio series for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) called Poet's Corner.


She also appeared on television as 'Catherine de Medici' in Patrick Watson's series, Witness To Yesterday, and in the title role of George Bernard Shaw's Catherine The Great. As well, she starred as the 'Countess of Brocklehurst' in The Shaw Festival production of The Admirable Crighton, appeared in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Manitoba Theatre Center, and played 'Mrs. Higgins' in a run of Shaw's Pygmalion at the Nottingham Playhouse in England.


Sydney was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1985. She lived bravely with her illness for over 14 years, passing away tranquilly and without pain in the late afternoon of September 30th, 1999. Upon her passing, Sydney's daughter Melanie wrote the following message to her mother's friends and fans: "I know that all of you who knew her -- mummy and daddy's friends and professional colleagues -- will not soon forget the gentle, gracious lady who has left us and will miss her as much as we, her family, do."


Should you wish to commemorate the memory of Sydney Sturgess, donations may be made to the Performing Arts Lodges of Canada, 110 The Esplanade, Toronto, Ontario M5E 1X9, Canada; or to Parkinson's disease treatment and research.

The Morse Family at home in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
From left: Hayward, Sydney, Barry, and Melanie

The Parkinson's Connection

Sydney Sturgess -- lovingly called "The Management" by husband Barry Morse -- was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1985. Since that time, and even as Sydney became more ill as a result of the disease, Barry worked tirelessly with Parkinson's Disease organizations in North America and England to raise funds for research and treatment. Those efforts included benefit presentations of his hit one-man show Merely Players and two productions of the Broadway play Love Letters, which he directed and starred in with June Lockhart and Barbara Bain respectively.

But what exactly is Parkinson's Disease? It's a progressive dengenerative disorder affecting one of the regions of the brain controlling movement. The most common symptoms are tremor, muscular stiffness, and slowness of movement. Experts agree symptoms are due to a deficiency of the brain chemical 'dopamine', with the incidence increasing with age.

Parkinson's Disease affects both men and women across all ethnic lines with an estimated 1,500,000 people afflicted in the United States alone. A number of notable public figures have suffered with Parkinson's Disease: Mohammed Ali, Michael J. Fox, Janet Reno, Billy Graham, Johnny Cash, and Pope John Paul II - just to name a few. There is presently no cure or prevention of Parkinson's Disease, however, through the support and financial contributions of people like you, research is getting ever closer to finding a cure and new treatments continue to make the disease more bearable for those affected.

For more information, or to make a contribution to this worthy cause, contact:
The National Parkinson's Foundation

Barry Morse and Sydney Sturgess

Credits of Sydney Sturgess


A Christmas Carol (1980)
Cause Celebre(1979)
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1978)
Mrs. Warren's Profession (1976) (Shaw Festival production)
The Admirable Crichton (1976) (Shaw Festival production)
Pygmalion (1976) (Mrs. Higgins)
The Connection (1974)
Hadrian VII (1969) (Helen Hayes Theatre, Broadway; performed for 11 months)
Daughter-in-Law (1968)
The Way of the World (1968)
The Trojan Wars by Euripades (1967)
Pride and Prejudice (1966)
Charley's Aunt (1966) (performed in numerous productions over several years)
Man and Superman (1966) (Mrs. Whitefield)
Saint Joan (1964) (with Barry)
Man and Superman (1964) (with Barry)
Breath of Spring (1962)
Romeo and Juliet (1961) (National tour with the Canadian Players)
Pygmalion (1960) (National tour with the Canadian Players)
Oedipus Rex (1959) (Jocasta)
Much Ado About Nothing (1959)
Peter Pan (1959) (Mrs. Darling)
Stratford Festival Season (1958) (Several productions; with Hayward and Melanie)
A Winter's Tale (1958) (at Stratford)
Stratford Festival Season (1957) (Several productions; with Hayward and Melanie)
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1956) (with Hayward)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1954) (Eunice)
The Potting Shed (1953)
The Ides of March (1953)
The Happy Time (1952)
Private Lives (1952)
Present Laughter (1952)
Dinner at Eight (1952)
The Voice of the Turtle (1949) (Olive)
Craig's Wife (1944)



The Ugly Little Boy (1979) (TV)
Mr. Dickens of London (1968) (TV)
George Bernard Shaw's Catherine The Great (1958) (TV) (Title Role)
Noises in the Nursery (1952) (TV) (with Barry Melanie, and Hayward)
The Rake's Progress (1945) (with Rex Harrison)


Poet's Corner (1958) (Series)
Unknown radio play (1955) (With Barry Morse)
The House Without Windows (1954)
The World's Illusion (1951) (With Barry Morse)

and many more credits to be added

Barry Morse sitting on the memorial bench, dedicated in
Sydney's memory, at St. James's Square gardens, Pall Mall in London

Close-up of the inscription on the backrest. It reads:

Go to one of the following links:

The Official Barry Morse Website
Hayward Morse Webpage
Melanie Morse MacQuarrie Webpage

A Tribute to Sydney Sturgess is maintained by
playwright and author Anthony Wynn



"My hat is off to my wife, actress Sydney Sturgess,
the lady whom I lovingly called 'The Management.'
She was my partner in everything for more than 60 years.
There is no way to express adequately the range and
scale of her giving; but this site is dedicated
to her, gratefully and with love."

-Barry Morse

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