The Chase Has Ended For Barry Morse

Do you remember the TV show called The Fugitive? It was a television series that aired on ABC from 1963-1967. David Janssen starred as Dr. Richard Kimble, an innocent man from the fictional town of Stafford, Indiana, who was falsely convicted of his wife’s murder and given the death penalty. En route to death row, Kimble’s train derailed and crashed, allowing him to escape and begin a cross-country search for the real killer, a “one-armed man” (played by Bill Raisch). At the same time, Dr. Kimble was hounded by the authorities, most notably by Stafford Police Lieutenant Philip Gerard (Barry Morse).

The Fugitive aired for four seasons, and a total of 120 episodes were produced.

The show’s premise have had other television series imitated it, with a few twists : a German shepherd (Run, Joe, Run 1974); a scientist with a monstrous alter ego (The Incredible Hulk,1978); a group of ex-US Army Special Forces accused of a crime they didn’t commit (The A-Team, 1983); a husband and wife (Hot Pursuit, 1984). I even think Fox’s Prison Break stole a idea from this show.

There was a remake of the TV show that failed in 2000, but the most popular remake was the 1993 film that starred Harrison Ford as Kimble, Tommy Lee Jones as Gerard.

The original man who played that traveling detective in search of his lost prisoner, Barry Morse, has taken his Final Taxi at age 89.

Born in London, England to a cockney family, Morse was a 15-year-old school dropout and errand boy when he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Morse was in several theatrical productions throughout the United Kingdom, as well as appearing on the BBC’s earliest live television broadcasts, beginning in 1937. He made his West End debut in a play called School for Slavery, and with Crisis in Heaven, directed by Sir 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 and they relocated 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 TV headquarters in Toronto, the family settled there. Morse 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.

By his own estimate, he performed in 3,000 stage, screen, television and radio productions, in England, Canada and the United States.

Morse guest starred in more than a thousand drama, comedy, and talk show presentations in the U.S., Canada and the UK. Early American appearances include the U.S. Steel Hour, Playhouse 90, and Encore. He also guest starred on such TV series as Naked City, The Untouchables, The Twilight Zone, Wagon Train, and The Defenders.

In The Outer Limits episode “Controlled Experiment” he starred with Carroll O’Connor and Grace Lee Whitney. This episode was shot as a pilot for a proposed series starring O’Connor and Morse as two Martians sent to Earth to examine human life and experiences. CBS instead opted for the series My Favorite Martian with Ray Walston and Bill Bixby.

In the 1970s, he co-starred with Martin Landau in “Space 1999,” a science-fiction television series, made in England, about life on a lunar base. In it, he played Prof. Victor Bergman, the avuncular heart of the community. The series, syndicated in many countries, retains a cult following.

Two years ago, Mr. Morse played the president of Russia in the TV espionage thriller “Icon,” for the Hallmark Channel. Last year, in the film comedy “Promise Her Anything,” he played the ghost of a great-great-great grandfather who returns to a small Canadian town.

The role he will be most remember for is of Lieutenant Gerard. The man who pursued Dr. Kimble, who had escaped — on the lieutenant’s watch — when the train taking him to death row derailed. The innocent doctor’s only hope was finding the real killer, a one-armed man.

For years after the series ended, Mr. Morse joked that “he was the most hated man in America.” Little old ladies would come up to him in airports and whack at him with their purses, screaming, ‘Why didn’t you leave that man alone?”

He long supported a number of charitable organizations, including 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 holds a special place in Morse’s heart, as his wife of more than 60 years, Sydney, was diagnosed and ultimately succumbed to the illness in 1999 after a 14- year battle with the disease. For the past two decades, he worked tirelessly in the United States, Canada and Britain to raise both funds and awareness of the disease.

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