Comic actor Howard Morris, best known for his portrayal of Ernest T. Bass on the Andy Griffith Show, died in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 85.
Morris enjoyed a long and varied career in show business, from being a key player in the acting ensemble of Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” in the 1950s, to his stint on the Griffith Show, to providing voices for dozens of animated characters, including Beetle Bailey and Atom Ant.
He also directed TV shows and films, including the pilot episode of the Mel Brooks series “Get Smart,” the Doris Day film “With Six you get Eggroll,” and the film version of Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water,” starring Jackie Gleason.
But it was probably as the love-challenged, poetry-spouting hillbilly on “The Andy Griffith Show” that most people remember Morris.
Morris was born in the Bronx, New York and started his career onstage, enjoying a brief stint as a Shakespearian actor.
In the 1950s, he joined a comedy sketch group including Carl Reiner and Imogene Coca on several TV variety shows, including “Admiral Broadway Review,” “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar’s Hour.”
After his work on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Morris provided the voices of animals on several animated TV shows.
In 1963, Morris played George P. Hanley’ on an episode of “The Twilight Zone” entitled “I Dream of Genie.” Hanley, hopelessly inept in social situations, is given one wish by a genie that appears after he rubs a lamp. After considering and rejecting numerous options, Hanley’s wish is granted — he becomes the genie.
Morris is survived by a son David, a TV commercial director.