LOS ANGELES – Howard Morris (search), the wry-faced comic who costarred with Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner on the TV classic "Your Show of Shows" before going on to success as a film director, and to fame as poetry-spouting Ernest T. Bass on "The Andy Griffith Show (search)," has died. He was 85.
Morris died Saturday, according to his son, David.
He joined the cast of "Your Show of Shows (search)" a year after it debuted in 1950, often playing the ambitious little guy whose grandiose plans go awry.
The 90-minute show, with scripts written by such luminaries as Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Woody Allen, was one of the most heralded of television's Golden Era. It won Emmys as best variety show in its first two seasons, during which it also placed in the top 10 in audience ratings.
But as television's audience widened, viewers sought less sophisticated entertainment, and the series was canceled in 1954. Morris then joined Caesar and Reiner in another TV classic, "Caesar's Hour."
After that show ended in 1957, Morris moved to Hollywood where he played comedic characters in such films as "Boys' Night Out" and "40 Pounds of Trouble." He appeared with Jerry Lewis in "The Nutty Professor" and "Way... Way Out" and with Brooks in "High Anxiety" and "History of the World, Part I."
He also acted in sitcoms, perhaps most notably as Ernest T. Bass, his recurring role on "The Andy Griffith Show." Although he appeared in only a handful of episodes, his character remains warmly remembered.
He also played nebbish George P. Hanley on one memorable 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 eventually moved from acting to directing, and his 1967 feature film debut, "Who's Minding the Mint?" was hailed by Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide as "hilarious fun in the classic comedy tradition."
Some of his other directing credits include the Doris Day-Brian Keith family comedy "With Six You Get Egg Roll," "Don't Drink the Water" with Jackie Gleason, and "Goin' Coconuts" with Donny and Marie Osmond. He also directed the pilot for the classic 1960s TV spy spoof "Get Smart," starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.
Also adept at doing wacky voices, Morris was placed under contract by Hanna-Barbara Productions in the 1960s and for decades he created voices for such shows as "The Jetsons," "The Flintstones," "The Archie Show," "My Favorite Martians," "Cow and Chicken" and "DuckTales."