Obituary: Gary Morton
Tuesday 06 April 1999
Born Morton Goldapper in New York in 1917, he learned the rudiments of the comedian's art entertaining troops during the Second World War while serving in the Army Special Services. Afterwards he became a regular entertainer on the "Borscht Belt", the string of summer camps in the Catskills, and by 1961 had graduated to night-club work, including sets at the Copacabana in New York.
One of his friends was a fellow-comic Jack Carter, whose wife Paula Wayne was appearing on Broadway in a musical starring Lucille Ball. Ball had divorced Desi Arnaz in May 1960, and with her marriage and hit television series I Love Lucy both over, she had decided to try conquering Broadway.
The vehicle she chose, Wildcat, underwent drastic changes during its tryout tour, received lukewarm reviews on its Broadway opening, and the energetic singing-dancing role proved an arduous chore for the 49-year old actress. To help her relax, Wayne and Carter suggested that she accompany them on a blind date with Morton.
"I put it off two or three times," said Ball later, "I was too tired. Finally one night I was hungry and said `Well, I'll go for something to eat' and I met Gary. We had fun, and started seeing each other after the theatre. I found out that he was uncomplicated, good, sweet, hip, funny, and he appreciated a home, not just the trappings."
In November 1961, Ball and Morton were married. (Wildcat's run had been terminated in June when Ball collapsed on stage.) "I didn't want to get married again," stated Ball. "I didn't think I would find a mature, adult person like Gary, a really understanding guy who is wonderful to be around and uncomplicated. He has none of the worrisome characteristics I had lived with. I learned from experience. I wasn't going to walk into the same trap." Instead of a honeymoon, Morton completed a pre-arranged night-club tour while Ball returned to California to fill her post as chairman of Desilu Productions.
The following year, when Ball returned to the television screen in a new hit series, The Lucy Show, Morton had his first involvement with her career when he acted as warm-up comedian, telling jokes to the audience prior to transmission. Later he would occasionally appear in a small acting role. For a time Ball's ex-husband Desi Arnaz was the show's executive producer but he was ultimately replaced by Morton.
In 1967, when Ball sold Desilu to Paramount, she formed a new company, Lucille Ball Productions, and named Morton vice-president. In 1968 The Lucy Show underwent some cast and plot changes and, with the title Here's Lucy, became a production of the new company, with Morton still sometimes warming up the audience.
Those who knew the couple had conflicting opinions of Morton. One friend described him as "a horse's neck", a nuisance with little ability of his own, while others claimed that he worked extremely hard to become a good executive.
Ball herself when interviewed would stress the warmth and joy he brought into her life and would staunchly defend her hiring him (along with other relatives) to work with her. "Gary studied five years before he took over," she declared, adding, "I've been very lucky with the use of nepotism. Why not? If you have a nepot around that's worthy, use him or her . . . by the way, what the hell exactly is a nepot?"
Here's Lucy's run finally ended in 1974 - it had peaked in 1970 when an episode on which Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were guest stars achieved one of the highest ratings in television history. Both during its run and afterwards, Morton produced several specials starring Ball, including Lucy in London (1966), but an attempt to resurrect the sitcom formula for Ball in 1986, titled Life with Lucy and produced by Morton and Aaron Spelling, was cancelled after only two months.
Morton played occasional film roles, including that of a comedian in Lenny (1974) and a famous star's husband in Postcards From The Edge (1990), and he was an executive producer of the early Tom Cruise film All The Right Moves (1983). After Ball's death in 1989, Morton retired to their home in Palm Springs, where he enjoyed playing golf, and three years ago he married again.
Morton Goldapper (Gary Morton), comedian and television producer: born New York 1917; married first Jacqueline Inmoor (marriage dissolved), second 1961 Lucille Ball (died 1989); third 1996 Susie McAllister; died Palm Springs, Florida 30 March 1999.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Yazidi sex slaves undergoing surgery to 'restore virginity' after being raped by Isis militants
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark finale review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
The Visit: Watch terrifying trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film
Apprentice series 11: Claude Littner to replace Nick Hewer as Lord Sugar's aide
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3 - review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton, really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds