Obituary: Gary Morton

GARY MORTON was married to Lucille Ball for 28 years until her death, and became executive producer of her television programmes. He was a moderately successful stand-up comic who had graduated from the summer camp circuit to night- clubs when he met Ball on a blind date.

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.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there