Obituary: Greg Morris
Friday 30 August 1996
Almost overnight, integrated casting ruled the day, though some critics had reservations about the credibility of some of television's new black heroes. Among the most popular black stars of this "new generation" were Nichelle Nichols (Lt Uhura in NBC's Star Trek), Hari Rhodes (the African conservationist in CBS's Daktari) and Greg Morris as the technical wizard Barney Collier in CBS's Mission: Impossible (1966-73). This series is currently enjoying a rerun on Channel 4 every Sunday morning.
Greg Morris's regular appearances as a member of the team of CIA-like agents in Mission: Impossible made a huge impact, and helped to break new ground. Between 1969 and 1972 he was nominated for three Emmy awards as Best Supporting Actor.
The African-American film and television historian Donald Bogle has described Collier as "one of the first serious black characters to appear regularly on a series. Intelligent, reserved, shrewd, and almost resplendently cool and mildly remote. Morris was also something of a heart-throb, although the scripts usually kept him confined to the non-romantic sidelines of the action."
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Morris attended Ohio State University and the University of Iowa. Moving to Hollywood in the early 1960s, he made appearances on such top-rated American television drama series as Twilight Zone, Dr Kildare and The Fugitive before finding fame in Mission: Impossible.
In a 1963 episode of the medical series Ben Casey, Morris gave a memorable performance as a black doctor whose virulent anti-white racism leads to a showdown with Sammy Davis Jr, the star of the drama. This appearance was in sharp contrast to the mild-mannered character he later played in Mission: Impossible.
After Mission: Impossible ended in 1973, Morris worked regularly in American television, playing guest roles in such major dramatic programmes as Streets of San Francisco, Quincy, Roots: The Next Generations and The Jesse Owens Story. He also had a supporting role in the ABC series Vega$ (1979-81) but his career was interrupted by a serious car accident in 1981.
He did not appear on television again until a short-lived revival of Mission: Impossible, which also featured his son Phil, in 1989.
Looking at Greg Morris and Nichelle Nichols in re-runs of Mission: Impossible and Star Trek on British television, it seems they are the Invisible Man and Woman of television. Neither series makes an issue of their colour. It seems CBS and NBC wanted to avoid race altogether. So Morris and Nichols became isolated characters without any "real" cultural context or African-American identity. But, as Donald Bogle has said of Barney Collier in Mission: Impossible: "It's hard not to like or respect the character . . . in terms of television's tiny evolutionary steps, he is indeed important: a black strong and capable of making decisions."
Greg Morris, actor: born Cleveland, Ohio 27 September 1934; died Las Vegas, Nevada 27 August 1996.
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery rumours: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Eleven members of same family hospitalised after eating deadly pufferfish
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Phone-hacking: The Piers Morgan connection - Mirror admits some stories during Morgan's tenure may have been obtained by illegal means
Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
Poppy Appeal 2014: This is why I won't be wearing a red poppy this year
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...