Obituary: Jeff Morrow
Saturday 01 January 1994
JEFF MORROW is fondly remembered by science-fiction fans for his performance in the cult movie This Island Earth (1955), one of the few serious interplanetary films of the 1950s. Morrow played the curiously named 'Exeter', white-haired, high-domed citizen of the planet Metaluna, who enlists the aid of two earth scientists (Rex Reason and Faith Domergue) in a vain attempt to save his world from extinction. Although Reason was supposed to be the hero, Morrow's noble Exeter stole the film.
Before entering films, Morrow worked as a commercial artist, acted in radio, television, and appeared on Broadway with such stars as Katharine Cornell, Maurice Evans and Helen Hayes. He even played in a musical, Three Wishes for Jamie, which had a short run in 1952.
He made his film debut as Paulus, a cruel centurion in 20th Century-Fox's The Robe (1953), and was signed the following year by Universal-International. In their Tanganyika (1954) he played a renegade Englishman intent on fomenting tribal rebellion in British East Africa. He appeared in Douglas Sirk's Attila the Hun epic Sign of the Pagan (1954), and, again with Sirk, as a fiery rebel leader in Captain Lightfoot (1955), filmed in Ireland.
Next came This Island Earth, which the studio quickly followed up by putting Morrow and Reason into The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), the second sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). They played scientists obsessed with capturing and experimenting on the Gill Man in order to create a new species. Dull and cliche-packed, it was the last of the series.
Another scientist role came Morrow's way in Columbia's The Giant Claw (1957), in which a monstrous bird flies from outer space (on risibly visible wires) to destroy Earth. Morrow was burdened with such speeches as 'If we can get close - real close - and bombard that bird's anti-matter energy shield with a stream of mesic atoms, I think we can destroy that shield] The bird would be defenceless then - except for beak, claws and wings]' His next scientist role came that same year in Kronos. This time the monster was a 100-foot-high cube-shaped extraterrestrial robot with cylindrical legs, intent on destroying our planet by gobbling up all its energy.
Morrow's film career also included the British-made Hour of Decision (1955), the biblical The Story of Ruth (1960) and the Sam Houston biography The First Texan (1956), in which he played Jim Bowie. After the low-budget Harbor Lights (1963), he worked exclusively in television, apart from Blood Legacy (1973), a haunted-house thriller that reunited him with Faith Domergue, his co-star in This Island Earth, and one last sci-fi film, Octaman (1971). Advertised as the 'Horror Heap from the Nuclear Trash', its eponymous monster was described by one critic as 'Half octopus] Half man] All ludicrous]'
In 1973 Morrow was given a chance to demonstrate a comic flair as a bumbling doctor in the ABC- TV sitcom Temperatures Rising.
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