Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"You haven't heard the last of Ernest T. Bass!"

Okay, now I am depressed. Saddened, even. Darnnit this has been an emotional week for me and just about all of it from the pop culture scene (which doesn't hardly happen, ever). But this one... hurts... folks, seriously. But we were blessed to have had him while we did, and now he's gone to that great celestial hollar up in the sky...
Ernest T. Bass

Howard Morris has passed away at the age of 85. He was pretty well-known in film and television circles but here in North Carolina, Mr. Morris will forevermore be known and renowned for something else entirely altogether: he was the man who brought the irascible, irrepressible mountain "nut" Ernest T. Bass to life on The Andy Griffith Show.

From the story at WFMYNews2.com:

Actor Howard Morris Remembered

Los Angeles, CA -- Howard Morris, best known for his portrayal of Ernest T. Bass on the Andy Griffith Show, died at his home in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. He was 85.

Morris died Saturday of natural causes, his son David said Monday.

Morris enjoyed a long and varied career in show business, from being a key player in the acting ensemble of Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows" in the 1950s, to his stint on the Griffith Show, to providing voices for dozens of animated characters, including Beetle Bailey and Atom Ant.

He also directed TV shows and films, including the pilot episode of the Mel Brooks series "Get Smart," the Doris Day film "With Six you get Eggroll," and the film version of Woody Allen's "Don't Drink the Water," starring Jackie Gleason.

But it was probably as the love-challenged, poetry-spouting hillbilly on "The Andy Griffith Show" that most people remember Morris. His fan Web site is named for the character that appeared in only a handful of episodes, but made a large impact with viewers. The show was based in the fictional town of Mayberry, modeled after Griffith's hometown of Mount Airy, N.C.

Morris was born in the Bronx, New York, on Sept. 4, 1919. He served in the entertainment unit of the U.S. Army during World War II, stationed in Hawaii.

After the war, he appeared on stage and enjoyed a brief stint as a Shakespearian actor.

In the 1950s, he joined a comedy sketch group including Carl Reiner and Imogene Coca on several TV variety shows, including "Admiral Broadway Review," "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour."

After his work on "The Andy Griffith Show," Morris provided the voices of possums, birds, monkeys, cats and alligators on several animated TV shows. He is credited as the "third buffalo" in a Flintstones episode that aired in 1963.

Also in 1963, Morris played the nebbish character "George P. Hanley" on an 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 was married and divorced five times. His son David, 39, is a director of TV commercials.

In remembrance of the passing of Ernest T. Bass, we should all go out and throw a rock through a window.

Seriously though, he was a one-of-a-kind talent and will be missed. WFMY has a poll up right now about which was our favorite Ernest T. Bass episode, but they're missing a few classics, like the one where Ernest T. tries to get into the army, and the one where he's working as a school crossing guard (where the above photo is from).

But at least like Otis the town drunk and Floyd the barber, though gone they may be, they will live on, thanks to the flickering magic of reruns on syndication and TV Land. Ernest T. Bass will terrorize Mayberry forever, world without end, hallelujah amen...

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