Tuesday, May 24, 2005

R.I.P. FOR ERNEST T. (HOWARD MORRIS)

Andy Taylor: If you were to ask me, this Ernest T. Bass is a strange and weird character.
Briscoe Darling: Just plain ornery is what he is.
Barney Fife: He's a NUT!
('The Andy Griffith Show')

There are not that many characters who can make just a handful of appearances as a guest star in a TV series and yet still make a lasting impact on one's memories of that show.

By the very nature of their appearances, several of the "Special Guest Villains" of 'Batman' fall into this category. Out of all the Number Twos faced by 'The Prisoner' in The Village, only Leo McKern remains almost as vital to the success of the series as Patrick McGoohan as Number Six.

(Almost. It could be argued, but it's all... one with me.)

For me, the best example is Doctor MIguelito Loveless who appeared in only nine episodes of 'The Wild, Wild West' throughout its run. And yet can you picture any other characters apart from the two main heroes who truly defined that show?

As far as I'm concerned, not only did Dr. Loveless unofficially appear in at least three more TV shows (under several aliases), but that he was the power behind the shown for many events throughout the TV Universe.

At any rate, we've lost another great character - and an even better character actor, - with the death of Howard Morris.

His first truly big claim to Toobworld fame was as a member of Sid Caesar's troupe of players on 'Your Show Of Shows'. He also appeared in episodes of other shows like 'The Twilight Zone', 'The Bob Newhart Show', 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', and even 'Baywatch'.

And he made a name for himself as a vocal artiste in many cartoons like 'Winnie The Pooh', 'Duckman' and as Mr. Peebles in 'Magilla The Gorilla'.

Howard Morris also worked a lot in that rival universe of Man's creative energies, the Cineverse: 'Boys Night Out', 'Splash!', and Mel Brooks' 'High Anxiety' stand out among the lot. He also directed several theatrical films like 'Don't Drink The Water'.

But as anybody who wandered into Mayberry, North Carolina, over the years, it was his five appearances on 'The Andy Griffith Show' (plus the reunion tele-movie 'Return To Mayberry') as expert window-breaker Ernest T. Bass that will endear him forever to TV fans.

Think of it. Only five episodes out of the long run for Andy Griffith's sitcom, and yet his voice still echoes in the mind: "It's me, it's me, it's Ernest T.!" and "I love you, Miss Crump!"

And that laugh!

Such was the comic power of Howard Morris that we never stopped to think about how dangerous Ernest T. Bass might have been in real life. It wasn't until the 1970s - and especially because of the movie "Deliverance" - that we saw how deadly such a backwoods eccentric could really be.

But luckily for us, Mayberry was a town that was never meant to have a dark underbelly. And it was its roster of lovable residents like Ernest T. Bass that keeps us returning to reconnect with a simpler, happier time.

Rest in peace, Mr. Morris.

BCnU!
Tele-Toby

"You ain't heard the last of Ernest T. Bass!"
Ernest T. Bass
'The Andy Griffith Show'

1 comment:

Hugh Davis said...

Just showing how closely connected things remain...in the Legends of the Superheroes tv specials (the first of which starred Frank Gorshin as the Riddler), Howard Morris did a great turn as Dr. Sivana, archvillain for Captain Marvel, putting on a thick European accent.

Small Toobworld.

- Hugh