Robert Adolph Wilton Morley, CBE (26 May 1908 – 3 June 1992) was an English actor who, often in supporting roles, was usually cast as a pompous English gentleman representing the Establishment. In Movie Encyclopedia, film critic Leonard Maltin describes Morley as "recognisable by his ungainly bulk, bushy eyebrows, thick lips, and double chin, [...] particularly effective when cast as a pompous windbag".
Morley was born in Semley, Wiltshire, England, the son of Gertrude Emily (née Fass) and Robert Wilton Morley, a Major in the British Army. His mother came from a German family that had emigrated to South Africa. Morley attended Wellington College, Berkshire which he hated, followed by RADA. As a famous "Old Wellingtonian", generations of headmasters tried to contact him, without success, with Morley stating "the only reason for me visiting Wellington would be to burn it down". Morley made his West End stage debut in 1929 in Treasure Island at the Strand Theatre and his Broadway debut in 1938 in the title role of Oscar Wilde at the Fulton Theatre. Although soon won over to the big screen, Morley remained both a busy West End star and successful author, as well as tirelessly touring.
A versatile actor, especially in his younger years, he played roles as divergent as those of Louis XVI, for which he received an Academy Award Nomination as Best Supporting Actor (Marie Antoinette 1938). He gave powerful performances in Oscar Wilde (1960) and as a missionary in The African Queen (1951), but did not receive Oscar nominations for either.
As a playwright he co-wrote and adapted several plays for the stage, having outstanding success in London and New York with Edward, My Son, a gripping family drama written in 1947 (with Noel Langley) in which he played the central role of Arnold Holt. But the disappointing film version, directed by George Cukor at MGM Elstree in 1949, instead starred the miscast Spencer Tracy, who turned Holt, an unscrupulous English businessman, into a blustering Canadian expatriate. His 1937 play Goodness, How Sad was turned into a 1940 Ealing Studios film Return to Yesterday directed by Robert Stevenson.
Morley also personified the conservative Englishman in many comedy and caper films. He was also the face of BOAC (British Airways) in television commercials of the 1970s. British Airways: 'We'll take more care of you'. Later in his career, he received critical acclaim and numerous accolades for his performance in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?. Renowned for repartee and for being an eloquent conversationalist, Morley gained the epitheton of being a "wit".
Morley was honoured by being the first King of Moomba appointed by the Melbourne Moomba festival committee and, in typical humility, he accepted the crown in bare feet. Morley was in Australia touring his one-man show, The Sound of Morley.
He married Joan Buckmaster (1910–2005), a daughter of Dame Gladys Cooper. Their elder son, Sheridan Morley was a well-known writer and critic. They also had a daughter Annabel and another son Wilton.
He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1957. He was also offered a knighthood in 1975 but declined it