British character actor Aubrey Morris died Wednesday at age 89, his agent has confirmed. To movie audiences, particularly in the United States, he was best known as Alex’s probation officer in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. But Morris’ 75 year career included numerous roles in classic television shows and stage plays, and appearances in over 50 feature films.
He was born Aubrey Steinberg to a large family in Portsmouth in 1926. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, fellow actor Wolfe, and his sisters Julia and Sonja who became dancers, Morris pursued an acting career immediately out of secondary school. First attending Portsmouth Municipal College, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. His first professional role came in 1944, when he appeared in a Regents Park Open Air Theatre production of The Winter’s Tale. By the 1950s he established himself as a stage actor, appearing at the Old Vic from 1954-56, and on Broadway during the same period.
Moving into film, his resume reads like a must-watch list of 60s and 70s era classics. Among his many roles are If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, a memorable turn as a gravedigger in The Wicker Man, Woody Allen’s Love and Death, Ken Russell’s Lisztomania, and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.
But it was his appearance in Kubrick’s 1971 masterpiece that solidifed his place in popular culture. A canny, cynical man exasperated with the main character’s clear lack of reformation but unable to prove it, Morris oozed frustrated menace and clear glee at the prospect of his charge finally screwing up and getting sent to prison. Though only appearing in two scenes, his character is integral to the film’s first act but more importantly, utterly demonstrated Morris’ ease at playing unsettling, vaguely untrustworthy characters with style.
His television appearances are equally numerous. He portrayed the town crier in The Prisoner (1967), and in one of his infrequent comedic turns, he portrayed the Golgafrinchan captain in the final episode of the BBC adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Other appearances include Tales From The Crypt, Babylon 5, Danger Man, The Saint, Deadwood, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and many more.