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OBITUARY: Sheridan Morley.

HAVING a larger than life father, actor Robert Morley, who christened him after the character he was currently playing in a hit play, Sheridan Morley could have easily been overwhelmed by his family background.

Sheridan Morley, who has suddenly died, aged 65, just weeks after finishing his long stint as host of Radio 2's Melodies for You, hailed from a theatrical dynasty. It included his formidable grandmother Dame Gladys Cooper, grandfather Herbert Buckmaster, who invented Buck's Fizz, and later Robert Hardy, who became his brother-in-law. Dame Gladys chastised her son Robert for his vulgarity in naming him after his character Sheridan Whiteside, in The Man Who Came to Dinner, saying: "We name pets after our characters, not children."

Undeterred, Morley relished his access to the theatrical world, not only as a writer, critic and arts broadcaster, but also as the author of 30 books. These included biographies of stars Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor and James Mason, plus authorised biographies of David Niven, John Gielgud and Noel Coward.

Although an insider, "Sherry" remained star-struck and was an affectionate commentator, but could be scathing. He described Cliff Richard's musical Heathcliff as like "Liberace playing King Lear". Popular with performers in spite of his calling as a critic for Punch, New Statesman, Spectator, Evening Standard, Sunday Telegraph and International Herald Tribune, he was adept at handling biographies of performers not always keen to reveal all to an increasingly curious public. Few were as helpful as Noel Coward, who gave Morley two lists of names, saying: "These are my friends and those are my enemies. Start with the enemies, dear boy, and you'll get a much better book." In contrast, discussion of John Gielgud's arrest for homosexuality was off-limits, and Morley artfully delayed completion of his biography until after the great actor's death. It revealed a fine man, who was also the epitome of English eccentric dottiness.

Morley spent much of his early childhood in California and knew the British ex-pat actors, later leading to his book, Tales of the Hollywood Raj. He also devised and directed several theatrical revues. He married twice and leaves three children.

Sheridan Morley, writer, director and critic; born, December 5, 1941; died, February 16, 2007.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Feb 22, 2007
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