American actor who had early success as a sunny juvenile, but whose career declined following World War II, in which he was a highly-decorated hero. A native of Los Angeles, Morris played football at Los Angeles Junior College, then worked as a forest ranger. Returning to school, he studied acting at Los Angeles Junior College and at the acclaimed Pasadena Playhouse. A Warner Bros. talent scout spotted him at the Playhouse and he signed with the studio in 1936. Blond and open-faced, he was a perfect type for boy-next-door parts and within a year had made a success in the title role of Kid Galahad (1937). While filming Flight Angels (1940), Morris became interested in flying and became a pilot. With war in the wind, he joined the Naval Reserve and became a Navy flier in 1942, leaving his film career behind for the duration of the war. Assigned to the carrier Essex in the Pacific, Morris shot down seven Japanese planes and contributed to the sinking of five ships. He was awarded four Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals. Following the war, Morris returned to films, but his nearly four-year absence had cost him his burgeoning stardom. He continued to topline movies, but the pictures, for the most part, sank in quality. Losing his boyish looks but not demeanor, Morris spent most of the Fifties in low-budget Westerns. A wonderful performance as a weakling in Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957) might have given impetus to a new career as a character actor, had Morris lived. However, he suffered a massive heart attack while visiting aboard the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard in San Francisco Bay and was pronounced dead after being transported to Oakland Naval Hospital in Oakland, California. He was 45. His last film was not released until two years after his death.
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