Cecil André Mesritz was born in London on 20th August 1909. Initially trained as a mechanic, he acted in amateur dramatic productions before turning professional in 1934. Considering his name to be a disadvantage to furtherment in the British film industry, he anglicised it to Morell in 1936 and changed his name by deed poll two years later. Joining the Old Vic Company, he appeared on stage alongside Alec Guinness and John Gielgud, in films in the late 1930s and in early BBC drama productions.
Enlisting early in World War Two, he served initially as a junior NCO in 2nd Hampshire Regiment before being selected for Officer Training and commissioning from Sandhurst in May 1941. Serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers he was promoted to temporary Major in 1943 and demobbed in 1946. Returning to the stage, he established a reputation as a reliable and conscientious actor dividing his time between theatre, television and screen appearing in almost 30 films between 1948 and 1958 including some of the early Hammer horror films.
After appearing in Bridge Over The River Kwai, he was chosen for the starring role in the television science fiction series Quatermass and The Pit, still regarded as one of the best of its genre. By now an established leading man, Morrell appeared as Dr Watson in Hound of The Baskervilles alongside Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and also in the Oscar-winning Hollywood epic, Ben Hur. Appearing in a further 23 films between 1959 and 1979 he was the top billing in Hammer’s Plague of The Zombies (1966) and The Mummy’s Shroud of the following year. Much in demand on television, his credits include episodes of The Avengers, The Saint, Dr Who and The Professionals.
After four years as Vice President of the British actors and performers trade union, Equity, Morell was President 1973-74. A 60-a-day smoker, André Morell died of lung cancer on 28th November 1978 with his last screen appearance as a judge in The Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland caper, The First Great Train Robbery, released after his death. #famousfriday