By Robert Simonson
09 Jul 2014
With his more-famous colleagues, director Mike Nichols and Second City architect Paul Sills, he founded in 1988 the New Actors Workshop, a two-year acting conservatory. Born in Evanston, IL, in 1928, he met both men early on, when all three were attending the University of Chicago. He also studied at the Yale School of Drama.
With Sills, he was a director at Compass Players, the improv group that evolved into Second City, the Chicago comedy troupe that has been credited with birthing several generations of American comic actors.
George Morrison gravitated towards acting early in his life, acting in children's theatres and spending three summers after high school at a stock company in Pennsylvania. Following an Army stint, and his time at U. of C. and Yale, he moved to New York in 1953, where he studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. He directed improvisational revues Off-Broadway that featured actors such as Hackman and Ron Leibman.
He staged a single Broadway production, 1968's short-lived The Sudden & Accidental Re-Education of Horse Johnson, which starred two of his students, Clayburgh and Klugman.
In 1964 he was the fifth director lined up to stage the comedy Any Wednesday, starring Sandy Dennis. He was fired by the producers of the play, which became a huge hit on Broadway. Mr. Morrison subsequently disputed his removal, saying he was “improperly dismissed for no professional reason.” The producers contended that he refused to accept suggestions from them and the author, according to an article in The New York Times.
In 1972 he was a founding faculty member of the acting program at SUNY Purchase. He taught there for 18 years.
Mr. Morrison's other students included Jack Klugman, Sandy Dennis, Susan Dey, Jane Alexander, Joel Gray and Scott Glenn. Of all his students, Hackman was perhaps the most indebted. The actor said in an interview that he had “the most influence on me of anybody in the business. He saw something in me that others didn’t. I am eternally grateful to him.”