Looking back at the legend of a famously finicky feline…
It is the quintessential American success story… a gentleman down on his luck, who achieves fame and fortune through hard work and ingenuity. In this case, the gentleman happens to be Morris, the most recognizable cat in the world. And Hinsdale Humane Society was the launching post of his career.
Morris, previously named Lucky, was adopted in 1968. As the story goes, HHS staff members noticed the cat’s charming personality and contacted Bob Martwick, a professional animal trainer who worked for the Leo Burnett advertising agency. Martwick recognized a certain charisma and star quality. When Morris went to the casting call for the 9Lives commercial, “He jumped on the table… and he walked right up to the art director, the big cheese, and bumped him in the head. And then Morris just sat back,” Martwick said in 1995. “The art director said, ‘This is the Clark Gable of cats.’”
From 1969-1978, Morris completed 58 commercials, with the sardonic voice-over of John Irwin, creating one of the most successful and memorable advertising campaigns in television history. More than 30 years later, Morris is still remembered fondly.
All this fame and fortune didn’t go to Morris’ head. He visited local elementary schools for Be Kind to Animals Week and allowed hundreds of children to pet him affectionately. Morris received so much fan mail; he had his own personal secretary. He received marriage proposals from felines and humans alike. He starred in the movie “Shamus” with Burt Reynolds and Dyan Cannon, and won the PATSY, the animal equivalent of the Oscar award in 1972 and 1973. Morris personally “wrote” three books, and was the subject of another, “Morris: An Intimate Biography” published in 1974. He reportedly was the prototype for Garfield the cat, also a big orange cat with an attitude, created by artist Jim Davis.