Saturday, 3 June 2017

Maurice Evans

Maurice (pronounced as "Morris", not "Maw-reece") Herbert Evans was born on 3rd June 1901 in Dorchester, Dorset. He's best known in the Apes universe as Dr Zaius, Minister Of Science and Chief Defender Of The Faith in Planet Of The Apes (1968) and Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (1970).

Alongside a successful stage career beginning in earnest in 1926, Evans made his film debut in J. B. Williams's 1929 feature White Cargo. Among his many pre-Apes parts were appearances in Scrooge (1935) and as Caesar in Androcles And The Lion (1952). He played many Shakespearean parts both on stage and on TV, including Malvolio in Twelfth Night (1957), Prospero in The Tempest (1960) and Macbeth in Macbeth (1960).

His best-known popular TV credits include Maurice ("Maw-reece") in Bewitched (1964-1971), The Puzzler in Batman (1966) and the narrator in George Shaefer's 1955 TV adaptation of Alice In Wonderland.

When Edward G. Robinson pulled out of the production of Planet Of The Apes in 1967, citing a serious difficulty working with the prosthetic ape makeup, the producers turned to Evans to portray the devious and irascible Dr Zaius. "I have to crawl out of bed at five o'clock in the morning, to be in the makeup chair at six," he said, "and then get into a very heavy, hot costume. It's not all beer and skittles." 

with Dr Zira (Kim Hunter) in Planet Of The Apes

Despite his discomfort Evans was happy to reprise the role of Zaius in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. "There is every reason why a story should be expanded if the author has really got anything to say. In fact, this sequel is infinitely more profound, from a philosophical standpoint."

with General Ursus (James Gregory) in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes

Like Roddy McDowall, Evans was well-liked on the set of the Apes films. "Both were true gentlemen and demonstrated a genuine concern and interest in others with whom they associated, regardless of their status," said makeup artist Ken Chase. He also told of Evans's excessive salivation, which frequently resulted in his prosthetic chin coming unstuck on set. 

Evans with Ken Chase

Post-Zaius, Evans concentrated primarily on TV roles. His final appearance, as Major Palgrave in Agatha Christie's A Caribbean Mystery, came in 1983. He lived in quiet retirement in Rottingdean, East Sussex until his death at the age of 87 on 12th March 1989.

Maurice Evans, 3rd June 1901 – 12th March 1989

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