The first half of “Mad Men’s” final season ended on Sunday night, with a surprising spring finale episode titled “Waterloo” that took a page from the “Glee” songbook. Following the sudden death of Sterling Cooper & Partners boss Bertram Cooper (played by Robert Morse), ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) envisioned his late colleague performing a song and dance number at the end of the episode.
On May 26, AMC’s “Mad Men” website posted an interview with Broadway veteran Robert Morse, who dished on the death of his beloved character – and that quirky musical finale. Morse said he was approached by executive producer Matthew Weiner and was informed a head of time that his character would be killed off in the spring finale episode.
“Matthew Weiner came to me and said, ‘Bobby, I want to talk to you… You’re going to pass away in this episode. I’m sorry.’ I said, ‘I perfectly understand,’” Morse revealed.
But the 83-year old actor also explained that Weiner praised his Broadway and theater days and told him that he always wanted to have him sing on the show, but there was never a way to incorporate it into the script. It wasn’t until the character’s death that Weiner decided to bring Morse back for the episode final shot to sing a song for Don Draper. The tune? “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” a 1930s-era ditty that’s been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Sam Cooke. It was an especially fitting song choice because the episode revolved around the 1969 moon landing, and the opening lyrics are: “The moon belongs to everyone, the best things in life are free.”
As for the dance steps in the segment (complete with dancing secretaries!), Morse said, “They had this wonderful choreographer, Mary Ann Kellogg, whom I knew very well, and hired four or five beautiful dancers who would play secretaries… I dance with them and also sing to Don, and it’s a whole production.”
Morse also revealed that he recorded the piece with a huge orchestra, and that the send off song was top secret. In the end, the actor said, “It was just a lovely way, a sweet way, for dear Matt to send me off.”
Reaction has been mixed. Some fans thought the song seemed out of place, while others appreciated the tribute to the Tony award winning actor, who appeared in both the stage and the film versions of “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
Morse’s “Mad Men” co-star John Slattery, who plays silver fox Roger Sterling on the series, told The Daily Beast he wasn’t sure of the reasoning behind the song: “Matt’s [Weiner] always been a fan of Robert and obviously knew about his musical background, but I don’t know why he chose that particular moment,” Slattery said. “There’s a point at which the character’s expressed, ‘I’ve seen enough… this isn’t my world, it’s your world’ sort of view. ‘Mad Men’ has always been about change, and the evolution of all these characters.”
“Mad Men” returns to AMC in 2015 for the series final seven episodes.