Richard Henry Morris was born in Burlingame, California, and attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. One year after enrolling, he served in World War II in the special services division of the U.S. Army. Afterward, he attended the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre, where he studied acting under Sanford Meisner, the acclaimed actor and acting teacher who developed the Meisner technique.
Throughout all that time, Morris wrote shows and sketch comedy. One of his sketches was noticed by a talent scout from Universal Studios, and he returned to Los Angeles, where he wrote screenplays such as Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair and teleplays for shows such as Private Secretary. In 1955, Morris became the head writer and director of The Loretta Young Show.
In 1960, Morris wrote the book for the Meredith Willson musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown and thusly returned to television and film, a career move that resulted in his writing the screenplay for the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie. Upon his death from cancer at age 72 on April 27, 1996, Morris was in the midst of co-writing the book for the musical adaptation of Thoroughly Modern Millie with Dick Scanlan.
In his lifetime, Morris won a Writers Guild of America Award for the Thoroughly Modern Millie film and received an Emmy nomination for The Loretta Young Show. Posthumously, in 2002, he was nominated for the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Book for the Thoroughly Modern Millie musical.