Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Harry Morgan (April 10, 1915 – December 7, 2011)
Harry Morgan (born Harry Bratsberg, sometimes written as Harry Bratsburg) was an American actor. He was widely known for his roles as Pete Porter in both December Bride (1954–1959) and Pete and Gladys (1960–1962), Detective Bill Gannon on Dragnet (1967–1970), Amos Coogan on Hec Ramsey (1972–1974), and Colonel Sherman T. Potter in M*A*S*H (1975–1983). Additionally, Morgan appeared in more than 100 films.
Early life and career
Morgan was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Anna (sometimes written as Hannah) and Henry, who were of Swedish and Norwegian heritage. He was raised in Muskegon, Michigan, and graduated from Muskegon High School in 1933 where he achieved distinction as a statewide debating champion. He originally aspired to a law degree, but began acting while a junior at the University of Chicago in 1935.
Morgan joined The Group Theatre in New York City in 1937, and appeared in the original production of the Clifford Odets play Golden Boy, followed by a host of successful Broadway roles alongside such other Group members as Lee J. Cobb, Elia Kazan, Sanford Meisner, and Karl Malden.
Morgan did summer stock at the Pine Brook Country Club located in the countryside of Nichols, Connecticut with The Group Theatre which was formed by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Morgan made his screen debut (originally using the name "Henry Morgan") in the 1942 movie To the Shores of Tripoli. His screen name later would become "Henry 'Harry' Morgan" and eventually Harry Morgan to avoid confusion with the popular humorist of the same name.
In the same year, Morgan appeared in the movie Orchestra Wives as a young man pushing his way to the front of a ballroom crowd with his date to hear Glenn Miller's band play. A few years later, still credited as Henry Morgan, he was cast in the role of pianist Chummy MacGregor in the 1954 biopic The Glenn Miller Story.
Morgan continued to play a number of significant roles on the big screen.
1950s TV roles
Morgan hosted the NBC radio series Mystery in the Air starring Peter Lorre in 1947. On CBS, he played Pete Porter in Pete and Gladys (1960–1962) with Cara Williams as wife Gladys. Pete and Gladys was a spinoff of December Bride (1954–1959).
1960s: Dragnet and other roles
In the 1964–1965 season, Morgan co-starred as Seldom Jackson in the 26-week NBC comedy/drama Kentucky Jones, starring Dennis Weaver.
Morgan was more widely recognized as Officer Bill Gannon, Joe Friday's partner in the revived version of Dragnet (1967–1970).
Morgan had also appeared with Dragnet star Jack Webb in two film noir movies, Dark City (1950) and Appointment with Danger (1951), and was an early regular member of Jack Webb's stock company of actors on the original Dragnet radio show. Morgan later worked on two other shows for Webb, 1971's The D.A. and the 1972–1974 western Hec Ramsey. He also appeared in at least one episode of Gunsmoke.
Morgan's first appearance on M*A*S*H was in the show's third season (1974–1975), when he played spaced-out Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele ("That's three e's, not all in a row!") in "The General Flipped at Dawn", which originally aired on September 10, 1974. Steele is convinced that the 4077th needs to move closer to the front line, to be near the action. Morgan's memorable Emmy-nominated performance impressed the producers of the show.
The following season, Morgan joined the cast of M*A*S*H as Colonel Sherman T. Potter. Morgan replaced McLean Stevenson, who had left the show at the end of the previous season. Col. Potter is a career army officer who is tough, yet good-humored and caring -- a father figure to the people under his command.
In 1980, Morgan won an Emmy award for his performance on M*A*S*H. After the end of the series, Morgan reprised the Potter role in a short-lived spinoff series, After MASH.
In 1986, he costarred with Hal Linden in Blacke's Magic, a show about a magician who doubled as a detective solving unusual crimes. The series lasted only one season.
In 1987, Morgan played Mr. DePinna on a TV version of Kaufman and Hart's Pulitzer prize-winning play You Can't Take It With You. He also played the lead role of Martin Vanderhodff in a short lived series based on the same play.
In 1987, Morgan reprised his Bill Gannon character, now a captain, for a supporting role in another film version of Dragnet; a parody of the original series written by and starring Dan Aykroyd and co-starring Tom Hanks and Christopher Plummer.
In the 1990s, Morgan played the role of Judge Stoddard Bell in a series of TV
movies with Walter Mathau in The Incident; Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore, and Incident in a Small Town. He was on an episode of The Simpsons as Officer Bill Gannon from Dragnet in the 7th season ("Mother Simpson") and had a recurring role on 3rd Rock from the Sun as Professor Suter. Morgan directed episodes for several TV series, including two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and eight episodes of M*A*S*H. Morgan had a guest role on The Jeff Foxworthy Show as Raymond and a guest role on Grace Under Fire as Jean's pot-smoking boyfriend.
In 2006, Morgan was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Personal life and death
Morgan was married twice, had two siblings Margeurite and Arnold (both deceased), and four sons with his first wife: Christopher, Charles, Paul, and Daniel (who died in 1989).
He married Barbara Bushman Quine (granddaughter of silent film star Francis X. Bushman) from December 17, 1986 until his death. He died on December 7, 2011 at the age of 96 due to pneumonia.