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Harry Morgan

His television & film career spanned six decades and more than 100 films. His best known role was that of Capt. Sherman T. Potter in the television series M*A*S*H.

Harry Morgan

Filmography

1942      

To the Shores of Tripoli 

The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe 

The Omaha Trail

Orchestra Wives 

 

1943      

Crash Dive 

The Ox-Bow Incident 

Happy Land 

 

1944      

The Eve of St. Mark 

Roger Touhy, Gangster 

Wing and a Prayer 

Gentle Annie 

 

1945      

A Bell for Adano

State Fair 

 

1946      

From This Day Forward 

Johnny Comes Flying Home

Dragonwyck 

Somewhere in the Night 

It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog

Crime Doctor’s Man Hunt 

 

1947      

The Gangster 

 

1948      

The Big Clock 

All My Sons 

Race Street 

The Saxon Charm 

Moonrise 

Yellow Sky 

 

1949      

Down to the Sea in Ships 

The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend

Madame Bovary 

Strange Bargain 

Red Light 

Holiday Affair 

Hello Out There

 

1950      

Outside the Wall 

The Showdown 

Dark City 

 

1951      

Belle Le Grand 

When I Grow Up 

Appointment with Danger 

The Highwayman 

The Well 

The Blue Veil

 

1952      

Boots Malone 

Scandal Sheet

Bend of the River

My Six Convicts

High Noon

What Price Glory? 

Big Jim McLain 

Apache War Smoke 

Toughest Man in Arizona 

Stop, You’re Killing Me 

 

1953      

Thunder Bay 

Arena 

Champ for a Day 

Torch Song 

 

1954      

The Glenn Miller Story 

Prisoner of War 

The Forty-Niners 

About Mrs. Leslie 

The Far Country 

 

1955      

Strategic Air Command 

Not as a Stranger 

Pete Kelly’s Blues 

 

1956      

The Bottom of the Bottle 

Backlash

Operation Teahouse 

UFO 

Star in the Dust 

The Teahouse of the August Moon 

 

1957      

Under Fire

 

1959      

It Started with a Kiss 

 

1960      

The Mountain Road 

Inherit the Wind

Cimarron

 

1962      

How the West Was Won

 

1965      

John Goldfarb, Please Come Home

 

1966      

Frankie and Johnny 

What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? 

 

1967      

The Flim-Flam Man 

 

1968      

Star Spangled Salesman

 

1969      

Support Your Local Sheriff! 

Viva Max! 

 

1971      

The Barefoot Executive

Support Your Local Gunfighter! 

Scandalous John 

 

1972      

Snowball Express 

 

1973      

Charley and the Angel 

 

1975      

The Apple Dumpling Gang 

 

1976      

The Shootist

 

1978      

Maneaters Are Loose! 

The Bastard 

The Cat from Outer Space 

 

1979      

Backstairs at the White House 

The Wild Wild West Revisited 

The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again 

 

1980      

Scout’s Honor

More Wild Wild West 

 

1982      

The Flight of Dragons 

 

1987      

Dragnet 

 

1996      

Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick

 

1997      

Family Plan 

 

1999      

Crosswalk 

Awards

Harry Morgan was never nominated for an Academy Award

I could never afford to go back to New York and the theater, what with a big family. I didn’t really start out to be an actor. I just sort of fell into it. I’ve had a good career, a lot of laughs. I don’t know if that’s enough, but it beats coal mining. ~ Harry Morgan

Harry Morgan was born Harry Bratsberg on April 10, 1915 in Detroit, the son of Hannah and Henry Bratsberg.

Morgan 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 J.D. degree, but began acting while a junior at the University of Chicago in 1935.

He began acting on stage under his birth name, in 1937, joining the Group Theatre in New York City formed by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, and Lee Strasberg in 1931. He 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 also did summer stock at the Pine Brook Country Club located in the countryside of Nichols, Connecticut.

Morgan made his screen debut (originally using the name “Henry Morgan”) in the 1942 movie To the Shores of Tripoli. His screen name later became “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 in such films as The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Wing and a Prayer (1944), Dragonwyck (1946), The Big Clock (1948), High Noon (1952), and several films in the 1950s for director Anthony Mann, including Bend of the River (1952), Thunder Bay (1953), The Glenn Miller Story (1954), The Far Country (1955), and Strategic Air Command (1955). In his later film career, he appeared in Inherit the Wind (1960), How the West Was Won (1962) (as Ulysses S. Grant), John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965), Frankie and Johnny (1966), The Flim Flam Man (1967), Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969), Support Your Local Gunfighter! (1971), Snowball Express (1972), The Shootist (1976), The Wild Wild West Revisited (1979), and as Captain Gannon in the film version of Dragnet (1987) with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks.

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 spin-off of December Bride (1954–1959), starring Spring Byington, a show in which Morgan had a popular recurring role. In 1950, Morgan appeared as an obtrusive, alcohol-addled hotel clerk in the Dragnet radio episode “The Big Boys”.

After Pete and Gladys ended production, Morgan guest-starred in the role of Al Everett in the 1962 episode “Like My Own Brother” on Gene Kelly’s ABC drama series, Going My Way, loosely based on the 1944 Bing Crosby film of the same name. That same year, he played the mobster Bugs Moran in an episode of ABC’s The Untouchables, with Robert Stack. In 1963, he was cast as Sheriff Ernie Backwater on Richard Boone’s Have Gun – Will Travel Western series on CBS.

In the 1964–1965 season, Morgan co-starred as Seldom Jackson in the 26-week NBC comedy/drama Kentucky Jones, starring Dennis Weaver, formerly of Gunsmoke.

Morgan is even 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 series, Hec Ramsey. Morgan also appeared in at least one episode of Gunsmoke.

Morgan appeared in the role of Inspector Richard Queen, uncle of Ellery Queen in the 1971 television film Ellery Queen: Don’t Look Behind You.

Morgan’s first appearance on M*A*S*H was in the show’s third season (1974–1975), when he played eccentric Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele in “The General Flipped at Dawn”, which first aired on September 10, 1974.

Harry Morgan

The following season, Morgan joined the cast of M*A*S*H as Colonel Sherman T. Potter. A fan of the sitcom, Morgan replaced McLean Stevenson, who left the show at the end of the previous season. Unlike Stevenson’s character Henry Blake, Potter was a career Army officer who was a firm yet good-humored, caring father figure to those 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, AfterMASH.

Morgan also appeared in several Disney movies throughout the decade, including The Barefoot Executive, Snowball Express, Charley and the Angel, The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Cat from Outer Space (opposite McLean Stevenson) and The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again.

In 1986, he co-starred 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. Morgan’s character, Leonard Blacke, was a semiretired con artist.

In 1987, Morgan reprised his Bill Gannon character, now a captain, for a supporting role in another film version of Dragnet, a parody and homage to the original series written by and starring Dan Aykroyd and costarring Tom Hanks and Christopher Plummer.

In the 1990s, Morgan starred alongside Walter Matthau in a series of television movies for CBS as Stoddard Bell, a judge who is an acquaintance/nemesis/partner of Matthau’s Harmon Cobb, an attorney (The Incident; An Incident in Baltimore, and Incident in a Small Town). He also lent his voice to an episode of The Simpsons from season seven, where he once again played Bill Gannon; in the episode “Mother Simpson”, Gannon and Joe Friday (voiced by Harry Shearer) are FBI agents trying to track down Homer’s mother, who is a fugitive from justice.

Morgan also had a recurring role on 3rd Rock from the Sun as Professor Suter, a colleague of Dick Solomon’s. Morgan directed episodes for several TV series, including two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, two episodes of Hec Ramsey, one episode of Adam-12, 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.

Morgan’s first marriage was to Eileen Detchon from 1940 until her death in 1985. During Morgan’s time on M*A*S*H, a photograph of Detchon regularly appeared on the desk of his character. A drawing of a horse, seen on the wall behind Potter’s desk, was drawn by Morgan’s grandson, Jeremy Morgan. In addition, Eileen was the name of the wife of Officer Bill Gannon on Dragnet. Morgan had four sons with his first wife: Christopher, Charles, Paul, and Daniel (who died in 1989).

He then married Barbara Bushman Quine (granddaughter of silent film star Francis X. Bushman) on December 17, 1986. The marriage lasted until his death. In July 1997, Morgan was charged with abusing his wife a year earlier, after a beating left her with injuries to her eye, foot, and arm. Prosecutors dropped the charges after the 82-year-old actor completed a six-month domestic violence counseling program.

Morgan was close friends with bandleader Glenn Miller, whom he met while filming Orchestra Wives in 1942, until Miller’s death two years later. Morgan was later cast in the 1954 movie about his friend, The Glenn Miller Story, playing Chummy MacGregor. Morgan’s son led the Glenn Miller Orchestra for some years.

Morgan died peacefully in his sleep at 3:00 am in Los Angeles, on December 7, 2011, at the age of 96. His son, Charles, said he recently had been treated for pneumonia. His body was cremated and his remains were given to his family.

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