Harry Morgan

Harry Morgan Headshot

Actor • Director

Birth Name: Harry Bratsburg

Birth Date: April 10, 1915

Death Date: December 7, 2011

Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan

A familiar face to film and television audiences for over five decades, Emmy-winning character actor Harry Morgan perfected the role of the lovable curmudgeon on one of the most beloved programs in television history. After proving himself on the stages of Broadway, the gruff-voiced actor became a fixture in features films with supporting roles opposite big names like Henry Fonda in "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), Gary Cooper in "High Noon" (1952) and Jimmy Stewart in the big band biopic "The Glenn Miller Story" (1953). By the mid-1950s Morgan had begun to establish himself as the ubiquitous television presence with an endearing performance on the sitcom "December Bride" (CBS, 1954-1960) and its spin-off "Pete and Gladys" (CBS, 1960-62). Equally adept at serious drama, he memorably played Jack Webb's taciturn partner Bill Gannon on the revived version of "Dragnet" (NBC, 1967-1970). It was, however, his lengthy run as the fatherly Colonel Sherman T. Potter on the wartime comedy-drama "M*A*S*H" (CBS, 1972-1983) that would earn the veteran actor TV immortality. Though he would go on to portray other increasingly flinty, avuncular types on a variety of programs well into his eighth decade, it was his role as the no-nonsense leader of the 4077th that Morgan would later describe as "the best part I ever had."
Born Harry Bratsburg in Detroit, MI on April 10, 1915, Morgan intended to pursue a law career while attending the University of Chicago, but speech and debate classes turned his interest towards performing. He gained experience in summer stock in Washington, D.C. and New York before making his Broadway debut in the original 1937 production of Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy" opposite such future stage and screen luminaries as Lee J. Cobb, John Garfield and Frances Farmer. He remained with the show until 1939 when he lit out for California. There, he was discovered by a talent scout from 20th Century Fox while starring in William Saroyan's play "Hello, Out There."
Morgan made his feature debut as a soldier in 1942's "To the Shores of Tripoli." For that film and numerous others, he was billed as Henry Morgan, but changed it to Harry in 1962 to avoid confusion with the acerbic radio comedian and television panelist of the same name. Blessed with keen observational skills and a husky, drawling voice, he was a natural for skeptical, world-weary character parts in Westerns, war pictures and crime films. Within a few years of his debut, he was sharing screen time with Henry Fonda as his cautious pal in "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), Ray Milland in the noir thriller "The Big Clock" (1948), and Gary Cooper as fair-weather friend Sam Fuller in the classic Western, "High Noon" (1952). Morgan clicked well with Jimmy Stewart, with whom he appeared in several projects, including "The Glenn Miller Story" (1953), "Strategic Air Command" (1955) and several of the actor's collaborations with director Anthony Mann, including "Bend in the River" (1952) and "The Far Country" (1955). Morgan also co-starred in two police procedurals with Jack Webb, with whom he had established a relationship while he was a member of Webb's radio acting company.

Though his film schedule seemed filled to capacity in the mid-1950s, Morgan ventured into television during that decade and found himself a bona fide star, thanks to the sitcom "December Bride." Ostensibly a starring vehicle for Oscar-nominated actress Spring Byington, Morgan became the show's breakout draw, thanks to his performance as hen-pecked neighbor Pete Porter. His deadpan delivery earned him an Emmy nomination in 1959, and the character was eventually given his own series, "Pete and Gladys" after "December Bride" left the air in 1960. Comedienne Cara Williams played Gladys, who made life complicated for husband Pete with her poorly planned schemes. Though never a ratings favorite, the show was significant for launching Morgan as a comic talent.

Morgan returned to active duty in features in the early 1960s, where he played slightly older versions of the cynical working Joe's he essayed in the 1940s and 1950s. There were more authority figures in his palette, albeit ones with little time or patience for thinking outside the box, like the presiding judge at the Scopes Monkey Trial in "Inherit The Wind" (1960), or Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the epic "How the West Was Won" (1962). He remained a draw on television, both as a guest star and as a regular on "The Richard Boone Show" (NBC, 1963-64) and the short-lived family comedy "Kentucky Jones" (NBC, 1964-65). Morgan also began to branch out into directing, eventually helming numerous episodes for the "Boone Show," as well as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (CBS/NBC, 1955-1965), "Adam-12" (NBC, 1968-1975) and "M*A*S*H."
In 1967, he re-teamed with Webb to co-star as Officer Bill Gannon on the revived "Dragnet," then known as "Dragnet '67" to distinguish it from reruns of the 1955-59 edition. Gannon was as terse and by-the-books as Webb's Friday, though the world they encountered in the '67 "Dragnet" was markedly different than the noir-influenced L.A. in the earlier series. There were plenty of unsavory types to be collared by their dogged detective work, but the changing times also dictated that the show give equal time to scenes of the police working with members of the community and otherwise putting forth a less hardboiled exterior. As Gannon, Morgan kept crime off the streets until the show's demise in 1970.

The seventies found Morgan more on television than in movies. He made his TV movie debut in 1970's "But I Don't Want to Get Married!" and subsequently appeared in numerous TV features and series throughout the decade; the best of which was perhaps "Backstairs at the White House" (1979), for which he gave a note-perfect turn as Harry Truman. Morgan also starred in several series, including "The D.A." (NBC, 1971-72) with Robert Conrad and "Hec Ramsey" with Richard Boone. His film output during this period seemed to be comprised mainly of comedies, many of which were Disney product like "Charley and The Angel" (1973) and "The Apple Dumpling Gang" (1975). There was, however, a pleasant return to his dramatic roots as the crusty local sheriff in John Wayne's final feature, "The Shootist" (1976).

Morgan's connection with "M*A*S*H" began with the 1974 season opener, "The General Flipped at Dawn," in which he played an action-hungry officer who wants to move the 4077th closer to the frontlines. He returned for fulltime duty at the end of the season to replace McLean Stevenson as Sherman Potter, commanding officer of the medical unit. Potter was 360 degrees away from Stevenson's Henry Blake; a career soldier who had served in World War I, he was a superior surgeon and demanded the same degree of care from the doctors under his command, which occasionally created clashes with Alan Alda's Hawkeye Pierce. But Potter was also allergic to military red tape, as well as any sort of perceived injustice, and bent unfair rules in favor of decency and fair play. His personality was deeply Midwestern; he loved horses, baseball and his wife Mildred (a photo of Morgan's real-life spouse, Eileen Detchon, stood in for Mildred's portrait on Potter's desk) and had a flair for colorful language. Ultimately, his method of command earned the respect of the eccentric crew of the 4077th, who paid him the highest honor in the series finale by saluting him as they departed the camp.

Morgan's stellar work on "M*A*S*H" earned the respect of viewers and critics alike. He received an Emmy nomination for each year of his run with the series, and landed the trophy once in 1980. He also received an Emmy nod for his direction on the show in that same year. In interviews, Morgan frequently cited Potter as his favorite role, and was among the minority of cast members who voted for an 11th season prior to its celebrated finale in 1983. Though he did not receive his wish, he got to play Potter for an additional two years on "AfterMASH" (CBS, 1983-85), a short-lived spin-off that also featured original cast members Jamie Farr and William Christopher. As Potter, who was now in charge of a VA hospital after the end of the Korean War, Morgan remained the show's anchor, but even his presence was not enough to grant it the same longevity as its predecessor.

Like Potter, Morgan's post-"M*A*S*H" career was extraordinarily active. He attempted to return to active series work opposite Hal Linden in "Blacke's Magic" (NBC, 1986-88), a crime drama about a magician (Linden) who solves cases with the help of his con-man dad (Morgan). It was followed by what seemed like a can't-miss idea: a TV series based on the venerable stage play "You Can't Take It With You," with Morgan as the show's narrator, the cuddly patriarch of a large and eccentric East Coast family. But the end result (syndicated, 1987-88) paled in comparison to the source material, and was gone after just two seasons.

Morgan reprised "Dragnet's" Bill Gannon twice in the 1980s and 1990s - once in the appalling 1987 feature film version with Dan Aykroyd as Joe Friday's nephew, and later in a 1995 episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ) which found the veteran cop investigating Homer's faked death. He was also featured as a Southern judge who aids lawyer Walter Matthau in three fine television movies starting with 1990's "The Incident," and continued as a featured guest star on TV series and features until apparently retiring in 1999. An unfortunate black mark on his otherwise blemish-free career came to light in 1996 when Morgan was charged with spousal abuse. Police arrived at his home to discover that his second wife, Barbara Bushman Quine, had suffered physical injuries by Morgan's hand. The charges were dropped in 1997 after Morgan completed a six-month domestic violence program. In 2006, the actor was inducted him into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Five years later, the TV favorite passed away at age 96 on Dec. 7, 2011.

Credits

M*A*S*H: 30th Anniversary Reunion Special

Actor
Show
2002

En El Lugar Indicado

Director
Movie
1997

Sabrosas Abuelitas

Director
Movie
1997

3rd Rock from the SunStream

Guest Star
Series
1996

The Jeff Foxworthy ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1995
15%

Incident in a Small Town

Actor
Judge Bell
Movie
1994

Grace Under FireStream

Guest Star
Series
1993

Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore

Actor
Judge Stoddard Bell
Movie
1992

The Incident

Actor
Judge Bell
Movie
1990

The SimpsonsStream

Guest Voice
Bill Gannon
Series
1989
85%

DragnetStream

Actor
Captain Bill Gannon
Movie
1987
50%

Blacke's Magic

Actor
Leonard Blacke
Show
1986

Blacke's Magic

Actor
Leonard Blacke
Movie
1986

The Twilight Zone

Actor
Series
1985

Murder, She WroteStream

Guest Star
Retired Lt. Richard Webb
Series
1984

AfterMASH

Actor
Dr. Sherman Potter
Series
1983
67%

Sparkling Cyanide

Actor
Captain Kemp
Movie
1983

M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell, Amen

Actor
Sherman T. Potter
Movie
1983

The Flight of Dragons

Voice
Carolinus
Movie
1982

Rivkin: Bounty Hunter

Actor
Father Kolodny
Movie
1981

Rivkin, le chasseur de primes

Actor
Movie
1981

Scout's Honor

Actor
Mr. Briggs
Movie
1980

More Wild Wild West

Actor
Robert T. "Skinny" Malone
Movie
1980

Backstairs at the White House

Actor
Show
1979

The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again

Actor
Maj. T.P. Gaskill
Movie
1979

Better Late Than Never

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Mr. Scott
Movie
1979

Maneaters Are Loose!

Actor
Toby Waites
Movie
1978

Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid

Actor
Hugo Peavey
Movie
1978

The Cat From Outer Space

Actor
General Stilton
Movie
1978

Terreur au mardi gras

Actor
Movie
1978

Le Chat qui vient de l'espace

Actor
Movie
1978

Exo-Man

Actor
Arthur Travis
Movie
1977

Magnificent Magical Magnet of Santa Mesa

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J.J. Strange
Movie
1977

The ShootistStream

Actor
Carson City Marshal Walter Thibido
Movie
1976
83%

The Apple Dumpling Gang

Actor
Homer McCoy
Movie
1975

Sidekicks

Actor
Sheriff Jenkins
Movie
1974

Charley and the Angel

Actor
The Angel formerly Roy Zerney
Movie
1973

Charlie et l'ange

Actor
Movie
1973

Hec Ramsey

Actor
Doc Amos B.Coogan
Show
1972

M*A*S*HStream

Actor
Col. Sherman Potter
Series
1972

M*A*S*HStream

Guest Star
Col. Sherman Potter
Series
1972

3 étoiles, 36 chandelles

Actor
Movie
1972

Snowball Express

Actor
Jesse McCord
Movie
1972

Scandalous John

Actor
Sheriff Pippin
Movie
1971

The Feminist and the Fuzz

Actor
Dr. Horace Bowers
Movie
1971

Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You

Actor
Inspector Richard Queen
Movie
1971

Confessions of the D.A. Man

Actor
H.M. "Staff" Stafford
Movie
1971

Support Your Local GunfighterStream

Actor
Taylor
Movie
1971
62%

The Barefoot Executive

Actor
E.J. Crampton
Movie
1971

Night Gallery

Actor
Series
1970

Night Gallery

Guest Star
Series
1970

The Partridge FamilyStream

Guest Star
Willie Larkin
Series
1970

But I Don't Want to Get Married!

Actor
Mr. Good
Movie
1970

Love, American Style

Actor
Woody
Series
1969

Dragnet

Actor
Officer Bill Gannon
Movie
1969

Support Your Local Sheriff!Stream

Actor
Olly Perkins
Movie
1969
76%

Adam-12Stream

Director
Series
1968

The Jerry Lewis ShowStream

Guest
Variety Show
1967

The Flim-Flam Man

Actor
Sheriff Slade
Movie
1967
75%

Frankie and Johnny

Actor
Cully
Movie
1966

What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?

Actor
Major Pott
Movie
1966

Wackiest Ship in the Army

Guest Star
Show
1965

John Goldfarb, Please Come Home

Actor
Secretary of State Deems Sarajevo
Movie
1965

Arena

Actor
Senator Clements
Show
1964

The Richard Boone Show

Actor
Show
1963

Alfred Hitchcock HourStream

Director
Series
1962

The VirginianStream

Guest Star
Kendall Jones
Series
1962

How the West Was WonStream

Actor
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
Movie
1962
87%

Pete and Gladys

Actor
Pete Porter
Show
1960

The Mountain Road

Actor
Sgt. 'Mike' Michaelson
Movie
1960

Inherit the WindStream

Actor
Judge Mel
Movie
1960
93%

CimarronStream

Actor
Jessie Rickey
Movie
1960

The Untouchables

Guest Star
Series
1959

It Started With a Kiss

Actor
Charles Meriden
Movie
1959

Have Gun -- Will TravelStream

Guest Star
Series
1957

Under Fire

Actor
Sgt. Joseph C. Dusak
Movie
1957

The Teahouse of the August Moon

Actor
Sgt. Gregovich
Movie
1956
86%

Backlash

Actor
Tony Welker
Movie
1956

Hour of Stars

Actor
Show
1955

Alfred Hitchcock PresentsStream

Actor
Hermie Jenkins
Series
1955

GunsmokeStream

Guest Star
Jed Hockett
Series
1955

Not as a StrangerStream

Actor
Oley
Movie
1955
10%

The Far Country

Actor
Ketchum
Movie
1955
100%

Coup de Fouet en Retour

Actor
Tony Welker
Movie
1955

December Bride

Actor
Pete Porter
Show
1954

The Glenn Miller Story

Actor
Chummy MacGregor
Movie
1954

About Mrs. Leslie

Actor
Fred Blue
Movie
1954

Prisoner of War

Actor
Maj. O.D. Hale
Movie
1954

The Forty-Niners

Actor
Alf
Movie
1954

Arena

Actor
Lew Hutchins
Movie
1953

Cuerpo sin Alma

Actor
Movie
1953

Thunder Bay

Actor
Rawlings
Movie
1953

Torch Song

Actor
Joe Denner
Movie
1953

Draw to Win

Host
Show
1952

Bend of the River

Actor
Shorty
Movie
1952
100%

Stop, You're Killing Me

Actor
Innocence
Movie
1952

Boots Malone

Actor
Quarter Horse Henry
Movie
1952

What Price Glory?

Actor
Sgt. Moran (uncredited)
Movie
1952

High NoonStream

Actor
Sam Fuller
Movie
1952
94%

Scandal Sheet

Actor
Biddle
Movie
1952

DragnetStream

Actor
Officer Bill Gannon
Series
1951

Henry Morgan's Great Talent Hunt

Actor
Show
1951

Belle Le Grand

Actor
Abel Stone
Movie
1951

Appointment With Danger

Actor
George Soderquist
Movie
1951

The Well

Actor
Claude Packard
Movie
1951

What's My Line?Stream

Guest
Game Show
1950

The Showdown

Actor
Rod Main
Movie
1950

Holiday AffairStream

Actor
Police Lieutenant
Movie
1949

Hello Out There

Actor
Movie
1949

Red Light

Actor
Rocky
Movie
1949

Strange Bargain

Actor
Lt. Richard Webb
Movie
1949

Madame BovaryStream

Actor
Hyppolite
Movie
1949

All My Sons

Actor
Frank Lubey
Movie
1948

Race Street

Actor
Hal Towers
Movie
1948

The Saxon Charm

Actor
Hermy
Movie
1948

Yellow Sky

Actor
Half Pint
Movie
1948

The Big Clock

Actor
Bill Womack
Movie
1948

Johnny Comes Flying Home

Actor
Joe Patillo
Movie
1946

State FairStream

Actor
Barker
Movie
1945
83%

Gentle Annie

Actor
Cottonwood Goss
Movie
1944

Wing and a Prayer

Actor
Ens. Malcolm Brainard
Movie
1944

Crash DiveStream

Actor
Brownie
Movie
1943

The Ox-Bow IncidentStream

Actor
Art Croft
Movie
1943
91%

The Omaha Trail

Actor
Henchman Nat
Movie
1942

The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe

Actor
Ebenezer Burling
Movie
1942

Orchestra Wives

Actor
Cully Anderson
Movie
1942

To the Shores of Tripoli

Actor
Mouthy
Movie
1942

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