R.I.P. Harry Morgan (April 10, 1915 – December 7, 2011)

Harry Morgan starred in many movies throughout the ’40s ’50s,and ’60s. Then he became well known on the small screen playing Joe Friday’s partner, Bill Gannon on Dragnet. Younger people of our generation may remember Morgan as Homer McCoy in the Don Knotts/Tim Conway Disney comedy, The Apple Dumpling Gang (and the 1979 sequel The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again).

But of course, we remember Harry Morgan as the iconic Colonel Sherman T. Potter on M*A*S*H from 1975-1983. He had previously played the loony Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele on the show for an episode in 1974 (after a brief pre-view appearance, near the end of the previous episode). He was so good in that episode that the producers decided to cast him as Col. Potter after McLean Stevenson left the show. The producers made sure that Stevenson’s Henry Blake would never return by killing him off – which was unheard of and very contrversial at the time (especially for a sitcom). Where Blake was an easy-going, and sometimes ditzy leader, Morgan’s Potter was more of a father figure. He could be easy going, but he had no problem putting his boot in somebody’s ass if they got out of hand.

Here is a good scene:

After M*A*S*H’s historic run, Morgan along with William Christopher (Father Mulcahy), and Jamie Farr (Klinger), starred in the ill-fated spinoff AfterMASH. em>AfterMASH had a good first season. However, in the second season, the show was moved opposite the A-Team, and was destroyed, being cancelled after 9 episodes.

In 1986, Morgan 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.

After that, Morgan took several minor roles in TV shows and TV movies.

Morgan was married twice — first to Eileen Detchon, from 1940 until her death in 1985. During Morgan’s tenure on M*A*S*H, a photograph of Detchon regularly appeared on the desk of his character, Sherman T. Potter, to represent Potter’s wife, Mildred. He then married Barbara Bushman Quine (granddaughter of silent film star Francis X. Bushman) from December 17, 1986 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.

The 96 year old Morgan died today (Wednesday) at his Brentwood home after having pneumonia. He is survived by three sons, Charles, Paul and Christopher; eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. And millions of fans.

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