Harry Morgan died yesterday at the age of 96. On confirming his death, his son Charles said that he had been recently treated for pneumonia.
Born Harry Bratsberg, on April 10, 1915 in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Anna 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 began acting on stage under his birth name, joining the Group Theatre in New York City in 1937, and appearing 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 (New York) 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 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), John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965), Frankie and Johnny (1966) with Elvis Presley, Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969), Support Your Local Gunfighter! (1971), Snowball Express (1972), The Shootist (1976), The Wild Wild West Revisited (1979), and a cameo in the film version of Dragnet (1987) with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks. Besides all of the Anthony Mann films, Morgan was in a number of movies with James Stewart, including Strategic Air Command (1955), The Mountain Road (1960), How the West Was Won (1962), The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and The Shootist (1976), also with John Wayne, with whom Morgan also shared scenes in How the West Was Won, featuring Morgan portraying Ulysses S. Grant to Wayne's William Tecumseh Sherman in the John Ford-directed segment of the Cinerama film.
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), starring Spring Byington, Dean Miller, Frances Rafferty, and Verna Felton. When Miller and Rafferty died within three months of each other in 2004, Morgan became the last surviving member of the December Bride cast.
In the 1964–1965 season, Morgan co-starred as Seldom Jackson in the 26-week NBC comedy/drama Kentucky Jones, starring Dennis Weaver.
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 Hec Ramsey. Morgan 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. The picture of Potter's wife, on the right side of his desk, is actually that of Eileen Detchon, Morgan's real-life wife at the time. He asked if he could use her picture, and the producers had no objections.
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.
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 The Incident; Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore (TV 1992) and Incident in a Small Town (1994 TV) TV movies starring Walter Matthau. 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.
Good Night Mr. Morgan