Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Harry Morgan — 1915-2011

Harry Morgan has died.

In more than 100 movies, Mr. Morgan played Western bad guys, characters with names like Rocky and Shorty, loyal sidekicks, judges, sheriffs, soldiers, thugs and police chiefs.

On television, he played Officer Bill Gannon with a phlegmatic but light touch to Jack Webb’s always-by-the-book Sgt. Joe Friday in the updated “Dragnet,” from 1967 to 1970. He starred as Pete Porter, a harried husband, in the situation comedy “Pete and Gladys” (1960-62), reprising a role he had played on “December Bride” (1954-59). He was also a regular on “The Richard Boone Show” (1963-64), “Kentucky Jones” (1964-65), “The D.A.” (1971-72), “Hec Ramsey” (1972-74) and “Blacke’s Magic” (1986).

But to many fans he was first and foremost Col. Sherman T. Potter, commander of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit in Korea. With a wry smile, flat voice and sharp humor, Mr. Morgan played Colonel Potter from 1975 to 1983, when “M*A*S*H” went off the air. He replaced McLean Stevenson, who had quit the series, moving into the role on the strength of his performance as a crazed major general in an early episode.

In an interview for the Archive of American Television, Mr. Morgan said of his “M*A*S*H” character: “He was firm. He was a good officer and he had a good sense of humor. I think it’s the best part I ever had.”

I have a lot of favorite moments of Col. Potter, from the uproarious to the touching, including a scene in an episode title “Old Soldiers” where he pays tribute to his World War I friends. And he could also come up with great euphemisms.


Happy trails, Harry.