Harry Morgan

  • Born: April 10, 1915
  • Died: December 7, 2011
  • Location: Los Angeles, California

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Emmy-winning character actor Harry Morgan, whose portrayal of the fatherly Col. Potter on television's "M-A-S-H" highlighted a show business career that included nine other TV series, 50 films and the Broadway stage, died Wednesday.

TV's Colonel Potter from 'M*A*S*H' dies at 96

GREG RISLING, The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Harry Morgan never planned to be an actor, yet he spent 10 years on one of the top TV series of all time, made 50 films and appeared on Broadway. He became one of the best-known character actors in Hollywood.

But it was Morgan's portrayal of the fatherly Col. Sherman Potter on "M-A-S-H" for which Morgan became most famous, and he knew it.

"M-A-S-H was so damned good," Morgan told The Associated Press. "I didn't think they could keep the level so high."

His wry humor, which helped net him an Emmy for the CBS-TV hit, carried onto the show.

"He was an imp," said Mike Farrell, who starred as B.J. Hunnicutt in "M-A-S-H" along with Morgan and Alan Alda. "As Alan once said, there's not an un-adorable bone in the man's body. He was full of fun, and he was smart as a whip."

Morgan died Wednesday at age 96 at his Brentwood home after having pneumonia, his daughter-in-law, Beth Morgan, told AP.

"He was side-splittingly funny, a very gentle and loving father-in-law," Beth Morgan said. "He was very humble about having such a successful career."

Morgan appeared in mostly supporting roles on the big screen, playing opposite such stars as Henry Fonda, John Wayne, James Garner, Elvis Presley and Dan Aykroyd.

On television, he was more the comedic co-star, including roles on "December Bride," its spin-off "Pete and Gladys," as Sgt. Joe Friday's loyal partner in later "Dragnet" episodes and on CBS-TV's long-running "M-A-S-H" series, for which he earned an Emmy award in 1980.

Yet acting wasn't Morgan's first career choice.

Born in Detroit in 1915, Morgan was studying pre-law at the University of Chicago when public speaking classes sparked his interest in the stage. Before long, he was working with a little theater group in Washington, D.C., followed by a two-year stint on Broadway in the original production of "Golden Boy," with Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb.

Morgan made his way to Hollywood in 1942 "without any assurance that I would find work," he said in a 1976 interview with The AP.

"I didn't have enough money to go back East, so I stayed around finding jobs mainly out of friendships."

He signed a contract with 20th Century Fox after a talent scout spotted him in the one-act play, "Hello, Out There."

One of his earliest films was "The Ox Bow Incident" in 1943 with Fonda. Other films included: "High Noon," ''What Price Glory," ''Support Your Local Sheriff," ''The Apple Dumpling Gang" and "The Shootist."

Morgan began his television career in 1954 when the medium was in its infancy.

"Television allowed me to kick the Hollywood habit of typing an actor in certain roles," Morgan said, referring to his typical sidekick or sheriff portrayals on the big screen

In "December Bride," his first TV series, Morgan played Pete Porter, a perpetually henpecked neighbor. The CBS series lasted from 1954-1959, when he went on to star in his own series, "Pete and Gladys," a spinoff of "December Bride."

Demonstrating his diversity as a character actor and comedian, Morgan also starred in "The Richard Boone Show," ''Kentucky Jones" and "Dragnet."

His acting career didn't stop after "M-A-S-H" left the air in 1983 after 11 years — one of television's most successful primetime runs. Morgan went on to appear in several made-for-TV movies and other television series, such as "AfterMASH" and "Blacke's Magic."

When he was not on the set, Morgan enjoyed reading books about the legal profession and poetry. He also liked horses, which he once raised on his Northern California ranch.

Morgan is survived by three sons, Charles, Paul and Christopher; eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

No services have yet been planned.

___

AP Entertainment Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report, which contains biographical material written by former AP staffer Cadonna M. Peyton.


Condolence & Memory Journal

Col. Potter was so good. Loved him on MASH. I loved Henry Blake, but he decided to leave. When they brought Harry Morgan on, he fit right in. I remember one episode when he was the crazy General, just one episode, but then he came on full time as Col. Potter. Loved his character. He will be missed.

Posted by Lee Caruso - Union Beach, NJ - Acquaintance   July 03, 2019

I NEVER WATCHED HARRY UNTIL HE WENT INTO SYNDICATION. ONCE I WATCHED YOU, HOWEVER, I NEVER STOPPED. I JUST STOPPED LONG ENOUGH TO CHECK MY EMAIL. I WAS WATCHING THE FINAL MASH EPISODE, GOODBYE, FAREWELL, AND AMEN. NOW BACK TO THE TELEVISION. BILL AND PAMELA GOLDMAN. BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA

Posted by BILL PAM GOLDMAN - BAKERSFIELD, CA - ADMIRERER   September 07, 2015

REST IN PEACE, HARRY. JOB WELL DONE. THE GOLDMANS, BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA

Posted by WILLIAM GOLDMAN - bakersfield, CA - MASH LOVER   September 05, 2013

He stays in my heart and soul. I loved him on dragnet and he completed my love on MASH. Still thinking of him almost 2 years after he is gone. RIP Harry all my love

Posted by Walter Cross - Gonzales, LA - Fan   August 28, 2013

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Having worked in the law offices of one of Harry Morgan's sons made my LA experience less a MASH scene and helped me get home safely...God Bless...and thank you.

Posted by Rena Rockoff - Past employee of son   December 21, 2011

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Take comfort in knowing that a Guardian Angel is now looking down on you, and your family! I enjoyed watching him in Mash, and he made me laugh over, and over! He was the best!

Posted by Eleanor Deutsch - A loyal Fan   December 21, 2011

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He was infamous in our household and admired for his role in Mash. God Bless Him.

Posted by Jerry Ungar - just an admirer who watched Mash   December 16, 2011

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Thank You Harry for all the laughs. Your family is in my prayers.

Rev. Brian DeChainne ULC, AMM
Washington State

Posted by Rev Brian DeChainne - fan   December 14, 2011

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he was such a good actor in mash & dragnet, god bless him , he lived a long life.

Posted by diane thorn - fan   December 14, 2011

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See you on the stage Harry!

Posted by Gloria Pavarini Jaecks - admirer and long time fan   December 14, 2011

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M*A*S*H was the best TV show but certainly not his first. I first saw Harry when I was a chid on December Bride. What a man, what a life. And, now Heaven has him. God bless Harry and his family. My wholehearted condolences are sent now and always.

Posted by Diana Reynolds - admiring fan   December 13, 2011

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You brought laughter into my life and the lives of others who will never forget you,
your memories will sail in the hearts of all that knew you. Rest well in the lords garden.

Posted by Michael McNally    December 13, 2011

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Wonderful actor. Fond memories of Dragnet and especially Mash watching with my family. Always was the type of guy you wanted as a friend or dad. Thanks for all the memories.

Posted by Lil ~ friend    December 13, 2011

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Cornel Potter will always be the name I remember him by; 404 MASH. He was blessed with a long life. God Bless his family. May He Rest Peacefully.

Posted by Jene - fan   December 12, 2011

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Really enjoyed him on Mash R.I.P Mr Morgan

Posted by James - a fan   December 10, 2011

Was a fan, is a fan, will always be a fan. Love never dies and MASH and DRAGNET will remain in my heart and soul forever. Harry Morgan had the magic of capturing you right into his scenes, as if you were right beside him. My heart goes out to his family and close friends. He will be missed.

Posted by Dottie West - NC - Fan   December 10, 2011

I GREW UP WATCHING MASH!I FELT AS IF IWAS RIGHT THERE IN THE SCENE! I HAVE BEEN VERY DEAR CLOSE FAN OF HARRY MORGAN SINCE I WAS SMALL! MY PRAYERS ARE WITH HIS FAMILY!

Posted by DEBRA MOHEGAN - TULSA, OK - FAN   December 09, 2011

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I grew up with MASH and so did my kids. I so love it. That show made me have every emotion under the sun you know? I felt like I was there in a way I can't explain. They all gave so much to their roles that you couldn't help but fall in love with the characters. I will always love you guys, always!!!

Posted by Christi Courtney - a loving fan   December 09, 2011

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Family & Friends of Harry Morgan, He will be missed by so many. We enjoyed watching MASH, Dragnet, and many of his films he did. We send our love & prayers during this time of sorrow. Love, Jeff & Janice(Independence, Mo)

Posted by Janice Eble    December 09, 2011

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Harry Morgan aka Colonel Potter has been a part of my life from way back. From Dragnet to M*A*SH, I still watch him daily on the show.

Posted by Kurt - Friend   December 08, 2011

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I wish we had people like him in the Army but sadly, we do not. Most Officers are arrogant, uncompassionate and love only thy fellow officers. Enlisted folks are just defensible to them. Sad!
God Bless and the family are in all our prayers

Posted by US Army isn't ONE - Just me   December 08, 2011

I REMEMBER WATCHING HIS MOVIES AND MASH.HE WAS GREAT BEING COLONEL POTTER.NO ONE COULD DO A BETTER JOB.HE WILL BE MISSED BY THOSE WHO KNEW AND LOVED HIM.

Posted by BONNIE PARK - WEST CARROLLTON, OH - FAN   December 08, 2011

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Harry, thanks for the memories that you're giving us from the very beginning of M*A*S*H*. God bless you, I love you, and "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen!"

Posted by Shawn Williams - Fan   December 08, 2011

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many years of enjoyment you have givin me thru your acting skills. ajob well done.rest in peace my friend

Posted by rick tedesco - avid fan   December 08, 2011

Thank you for the years of entertainment, laughter and tears. God bless your family.

Posted by Brenda Lowrance - Charlotte, NC - fan and admirer   December 08, 2011

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My Heartfelt Sympathy goes out to the family of Harry Morgan ( Colonel Sherman T. Potter) M*A*S*H was my favorite show and i grew up watching it with my grandparents and parents. Harry Morgan will be sorely missed by my family.

Posted by Sherrie Leedon    December 08, 2011

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To The Family & Friends of Harry Morgan I Would Like To Offer My Heartfelt Sympathy To Each Of You On His Loss. I Was A Devoted Fan Of His My Whole Life And Truly Enjoyed All His Works Of Art. May He Rest In Peace Now And May Each Person That Was Connected With Mr. Morgan Find Your Peace With His Loss. God Bless All !!!!

Posted by Linda Terry - devoted fan   December 08, 2011

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My thoughts and prayers go out to Harry Morgan's family. RIP. You will be missed!

Posted by Ann Chicoine - longtime fan   December 08, 2011

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Dear Harry, You will always be remembered as the loving /fatherly character on M*A*S*H
You truly will be missed! Rest in peace.

Posted by MICHELLE LEE CLARKSON - fan*   December 07, 2011

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Thanks for the laughs, you were a true artist and I enjoyed your work.

Posted by Julius Moore - Fan   December 07, 2011

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My husband and I got such a kick out of watching Colonel Potter on Mash. He will be sorely missed by all.

Posted by Judy Dodson - FAN   December 07, 2011

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You were the BEST on Dragnet and MASH. We all liked you so much, and will miss and remember you. Thank you for sharing your talent and humor. My family and I extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to your family, Rest in Peace, Harry.

Posted by Jozef and Sonya Finkey - a long time fans   December 07, 2011


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Emmy-winning character actor Harry Morgan, whose portrayal of the fatherly Col. Potter on television's "M-A-S-H" highlighted a show business career that included nine other TV series, 50 films and the Broadway stage, died Wednesday.
The cast of M*A*S*H pose for a portrait in 1978. Seated from left are Loretta Swit, Harry Morgan, Alan Alda and Mike Farrell. Standing from left are William Christopher, Gary Burghoff, David Ogden Stiers and Jamie Farr.
Actor Harry Morgan has died at 96.
In this Sept. 19, 1982 photo, Actor Harry Morgan sits on the set of "M*A*S*H*" in Los Angeles.
In this Dec. 23, 1982 photo, from left, Alan Alda , Burt Metcalfe , Harry Morgan and Loretta Swit (Maj. Margret stand on the set of M*A*S*H* in Los Angeles.
In this April 2, 1989 photo, Harry Morgan arrives for the "M*A*S*H*" cast party at a restaurant in Los Angeles.

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In this March 13, 1988 photo, Harry Morgan and his wife Barbara are seen arriving for the People's Choice Awards in Los Angeles.