McLean Stevenson

Death of McLean Stevenson

November 14, 1927 - February 15, 1996
Studio City, California | Age 68

"M-A-S-H" star, dead at 68


McLean Stevenson, who played the womanizing, goof-off Lt. Col. Henry Blake on TV's "M-A-S-H," has died at age 68.

Stevenson died of a heart attack late Thursday at a hospital, his agent, Robert Malcolm, said.

Stevenson played the commanding officer of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, for the first three seasons of "M-A-S-H." The role won him a 1973 Golden Globe Award and a 1974 Emmy nomination.

In the series, Blake died when his plane was lost at sea as he returned to the United States.

"McLean Stevenson was one of the kindest, most sensitive people I've worked with or known," said Gary Burghoff, who played Blake's clerk, Radar O'Reilly. "My personal sense of loss is magnified a thousand times by what this kind, funny gentleman has meant to all those who knew him."

Jamie Farr, who played Cpl. Maxwell Klinger on "M-A-S-H," praised Stevenson's comic sense.

"Mac had a tickle inside of him. Everything he said was funny _ on and off the set," Farr said Friday. "He always had a smile, always had good things to say."

Stevenson quit the series "to see what I can do on my own," he told The Associated Press in 1975.

"For five years I've been playing second banana in filmed comedy series, first on `The Doris Day Show' and then `M-A-S-H," he said.

"Sure, I'll be losing a lot of money," he said. "But so what? How many Jaguars can I drive? My needs are very small."

Stevenson later said leaving the series was the mistake of his career.

After "M-A-S-H," he appeared in a handful of short-lived series, even his own, "The McLean Stevenson Show." He also appeared in "Hello, Larry" and "Condo."

Born in Bloomington, Ill., Stevenson was the son of a cardiologist. He worked on the losing presidential campaign of his cousin and next-door neighbor, Adlai Stevenson.

He was 31 before he broke into acting after careers as a medical supplies salesman, insurance clerk, seaman and assistant director of athletics at Northwestern University, where he earned a theater arts degree.

"I had nine jobs in eight years and I didn't like any of them," he told the AP. He was walking across a football field when he decided to go into show business.

"I watched those poor slobs practicing like crazy, knowing that if they didn't block they wouldn't get paid," he recalled. "It was crazy to stay in college athletics unless you were a coach. I decided to go to New York and become an actor."

During the 1960s he worked in night clubs and comedy cabarets, did summer stock theater and some television before moving to Hollywood, where he worked as a comedy writer for Tommy Smothers. He eventually began acting in sketches on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour."

He played Doris Day's boss from 1969-71 on "The Doris Day Show" and was a regular on "The Tim Conway Comedy Hour" in 1970.

Stevenson is survived by his wife, Ginny; daughter Lindsey; son Jeffrey MacGregor; and sister, Ann Whitney.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.