April 10, 1915
Detroit, Michigan USA
Harry Morgan (born April 10, 1915) is an American actor. Morgan is perhaps best known as Colonel Sherman T. Potter on M*A*S*H (1975-83), Pete Porter on both Pete and Gladys (1960-62) and December Bride (1954-1959), Detective Bill Gannon on Dragnet (1967-70), and Amos Coogan on Hec Ramsey (1972-74). He has appeared in more than 100 films.
Early life and career
Morgan was born Harry Bratsberg in Detroit, Michigan of 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 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 then-popular humorist of the same name. Harry Morgan can be seen as a very young man in the 1941 movie "Sun Valley Serenade". He is seen pushing his way to the front of the crowd in the ballroom to hear Glenn Miller's band play "At Last".
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), The Glenn Miller Story (1953), Thunder Bay (film) (1953), The Far Country (1955) and Strategic Air Command (1955); in his later film career he starred in Inherit the Wind (1960), How the West Was Won (1962), John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965), Frankie and Johnny (1966), 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). Besides all of the Anthony Mann films, Morgan was in a number of movies with James Stewart, including The Mountain Road (1960), How the West Was Won, The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and The Shootist (1976), also with John Wayne, with whom he also shared scenes in How the West Was Won.
1950s TV roles
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 (1960–62), 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.
1960s: Dragnet and other roles
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 (1967–70). 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 1972–74 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 (1974-75), 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 was a career army officer who was tough, yet good-humored and caring--a father figure to the people under his command. The picture of Col. Potter's wife, on the right side of his desk, is actually that of Mrs. Harry Morgan. He asked if he could use the picture of his wife, 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.