Thanks to Jack Webb, Bill Gannon was one of Harry Morgan's most satisfying roles
Dragnet was serious, organized and straightforward. All things Harry Morgan loved about the series, all designed by co-star Jack Webb.
Harry Morgan, formerly known as Harry Bratsburg, was no stranger to several roles throughout his long Hollywood career. The big screen star turned television standout became known for his authoritative roles and his funny personality on set.
Some of that hilarity was clear in several seasons of M*A*S*H, in which he played the memorable Col. Sherman T. Potter, the replacement of Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) during the fourth season of the series.
M*A*S*H will always jump out when the career of Harry Morgan is brought up, but the detective, Los Angeles based series Dragnet should certainly be in the conversation as well, and for several reasons.
Morgan played the role of Officer Bill Gannon, who worked closely with Sgt. Joe Friday, played by director Jack Webb. The series was straightforward, offered little comedy and according to Morgan, served a purpose.
"It's about something for a change," Morgan said of the series in a 1967 article from The North Adams Transcript. "In its semidocumentary style, it's practically a public service."
Morgan said a lot of things on Dragnet were done right for the time. The nature of the series called for a serious demeanor, and that's exactly what made this series stand out. For Morgan, the consistency and mind of Jack Webb is why Dragnet was always one of his favorite productions.
"I think [of] all of the things I've done on television, those may be the most satisfying in some respects, and that was due to Jack," Morgan said in a 2004 interview with the Archive of American Television. "He was a really great producer. He had a hand in writing most of the scripts and really was the master of the whole thing."
"Honest, straightforward, no compromises and it had a good message," Morgan added. "I think it was done seriously and with a very good point of a view. Entirely beneficial seems to me."
The show had very few comedic relief scenes, and that was by design. However, one could only hold back the incredibly funny Harry Morgan back so much.
"[Bill Gannon] was sort of in a way a kind of a comic foil for Jack," Morgan said. "A good officer and all that but the comedy was supplied by me I guess in the show. He was a colorful character, fun to play."
Morgan eventually added with a chuckle, "I was always joking around. Sometimes I played it a little too lightly and Jack would say 'hold it, it's not all that funny.'"
In the end, Morgan said the show worked and was as successful as it was because of the chemistry he and Webb had.
"I admired Jack a lot and I liked him a lot. We had a wonderful relationship."