Harry Morgan said the ''real'' him could be seen in his M*A*S*H character
Harry Morgan always stayed true to himself, even while playing the role of someone else.
Image credit: The Everett Collection
Harry Morgan had a long-acting career full of some great roles that later became big resume builders. His career spanned many decades, but perhaps his most famous decade on TV was in the 1970s.
Morgan joined the cast of M*A*S*H as Col. Sherman T. Potter during season three, after he replaced McLean Stevenson (Lt. Col. Henry Blake) in the series.
It didn't take Morgan long before he started to become one with the role. Soon millions of fans would be quoting Col. Potter by saying things like "Pony Pucks!" and "Mule Fritters!"
In a 1976 interview with The Tampa Tribune, Morgan was asked what he planned to do once M*A*S*H came to an end. He responded: "After M*A*S*H I may die."
Same, Harry, same.
Most viewers in the U.S. thought the same thing when the record-breaking M*A*S*H finale aired in 1983. Many spent all twelve years watching M*A*S*H on TV and were heartbroken to see it end.
He was not serious, of course. In fact, even though Morgan's role in M*A*S*H changed his life in many ways, he said he was ready for something new.
"I used to do a lot of villainous — and they were good parts," Morgan said. "But lately, it's been the nice guy characters, because they want the 'real me' to show through."
On M*A*S*H, he was easy to love, but before that he was known for being the bad guy. Some of his previous work included: December Bride (1954), Pete and Gladys (1960), Dragnet (1967) and Hec Ramsey (1972).
"M*A*S*H is an iconoclastic show," Morgan said. "I'm much more in tune with the show's ideology. It's one of my favorites I suppose, I liked Dragnet too, but it was different."
He was a pro who could handle any acting assignment, and Col. Potter was just an extension of him in many ways. At first, Morgan said he was nervous about joining the cast of characters and entering an already established working environment.
"After all, I was replacing a great comic, McLean Stevenson, and entering a company that had been close-knit for three seasons," Morgan said. "I had one morning of apprehension on the first day of shooting. That afternoon everything was OK. It's amazing how short a time it takes for a troupe to learn to work together in harmony."
According to another 1976 interview with The Sacramento Bee, Morgan moved to Hollywood in 1942 without any job offer or prospect. He had no money to move back to his hometown, so all he could do was stay and work in Hollywood.
Fast forward many years later and Morgan now has over hundreds of roles in TV and film. Morgan said he would have worked on M*A*S*H for another 10 years if he could. He and Col. Potter shared a special connection.
"Television allowed me to kick the Hollywood habit of typing an actor in certain roles," Morgan said. "M*A*S*H was so damned good, I didn't think they could keep the level so high. But they have. I think this season's shows have been outstanding."