I hate to start out with bad news in the morning, but it can’t be helped today. As The New York Times reports, “Harry Morgan, the prolific character actor best known for playing the acerbic but kindly Colonel Potter in the long-running television series M*A*S*H, died Wednesday morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 96. His son Charles confirmed his death, saying Mr. Morgan had been treated for pneumonia recently.”
Back in 2007, on the occasion of his 92nd birthday, I composed a longish post about Morgan for The Rap Sheet, and I don’t want to reiterate all of that. But I do wish to honor Morgan for his contributions to some of the crime dramas I remember best from my youth: Dragnet, Hec Ramsey, and Blacke’s Magic. He also appeared with Robert Conrad in The D.A. and co-starred with Peter Lawford in the unsold 1971 TV pilot film, Ellery Queen: Don’t Look Behind You. (A short clip from that film can be viewed here.)
Morgan seemed never to give less than a solid performance.
By the way, the Times’ obituary includes an observation that, in our present era of redundant and tedious self-promotion, strikes me as quite wonderful and consistent with this actor having been brought up in an earlier age of the entertainment industry: “Harry Morgan never sat as a guest on a talk show, Charles Morgan said ; it did not seem appropriate or necessary. ‘Appearing on a talk show to focus on himself because he was Harry Morgan,’ he said, ‘was not nearly as natural as appearing in a role as Pete Porter or Bill Gannon or Colonel Potter, or as the cowboy drifter who wandered into town with Henry Fonda and got wrapped up in a vigilante brigade in Ox-Bow Incident.”
(Hat tip to The Education of a Pulp Writer.)
READ MORE: “Harry Morgan, 1915-2011: An appreciation,” by Robert Lloyd (Los Angeles Times); “The Late, Great Harry Morgan,” by Mercurie (A Shroud of Thoughts).