Today is the birthday of Harry Morgan. He would have been 97 years old but we lost him only a few months ago.
Harry Morgan was born Harry Bratsburg on April 10, 1915 in Detroit. During his career, he starred in over 100 movies, including State Fair, Strategic Air Command, The Glenn Miller Story, and Support Your Local Sherriff. He became known on TV as the hen-pecked next door neighbor husband, Pete Porter, on December Bride which aired on the CBS Television Network from 1954 to 1959 with 157 episodes.
He then teamed up with his friend Jack Webb to play the role of Officer Bill Gannon on the show Dragnet, which aired on the NBC Television Network from 1967 to 1970 with 98 episodes. While I remember December Bride a little, it was his role in Dragnet that I first remember him as the straight talking but often times goofy Los Angeles police officer. But his biggest role was yet to come.
In 1975, Morgan joined the cast of M*A*S*H playing the role of Colonel Sherman Potter, a tough talking but fun loving Army officer. McLean Stevenson, who had played the CO of the MASH unit, was written out of the series as having died in combat (Stevenson left to star in his own sitcom). M*A*S*H was one of the most successful shows on CBS during its run from 1972-1983. 255 episodes were made. The final episode was one of the highest rated shows on network television, reaching nearly 125 million people. The show went into local TV syndication in 1979.
I was fortunate in my programming director career to own the local rights to M*A*S*H here in the DFW area and on my first job in North Carolina. M*A*S*H was a show that was widely viewed as a underperformer in reruns. The syndicator, 20th Television, had a tough time selling it. But once it started its syndication run, it was a huge hit. It continues to run in syndication nearly 30 years after it completed its run on CBS.
Harry Morgan always said, “An actor’s most important responsibility is to know lines well.”. Makes sense, don’t you think?
Thanks Harry for the laughs! See you next time.