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Appeared on EQ tv-show Harry Morgan (Apr 10,1915 - Dec 7, 2011)

 

Picture from Harry Morgan taken when The Muskegon High debating team won a state championship in 1932Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Siblings:
       Arnold L. Bratsburg (b. Feb 27. 1919 - d. Jan 4. 2001)
       Marguerite M. Bratsburg (b. 1924)
Marriages:
(1) Eileen Ann Detchon (Sep 1. 1940 - Feb 4. 1985, her
      death)
      Four sons:
Christopher, Charles, Paul and Daniel
      Christopher Thomas, TV producer (b.Aug 31 1942),
      Charles Timothy (b.May 1. 1944) attorney
      (actor under the name Charley Morgan),
      Twins: Paul Anthony, attorney (b.Dec 23. 1946)
                  Daniel Howard (b.Dec 23, 1946 - d.Nov 13.1989)
(2) Marcella Barbara Bushman Quine (Dec 17, 1986 - 2011,
      his death)


Harry was born in Detroit, Michigan, in April 10. 1915, as Harry Bratsburg, the son of Hannah Christine Olsen and Henry Arnold Bratsburg, a mechanic, who were of Swedish and Norwegian ancestry. 

Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Muskegon, Michigan, 42 miles west northwest of Grand Rapids.
His father and 2 uncles worked on the Erie Canal. When Morgan's father Henry registered at junior high school, the registrar spelled it Bratsburg instead of Bratsberg. Bashful Henry did not demur.

Young Harry was a popular classmate at Muskegon High School, being named class president in his senior year (1933). His specialty was debating and in his junior year he and and fellow debaters went all the way to a state championship, defeating Oxford in the finals at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. Curiously, the boy who would become the high school's most accomplished thespian did not even participate in plays produced at the school.

Harry was offered a scholarship to the University of Chicago but opted out for financial reasons, he quit after two years,
to continue his education locally at Muskegon Junior College, where he again starred on the debate team. Through his public speaking and debating classes, Morgan apparently realized what assets he had in his strong (and distinctive) voice and his presence. He began acting while a junior at the University of Chicago in 1935.

After graduating from JC in 1935, he joined the sales dept. at Shaw-Walker Company and soon relocated to Washington D.C. He was selling (or not selling, as he clarifies) office equipment making $20 a week selling office supplies, in 1937. "I only made $10 a week as an actor" he recalled bitterly, "and the week after I quit my job a fellow I was working with made $200,000 - selling all the filing cabinets to the Social Security office."  He tried out for some summer stock parts with local theater groups. This led to roles and try-outs with more important companies, and then to summer stock companies outside New York City.

He successfully auditioned for a part in The Petrified Forest (1937),  a play with Frances Farmer, and she helped him get an interview with The Group Theater, comprised of a great many of the finest dramatic talents ever in U.S. history: Clifford Odets, Howard Clurman, Elia Kazan, Lee J. Cobb, Sanford Meisner, John Garfield, Karl Malden. Morgan was accepted into the Group, and appeared in a very successful Odets play called Golden Boy (Nov 1937), in which he played a boxer, Pepper White. (he used to have a nasty family dog by that name.) It played Broadway for a year and then another six months in London, where the cast spent some time with Paul Robeson and met Winston Churchill. A host of successful Broadway roles followed. Morgan also did summer stock at the Pine Brook Country Club located in the countryside of Nichols, Connecticut.

Frances Farmer was from Seattle, where she had grown up with Eileen Detchon, another aspiring Broadway actress, the latter met Harry while working together in a William Saroyan play called My Heart's in the Highlands. They were wed in 1940 and Harry found work in small theater and in radio. Frances Farmer persuaded the newlyweds to relocate to the West coast. Hollywood soon beckoned and in 1941 he was signed with 20th Century Fox. 

Morgan (L) made his screen debut (originally using the name "Henry Morgan") as contract actor in the 1942 movie "To the Shores of Tripoli."Harry Morgan (L) and Paul Langton (R) in "Gentle Annie" (1944)

Upon his return to Muskegon, Michigan, his mother, Hannah Olsen, passed away in January 1942.

Morgan made his screen debut (originally using the name "Henry Morgan") as contract actor in the 1942 movie To the Shores of Tripoli. His screen name later became "Henry 'Harry' Morgan" and eventually Harry Morgan, to avoid confusion with the popular humorist of the same name.

Morgan served in the US Army during WW2 where he joined other actors making training films. One of his works, The Rifle Platoon made in 1942 is available on YouTube.

 Harry Morgan in "Johnny Comes Flying Home" (1946)Harry Morgan and George Raft in "Race Street" (1948)

Between 1942 and 1946 the family celebrated the birth of four sons, all were born in Los Angeles, the last two being twins.   "There was an entire year in there early on when my dad didn't get a single day's work, and he had four young mouths to feed." (3)   

Morgan hosted the NBC radio series Mystery in the Air starring Peter Lorre in 1947.

One memorable role was in The Big Clock (1948) in which he plays a very menacing bodyguard/henchman to Charles Laughton. His lines were perfunctory and so he suggested that they just have the character be a mute — a touch that works very well.

He had a sort of breakthrough in another Saroyan play called Hello, Out There! (1949) (a very charming one-act work with just two characters, the other part played by Jennifer Jones), which was staged in a playhouse in Santa Barbara. The film was a paring of Hello, Out There! with another one-act work, but it was never released and there is no known surviving print (according to the UCLA Theater Arts archive). Hello, Out There! did lead to a contract with Fox Studios and a few years of security, with Harry appearing as Henry Morgan in a few dozen films, often as comedic character or a heavy — not much in between.

In 1950, Morgan appeared as an obtrusive, alcohol-addled hotel clerk in the Dragnet radio episode "The Big Boys".

Glenn Ford (R) grabbing Harry Morgan (L) in "The Teahouse of August Moon" (1956)Cara Williams (L) and Harry Morgan (R) in "Pete and Gladys" (1960)

Harry Morgan's hobbies included photography, horseback-riding, handball and bicycling. He also loves to cook and is a collector of fine symphonic music recordings. When television became an everyday reality in the '50s, Morgan was ready.

On CBS, he played Pete Porter in Pete and Gladys (1960–1962), with Cara Williams as wife Gladys. Pete and Gladys was a spin-off of December Bride (1954–1959), starring Spring Byington, a show in which Morgan had a popular recurring role.

Harry Morgan in a candid picture with director John Ford for "How the West was Won" (1962)
Harry Morgan as general Sherman in a candid photo with John Ford director of  How the West was Won (1962)

In 1964, he directed the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode, "Who needs an enemy?".

He was an active opponent of the anti-communist campaign in Hollywood. Enjoyed golfing, traveling, dining, fishing, spending time with his family, reading, raising quarter-horses, horseback riding, animals, painting and poetry.

In 1966 Harry played opposite Elvis Presley in Frankie and Johnny (see below left), for Ellery Queen fans the picture has more familiar cast members: Eddie Quillan as cashier (uncredited) and the 'faux' Robert Strauss.

He received the Gold Award of Purple Heart Veterans Rehabilitation Service in the 1970s.

Harry Morgan and Elvis (1966)Lawford with Inspector Queen played by Harry Morgan in "Ellery Queen, Don't Look behind You"

In Ellery Queen Don't Look Behind You (1971) Morgan, well-suited as the long-suffering Dad, was rewritten as a long-suffering uncle. Thus resolving not only the difference in accents between the two actors, but also the small age difference.   

Morgan appeared on several famous TV-shows including The Partridge Family and Gunsmoke.

Harry Morgan with the Partridge Family (1970)Harry Morgan together with his best friend James Arness on "Gunsmoke"
 Col. Potter was a heavy drinker and a smoker, as was Morgan, in real-life.1980 Print Ad of Gaines Complete Dog Food with Harry Morgan

Morgan's biggest role was that of a tough-talking, commanding, fun-loving, serious Army Officer, "Col. Sherman T. Potter" on M*A*S*H (1972), when he replaced McLean Stevenson, who left the show to unsuccessfully star in his own sitcom. For the third time, the show was still a hit with fans, and at 60, he was nominated for Emmys eleven times and won his first and only Emmy in 1980, for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Variety or Music Series. By 1983, M*A*S*H's series was getting very expensive, as well as with the cast, hence, CBS reduced it to 16 episodes. Despite M*A*S*H's finale in 1983, Morgan went on to star in a short-lived spin-off series After M*A*S*H (1983), co-starring Jamie Farr and William Christopher, from the original M*A*S*H (1972) series, without series' star Alan Alda. (1) Col. Potter was a heavy drinker and a smoker, as was Morgan, in real-life (Picture above bottom left). In various episodes of M*A*S*H (1972), his real-life wife, Eileen Detchon (see picture below left), stood in for his character's wife, Mildred's portrait on his character's desk.
When asked about his feelings during the shooting of the final episode of the show, Morgan said: “Sadness and an aching heart.”
 

In a business in which friendships / often end at a series wrap party, Morgan is pleased to have an important carry-over from the M*A*S*H - days. "Loretta Swit called me from London," Morgan once said on the day before Christmas. "I think she's probably my best friend. She didn't even call collect".

Eileen Morgan (L) and her husband actor Harry Morgan (R) at the 34th Annual Directors Guidl of America Awards (March 13. 1984), Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California.Harry Morgan and his wife at a banquet April 4. 2001 in Los Angeles, CA.

Eileen died in 1985. He then married Barbara Bushman Quine (see picture above right), granddaughter of silent film star Francis X. Bushman) on December 17, 1986. The marriage lasted until his death. In July 1997, Morgan was charged with abusing his wife a year earlier, an argument that began during a dinner party earlier in the evening continued when the couple returned home, then turned violent leaving her with injuries to her eye, foot, and arm. Prosecutors dropped the charges after the 82-year-old actor completed a six-month domestic violence counseling program (2)

Harry Morgan (R) together with veteran Walter Matthau (L) in a publicity shot for "Against her will" (1992)Towards the end of his acting career, as he reached 80, he had a recurring role as the older college professor on "3rd Rock from the Sun" (1996), opposite John Lithgow.

Towards the end of his acting career, as he reached 80, he had a recurring role as the older college professor on 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996), opposite John Lithgow (see picture above right). Afterwards, he retired from show business and lived with his family.

His latest appearance on television was in the M*A*S*H: 30th Anniversary Reunion in 2002.

Was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 2006.

Morgan died peacefully in his sleep at 3:00 am in Los Angeles, on December 7, 2011, 10 days before his 25th wedding anniversary, at the age of 96. His son, Charles, said he recently had been treated for pneumonia. His body was cremated and his remains were given to his family.

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References
(1) IMDb
(2) Wikipedia

(3) Harry Morgan profile at Norwegian American Hall of Fame
(4) TCM
(5) Playbills
(6) Old Time Radio Downloads

Additional video & audio sources
(1) Harry Morgan interview at Archive of American Television
(2) The Partridge Family Clip from TV series with Harry Morgan
(3) Race Street Clip from 1948 movie with George Raft and Harry Morgan (YouTube)
(4) Dragnet (1987) Clip from the movie (YouTube)
(5) After M*A*S*H (1983) Clip from the TV series (YouTube)
(6) Pete & Gladys (1962) Clip from the TV episode "Hero in the House"


This actor profile is a part of the Ellery Queen a website on deduction. The actor above played Richard Queen in the Ellery Queen TV pilot.  

Page first published on Dec 18. 2017 
Last updated Dec 18, 2017 

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