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Harry Morgan, R.I.P.

By admin Published: December 7, 2011

The New York Times obit is here. Morgan was 96.

His major claim to fame was playing Sherman Potter on "MASH," but Morgan's career went long before (and after) that series. He was the sort of character actor who could do anything, was not demanding of screen time, but could steal just about any scene if he chose to.

He worked with Jack Webb, Charlton Heston, John Wayne, James Garner and the cast of "3rd Rock From the Sun," an ensemble that set a very high bar for any guest stars.

We once had a brief but moving conversation; he was recently widowed and back at work because, as he said, work was good therapy. I will not forget the look of sadness on his face as he said it. We also had lunch once, around 1994, to talk about Jack Webb; I had hoped to write a Webb biography -- although I still haven't -- and Morgan graciously gave me a good bit of his time. (Strange things that stick in memory: He had a Cobb salad. And the staff knew to bring it to him without his having to order.) He praised Webb's work but didn't have much respect for the other actor's politics -- which were well to the right of Morgan's own liberal leanings.

It was one of the more memorable moments in my strange career, not only for the stories but because Morgan had seemingly done everything you could do in acting. He told me the story about his wife sitting once with Charlton Heston's wife, and Mrs. Heston noting that Harry had been in Charlton's first movie. Morgan's wife replied: Harry was in everyone's first movie.

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