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Harry Morgan

Updated on March 6, 2013

Harry Morgan a.k.a. Colonel Potter

Many know this Detroit native from his role on the long-running television series M*A*S*H* but his credits extend to dozens of films and television shows. The long life and career of Harry Morgan almost never was. He originally went to school to be a lawyer and even won a major debate competition in his junior year. But after spending a couple years at the University of Chicago, Harry Morgan (actually born Harry Bratsberg) walked away and moved to Washington D.C. It was at this point that he had his first experience in theater.

After being discovered by Hollywood agent, Charlie Feldman, Harry headed west to Hollywood where he changed his name to Henry Morgan. That was his first credited name which can be seen in the To the Shores of Tripoli. He kept this name for a while but eventually settled on the name we know him by: Harry Morgan. He was unsure of how his life in Hollywood would go but once he arrived he knew he didn't have the money to return home even if he wanted. So, he gave it his all.

Harry Morgan appeared in 100 hundred films even before he did M*A*S*H*, and had roles in other TV movies and television shows. He won an Emmy Award for his role as Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H*. His career started in 1942 and his last credit was in a TV movie titled Love & Money.

Harry Morgan passed away at the age of 96 on December 7, 2011 after having pneumonia.

Film Career

He has appeared in over 100 films and TV movies, and if you scroll down his resume you'll see a pattern. More often than not, Harry Morgan played a man in the military or a man of the law. From Captains to Majors to Lieutenants, it seems like he as held rank in every branch of the military and police force. He even reprised the role of his television character Bill Gannon in the 1987 comedy Dragnet starring Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd.

Harry Morgan also was a man in the West and can be seen in such acclaimed westerns as High Noon and How the West was Won where he played Ulysses S. Grant.

Harry was known as a scene-stealer but that had more to do with his abilities to capture the audience and nothing to do with his ego. Many considered him very modest and down-to-earth in the real world. He was a man who didn't brag about who he knew or who his friends were (Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda were considered some of his closest) but he always loved to share one of his hundreds of stories when prompted.

Harry Morgan's name never really graced the marquees outside of the cineplexes but people recognized him and liked him. Some of the movies he co-stars in under such big box office draws as Gary Cooper and John Wayne are classics.

(Below, you can see him as the judge on the DVD cover of the film Inherit the Wind)

Television Career

Who is Harry Morgan? Well, he's Colonel Potter.

Most will recognize his name on the long-running series M*A*S*H* than in any other form. Those who worked with Harry Morgan felt that he brought a big part of who he was in real life to the lovable yet no-nonsense character he is most famous for. The paintings that Potter created in episodes of M*A*S*H* were his own and the picture of his wife on his desk was his real life wife, Eileen. Morgan even raised horses like his character Potter and in the final episode of M*A*S*H*, watched by over 106 million people, he rode off on his own horse, Sophie.

Most may not realize though that before he was Colonel Potter, Harry Morgan was Major General Steele. At the end of the third season of M*A*S*H*, Morgan played a loony Major General which garnered an Emmy nomination. He was invited back at the start of the fourth season and was offered the role of Colonel Sherman T. Potter (for which he won the Emmy).

Harry Morgan's first major role in television was on Dragnet where he played Officer Bill Gannon for 100 episodes. He also had many special guest appearances on such popular programs as Dr. Kildare, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Love Boat.

Pictures of Harry Morgan

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H*Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H*Bill Gannon in the television show DragnetBill Gannon in the film DragnetThe Judge in Inherit the Wind
Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H*
Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H*
Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H*
Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H*
Bill Gannon in the television show Dragnet
Bill Gannon in the television show Dragnet
Bill Gannon in the film Dragnet
Bill Gannon in the film Dragnet
The Judge in Inherit the Wind
The Judge in Inherit the Wind

Harry Morgan discusses M*A*S*H*

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Thoughts on Harry Morgan? What were your favorite roles or Colonel Potter lines?


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    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 6 years ago from Northern California

      Loved Colonel Potter. He will be missed.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 6 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Harry Morgan starred in a variety of roles during his career but I remember him most from Mash. He sure was an interesting character.