One of the most prolific actors in television history -- with starring roles in 11 different television series under his belt -- Harry Morgan is most closely identified with his portrayal of Colonel Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H (1975-1983). But his credits go back to the 1930s, embracing theater and film as well as the small-screen. Born Harry Bratsberg in Detroit, Michigan in 1915, he made his Broadway debut with the Group Theatre in 1937 as Pepper White in the original production of Golden Boy, alongside Luther Adler, Phoebe Brand, Howard Da Silva, Lee J. Cobb, Morris Carnovsky, Frances Farmer, Elia Kazan, John Garfield, Martin Ritt, and Roman Bohnen. His subsequence stage appearances between 1939 and 1941 comprised a string of failures -- most notably Clifford Odets' Night Music, directed by Harold Clurman, and Robert Ardrey's Thunder Rock, directed by Elia Kazan -- before he turned to film work. Changing his name to Henry Morgan, he appeared in small roles in The Shores of Tripoli, The Loves of Edgar Allen Poe, and Orchestra Wives, all from 1942. Over the next two years, he essayed ever-larger supporting roles in everything from war movies to westerns, where he showed an ability to dominate the screen with his voice and his eyes -- speaking softly, Morgan could quietly command a scene, even working alongside Henry Fonda in the most important of those early pictures, The Ox-Bow Incident (1943}.
Over the years following World War II, Morgan played ever-larger roles, though still mostly of a supporting nature, that were marked by their deceptive intensity. And even when he couldn't use his voice in a role, such as that of the mute, sinister Bill Womack in The Big Clock (1948), he was still able to make his presence felt in every one of his scenes with his eyes and his body movements. He was in a lot of important pictures during this period, including major studio production such as Al My Sons (1948), Down To The Sea In Ships and Madame Bovary (both 1949), and independent films, most notably The Well (1951) and High Noon (1952). One of the more important of those roles from a later career standpoint was his portrayal of a professional killer in Appointment With Danger (1951), in which he worked alongside fellow actor Jack Webb for the first time. Morgan also passed through the stock company of director Anthony Mann, working in a brace of notable outdoor pictures across the 1950s. It was during the mid-1950s, as he began making regular appearances on television, that he was obliged to change his professional name to Harry Morgan (and, sometimes, Henry "Harry" Morgan), owing to confusion with another performer named Henry Morgan, who had already established himself on the small-screen and done some movie acting as well. And it was at this time that Morgan, now billed as Harry Morgan, got his first successful television series, December Bride, which ran for five seasons and yielded a spin-off, Pete And Gladys. Morgan continued to appear in movies, increasingly in wry, comedic roles, most notably Support Your Local Sheriff (1969), but it was the small-screen where a lot of his activity was concentrated throughout the 1960s.