Monday, December 12, 2011

R.I.P. Harry Morgan.

Actor Harry Morgan passed away on Wednesday, December 07, 2011, at the age of 96.

Best known for his long-running role of Col. Sherman Potter on M.A.S.H., to me Morgan is most fondly remembered as Officer Bill Gannon, on the sixties version of DRAGNET. (Which, if I may be allowed to play “Degrees of Separation”, was inspired by THIS!)

Morgan’s likeable and frankly quirky (sort of “comedy relief”) portrayal of Gannon offered a perfect counterpoint to Jack Webb’s no-nonsense cop Sgt. Joe Friday. Gannon was often “into something” that would influence his conversation throughout an episode, and/or spend the time trying to convince Friday of that “something”.

In originating the role for an early 1967 debut of the sixties revival of DRAGNET, Morgan helped change the face of ‘60s television, as I have noted HERE.

If there was a single, quintessential “Bill Gannon” episode of Dragnet, it would be “The Big Neighbor” (October 12, 1967), in which Gannon tries to convince Friday of the joys and comforts of a married life in the suburbs. As the “cop on the block”, however, Gannon’s night is anything but peaceful – in both humorous and non-humorous ways.
Oddly, I immediately thought of this episode as my thoughts turned to Harry Morgan this week – and I was not alone, as a clip from “The Big Neighbor” was shown to eulogize Morgan on Sunday’s “This Week” broadcast on ABC TV.

The Big Neighbor” can be found on the DRAGNET Season Two DVD set.


Anonymous said...

Charlton Heston said in his autobiography that he met Harry Morgan at a social function and said, "You were in my first picture." Morgan chuckled, "Hell, I was in everybody's first picture."

Joe Torcivia said...

That’s a GREAT anecdote!

Conversely, Harry Morgan was in John Wayne’s LAST picture – “The Shootist”! I still remember Morgan’s utter GLEE at the prospect of Wayne’s character dying!