Saluting “Colonel Potter,” Also Known As Harry Morgan

This week Harry Morgan, the actor who played Colonel Potter on the TV series M*A*S*H from 1975-83, died at the age of 96. Morgan had said in a late-life interview that Potter was probably “the best part I ever had”—and he’d had many over the years.

The character of Colonel Potter is described on Wikipedia as “a career army officer who was tough, yet good-humored and caring—a father figure to the people under his command.” And at times a bit like a good therapist, I would add.

Some of Colonel Potter’s best quotes:

  • About Klinger, as a crossdresser: I’ve got a soft spot for Klinger. He looks a little like my son, and he dresses a lot like my wife.
  • To Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda): Listen, it’s too big a world to be in competition with everyone. The only person who I have to be better than is myself. And in your case, that’s tough enough. 
  • Hawkeye: I’ll go in there when I can screw a smile on my face.
    Potter: I’ll lend you one of mine. Got a drawer full of them.
    Hawkeye, smiling: So that’s your secret.
  • You know sometimes I think there should be a rule of war saying you have to see someone up close and get to know ’em before it’s ok to shoot ’em.

When riled, Potter was also known for his unique brand of swearing (“Horse hockey!” or “Great Caesar’s Salad!” or “Monkey muffins!” to name just a few).

Swearing, sure, but he didn’t often reach his breaking point. However, the stirring scene below features Potter doing just that when faced with info about technological advances in warfare (during the Korean War, early 1950’s) and the possible effects on his soldiers. And what he winds up expressing seems just as relevant today as it was in that context.

UPDATE, 12/19/12: Sorry—The video was removed from YouTube.

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