MCLEAN STEVENSON Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: McLean Stevenson                                                                     
Born: 14 November 1927 Normal, Illinois                                                     
Died: 15 February 1996 Los Angeles, California, U.S.                                       
McLean Stevenson (November 14, 1927 – February 15, 1996) (full name Edgar McLean         
Stevenson, Jr.), born in Normal, Illinois, was an American actor most recognized           
for his role as Lt. Colonel Henry Blake on the TV series M*A*S*H.                           
Stevenson was the great-grandson of William Stevenson, second cousin, once                 
removed, of Presidential Candidate Adlai Stevenson II. He was also the brother             
of actress Ann Whitney. His father, Edgar, was a cardiologist.                             
After serving in the Navy, he attended Northwestern University, where he                   
graduated with a bachelor's degree in theater arts and was a proud and well-liked           
Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity brother. Afterwards he worked on a radio                 
station, played a clown on a live TV show in Dallas, became an assistant                   
director at Northwestern, and sold medical supplies and insurance. Afterwards he           
worked as a press secretary for his cousin in the presidential elections of 1952           
and 1956. He formed the "Young Democrats for Stevenson".                                   
In 1961, his cousin invited him to some parties, where he met some business                 
luminaries. He followed his cousin's advice to look for a show business career.             
He auditioned and won a scholarship to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.           
His teachers included the well-respected Lee Strasberg, Sandy Meisner, David               
Craig, Lehman Engel, and Sue Seaton.                                                       
Stevenson made his professional career debut in The Music Man in 1962 and                   
appeared regularly in Warsaw, Indiana, in summer stock productions. After this             
he appeared in New York on stage and television commercials. He also                       
performed on Broadway. However, he began to establish himself as a comedy writer,           
writing for the seminal That Was The Week That Was, in which Alan Alda appeared,           
and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. He performed occasionally on both shows.             
The handprints of McLean Stevenson in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at             
Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.                                 
After guest-starring on That Girl with Marlo Thomas, he was cast in The Doris               
Day Show in 1969, playing magazine editor boss Michael Nicholson until 1971.               
Originally, he auditioned for the role of Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H, but was               
convinced to play Henry Blake instead. This role shot him to stardom. He                   
eventually wrote the episode "The Trial of Henry Blake," and provided the story             
for another, "The Army-Navy Game." He received one Emmy nomination for his                 
Henry Blake was one of the most popular characters on M*A*S*H, a carefree clod             
who preferred fishing and golfing to keeping close tabs on the unit under his               
command. Furthermore, the show quickly became one of the most popular situation             
comedies running, and would eventually become recognized as one of the top                 
sitcoms in television history. Stevenson, however, began chafing (as did Wayne             
Rogers) at the fact he was playing second fiddle to the wisecracking Hawkeye (played       
by Alan Alda), and asked to be let out of his contract during the show's third             
season. The writers reluctantly accomplished this transition in the final                   
episode of the 1974-75 season, in which Col. Blake was discharged, only to board           
a plane that was shot down over the Sea of Japan, killing everyone on board (a             
part that was added after the scripts were distributed as to engender genuine               
emotion from the actors as they were genuinely unaware of that part of the                 
Stevenson appeared as a guest panelists many times on Match Game's daytime                 
version, (when it was still aired daily on CBS) in 1973 and again in 1978 on the           
daytime and nighttime syndicated version. In 1981, (Match Game's syndicated                 
version) Stevenson became a regular panelists, host Gene Rayburn described                 
Stevenson as someone "responsible for the demise of several television shows"               
just before handing Stevenson Match Game hosting duties for a day. Stevenson               
remained a panelist until the show was cancelled in 1982.                                   
After his departure from M*A*S*H, Stevenson's acting career began to sink.                 
Stevenson starred in a series of sitcoms that he hoped would bring him the comic           
leading-man status to which he aspired. None of these efforts met with much                 
success. They included The McLean Stevenson Show; In the Beginning; Hello, Larry;           
and Condo. All four sitcoms were dismissed by audiences and critics alike as               
sorry wastes of Stevenson's abilities, and all but one lasted no more than a               
single season (Hello, Larry lasted a season and a half).                                   
Stevenson also guest-starred in shows such as Square One TV, The Love Boat, Diff'rent       
Strokes, Match Game (where he served as a regular panelist), Hollywood Squares,             
and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. His screen credits include the                 
Disney movie The Cat from Outer Space as a friend of Dr. Frank Wilson (played by           
Ken Berry). He also was a co-host of the CBS daytime talk show America, which               
lasted 16 weeks between September 16, 1985 and January 3, 1986.                             
Stevenson was recovering from surgery in a Los Angeles hospital on February 15,             
1996, when he unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest and died. It was three                 
months after his 68th birthday. In a strange twist of fate, Stevenson was the               
first cast member from M*A*S*H to leave the series, as well as the first to pass           
away. M*A*S*H writer Larry Gelbart later said that Stevenson had left too soon             
twice in one lifetime. Coincidentally, Roger Bowen, who had played Henry Blake             
in the MASH, also died of cardiac arrest the day after Stevenson’s passing.               
Stevenson is interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.             
He left behind his wife Ginny, daughter Lindsey and son Jeff MacGregor (from a             
previous marriage).                                                                         
Shortly before his passing, Stevenson admitted that he regretted leaving M*A*S*H           
when he did.