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McLean Stevenson

Mostly Credited As: McLean Stevenson
Sometimes Credited As: Edgar McLean Stevenson Jr.

Birth Name: Edgar McLean Stevenson Jr.
Date Of Birth: November 14, 1927 (Age 68)
Country Of Birth: USA
Birth Place: Normal, Illinois
Date Of Death: February 15, 1996
Cause Of Death: heart attack (Los Angeles, California)
Height: 6' 2 ½" (1.89 m)

McLean Stevenson


Sadly, McLean Stevenson's lasting legacy may be his failures rather than his successes. When he left M*A*S*H at the end of the third season, he launched into a long list of series that bombed. "I got too big for my britches," he later confessed in an interview. "I thought they loved me, but they loved Henry Blake."

McLean Stevenson was born in McLean County, Illinois (where his middle name -- his first name was Edgar -- came from) on November 14, 1929. His family boasted a number of successes: father Edgar was a cardiologist, sister Ann Whitney went into acting, his great-uncle was former Vice President Adlai Stevenson (Grover Cleveland's V.P.), and his second cousin was U.N. ambassador Adlai Stevenson II.

Stevenson served in the Navy, then went to Northwestern University's to study drama. Instead of heading to Hollywood, however, Stevenson remained in Illinois, selling insurance and working as an assistant athletics director at his alma mater. He also worked on cousin Adlai Stevenson's failed presidential candidacies in 1952 and 1956 as a press agent.

It was his political cousin who suggested that Stevenson should take a serious look at acting as a job. McLean began working in summer stock regional plays, eventually making his way to New York. He appeared in plays and a few commercials, also landing some guest star roles in series such as Car 54, Where Are You? and Naked City. His talents as a comedy writer were noticed, and soon McLean was in Hollywood as a writer on such series as That Was the Week That Was, Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. He frequently performed as an extra in the shows he wrote for.

Stevenson finally stepped in front of the camera as a series regular in 1969 when he was cast as Doris Day's boss in The Doris Day Show. He played Michael Nicholson for two years, leaving after the plot of the show was overhauled. He then went to 20th Century Fox and auditioned for the part of Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce for the television version of the popular 1970 movie M*A*S*H. That role went to Alan Alda, a co-star in That Was the Week That Was from the days when Stevenson wrote for the show. Stevenson was cast as the 4077's commanding officer, Henry Blake.

McLean played Henry, once described in an episode by Hot Lips as "a spineless, mealymouthed, fly fishing impostor," to perfection. In 1973 he won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor for the role. He also wrote an episode ("The Trial of Henry Blake") that netted him an Emmy nomination. His popularity also earned him guest-hosting spots on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and celebrity panelists on Hollywood Squares and Match Game.

As the third season of M*A*S*H went into production, Stevenson announced that he was leaving the show because he was, according to TV Guide, "Tired of being a second banana." He did not appear in two episodes of the third season, and the shocking season finale saw the beloved character killed off. This was the first time a major character was killed off a series in prime time. (The term "McLeaning" was coined in the industry to describe actors who see their character killed off when leaving a series.)

Stevenson left for NBC, where he continued to guest host for Johnny Carson. His first post-M*A*S*H series, The McLean Stevenson Show, debuted on NBC in 1976. It lasted less than one season. His second attempt at a series was In the Beginning on CBS, in which he played a conservative priest dealing with a liberal nun.

Perhaps Stevenson's most infamous role was as talk show host Larry Adler on NBC's Hello, Larry in 1979. It lasted 41 episodes, but even a two-part "cross-over" with the popular Diff'rent Strokes could not help ratings. Over the years, the show has become the brunt of jokes, a symbol of bad television.

Stevenson had two other series attempts. Condo, from 1983, lasted only four months. A television version of the movie Dirty Dancing was Stevenson's last venture into series television. He continued to receive guest starring roles in series such as Golden Girls.

In the early 1990s, Stevenson turned his attention to a charitable cause that was dear to his heart. As a child, Stevenson had been seriously burned by a Halloween jack-o-lantern. He co-founded, with Dr. Richard Grossman, the Children's Burn Foundation in Sherman Oaks, California. He spent most of the last years of his life as the spokesman for the organization, raising money for the Foundation as well as calling attention to fire hazards for children.

On February 15, 1996, McLean Stevenson was in the hospital for routine bladder surgery. During the procedure he suffered a heart attack and died. He was 66. Coincidentally, just one day later a heart attack claimed the life of Roger Bowen, the actor who originated the role of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, Stevenson's most famous portrayal.

While the legacy of McLean Stevenson is, to many, a joke and a symbol of unqualified bad career moves, in fact Stevenson left behind a body of comedic and charity work that continues to be enjoyed.

McLean's son Jeff MacGregor is also an actor and an author.

TV Appearances

Main cast 
Dirty Dancing (1988)As: Max Kellerman
Condo (1983)As: James Kirkridge
Hello, Larry (1979)As: Larry Alder
In the Beginning (1978)As: Father Daniel Cleary
The McLean Stevenson Show (1976)As: Mac Ferguson
M*A*S*H (1972)As: Lt. Colonel Henry Braymore Blake (S01-S03)
The Doris Day Show (1968)As: Michael Nicholson (S02-S03)
Episode Cast Credits 

The Golden Girls (1985) 
  Brotherly Love 03x08: (Nov/14/1987) As Ted Zbornak 

Hotel (1983) 
  Reflections 01x13: (Jan/04/1984) As Harry Gilford 

The Love Boat (1977) 
  Captain's Replacement, The/Sly as A Fox/Here Comes The Bride...Maybe 06x15: (Jan/15/1983) As Captain Donahue 
  The Fashion Show: A Model Marriage / This Year's Model / Original Sin / Vogue Rogue / Too Clothes for Comfort, Part 1 05x01: (Oct/03/1981) As unknown 

Diff'rent Strokes (1978) 
  Father and Son Day 02x10: (Nov/14/1979) As Larry Adler, [Special Guest Stars]
  Feudin' and Fussin' (1) 02x03: (Sep/28/1979) As Larry Adler, [Special Guest Stars]
  The Trip (1) 01x20: (Mar/30/1979) As Larry Adler, [Special Guest Stars]

Battle of the Network Stars (1976) 
  Special #5 01x05: (Nov/18/1978) As Himself (CBS Team - Captain) 

M*A*S*H (1972) 
  Our Finest Hour 07x04: (Oct/09/1978) As Lt. Colonel Henry Blake (Archived Footage) 

Donny and Marie (1976) 
  GUESTS: SONNY JAMES, MCLEAN STEVENSON 02x22: (Mar/18/1977) As Himself 
  GUESTS: MINNIE PURL, MCLEAN STEVENSON, RICK HURST 01x11: (Apr/09/1976) As Himself 

The Sonny & Cher Show (1976) 
  Show 6 01x06: (Mar/07/1976) As Himself 

Cher (1975) 
  Show 12 01x12: (May/04/1975) As Himself 

The Golden Globes (1944) 
  The 31st Annual Golden Globe Awards 31x01: (Jan/28/1974) As Winner: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television (for 'M*A*S*H') 

That Girl (1966) 
  My Sister's Keeper 03x19: (Feb/06/1969) As Mr. McKorkle 
Crew Credits

Show Crew



Episode Crew


M*A*S*H (1972) (Credited in 2 episodes from this show) 
 
The Trial of Henry Blake 02x08 Nov/03/1973 As: Writer
The Army-Navy Game 01x20 Feb/25/1973 As: Story
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Trivia

McLean switched places with Gene Rayburn on an Episode of Match Game.

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