Henry Morgan was one of the rare radio stars of the nineteen forties to approach comedy from an intellectual stand point. Most popular comedy personalities relied on a stable of writers and "switch" jokes (bits that featured minor changes on a tired routine in attempt to sell them off as a new gag). Fred Allen, Henry Morgan, Stan Freberg and Bob & Ray were all popular during their era and were some of the first to break away from the old manner of operating. Yet the names tossed around today as the stars of old time radio comedy remain Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Amos n' Andy, and for some reason, Fibber McGee and Molly. Not to take anything away from these often very funny performers and their respective shows (Okay, we'll take a little bit away from Amos n' Andy) but several decades later we should be able to acknowledge those whose comedy holds up as still funny and relevant. Those are the performers who, in retrospect, are the true stars of old time radio and deserve reverence today (I enjoy Bob Hope and probably listen to his Pepsodent radio program far more often than any young boy in his twenties should, but let's be realistic - most of it doesn't hold up).
Henry Morgan saw through all that was phony and contrived in the world of American media and held it in contempt. While most performers in early television pretended that dancing girls dressed as giant packs of cigarettes was perfectly normal, Morgan was pointing out the lunacy.
Morgan found television insipid but, incongruously, received his greatest fame as a game show panelist. That didn't soften his disposition any, although it may have humbled him somewhat. Listening to The Henry Morgan Show today is refreshing. Radio sponsors (that is to say corporate America) so dominated radio and television in the thirties, forties and fifties that it was rare to hear a point of view that contradicted that of R.J. Reynolds, Procter and Gamble or The United Fruit Company. Listening to Henry Morgan is to reassure us about the time period. Not everybody was Joseph McCarthy and not everybody bought the premise of the Cold War. Seven out of ten doctors did not actually recommend the leading brand of cigarette nor did most people believe that they did. Just as today, corporate media represented a minority opinion. A very wealthy and powerful minority that, were it not for voices like Henry Morgan's, we might believe represented the majority of Americans.
Twenty years after Morgan had retreated from public life, he published his autobiography, Here's Morgan! The Original Bad Boy of Broadcasting (1994, Barricade Books). The book's introduction, featuring the first public words from Morgan since the early eighties, started with a sarcastic indictment of American foreign policy:
"... we live at a time when the island of Grenada has been completely forgotten. Who remembers now that we fought a war there, a wonderful triumph, during the course of which the Armed Forces of the United States of America (without ANY outside help) shot and killed a Cuban workman who, the Pentagon said, had ties to the Communist Party. How could we have so soon forgotten that four thousand seven hundred medals were awarded to the American heroes who were there?
"Not too long ago we won another sensational victory during the course of which combined forces from countries having a total population of 500,000,000 (five hundred million) people fought and managed to beat Iraq, population, nineteen million. The United States alone spent eighty billion dollars, including carfare. For every Iraqi killed, military or civilian, the cost was three hundred and seventeen thousand dollars.
Truly, an Age of Gold."
After several years toiling as a page around Chicago radio stations, Henry Morgan finally became an on-air personality at the end of the thirties. Originally cast as a weatherman, he was quickly handed his own show to avert the impromptu editorials escaping from his mouth during weather reports. His fifteen-minute program, Here's Morgan, contained little more than sarcastic comments and lots of records by Spike Jones and His City Slickers (sounds like a godamn good show if you ask me). Like all radio of the time, advertisements were integrated into the programs themselves, often delivered by the show's star. Morgan so resented having to read advertising copy that he couldn't resist adding his own mark by either ridiculing the advertiser's claims or delivering the script with the equivalent of a vocal eye roll. Here's Morgan ended, not at the hands of sponsors, but after Morgan enlisted in the service in 1943. You can listen to some of the rare, surviving episodes of Here's Morgan by following this link to the indispensable archive.org.
It is remarkable that Morgan moved to network radio at all given his already established reputation as an unpredictable personality. The Henry Morgan Show gained national prominence on ABC, brought to the air under the guidance and influence of Fred Allen in September of 1946. Morgan once spoke of those he admired. "Fred Allen is one of the few heroes in my Pantheon ... Franklin Roosevelt is on a supplementary list somewhere, and so are Renata Tebaldi, Al Hirschfeld, Thomas Jefferson and Senor Wences ..." Allen was not just Morgan's hero but he was also Henry's number one supporter. However, companies looking for a show to sponsor were weary of being associated with a man who could tarnish their reputations with one smarmy sentence. Because of this, when The Henry Morgan Show later moved to NBC and found itself immediately following Fred Allen, the sponsor-less program opened with, "The Henry Morgan Show! Brought to you by (silence)(silence) The Fred Allen Show!" Allen often brought on Morgan as a guest. Listen to one such episode of The Fred Allen Show here.
The show became a hit with national listeners and Morgan required a staff of writers for the first time. Three young kids were hired: Joe Stein, Aaron Ruben and Carroll Moore. Ruben went on to the most prolific career of the three, as a writer and director on one of the sharpest programs of nineteen fifties television The Phil Silvers Show (also known as Sgt. Bilko and a thousand other names). His success continued with a lengthy stint on The Andy Griffith Show and several others. Carroll Moore became a scripter of innocuous sixties film comedies like Send Me No Flowers (1964) and the Sandra Dee vehicle That Funny Feeling (1965). Joe Stein would write some musical called Fiddler on the Roof, made a fortune, and never bothered to work again.
Over the course of time, Morgan did retain a sponsor or two. He was most identified with the Eversharp company's sinister sounding line of Schick Injector Razors. While reading one of their lame ads, Morgan improvised, "They're educational. Try one. That'll teach you." For an article on Morgan in the April 1947 edition of Life magazine, Morgan co-ordinated a photo shoot that had his face covered in bandages, praying to a shaving razor. His sponsor was not amused. By November Eversharp was done with Morgan and Time magazine reported that it was hardly a surprise. The publication lamented those comedians that dared to make mockery of corporate America: "The news was ominous for comics of the Morgan school: all the brash, postwar lads whose specialty is making fun of radio and its sponsors. Things looked far from bright for three of the most prominent members of the toss-it-away brand of comedy: 1) come January, the American Tobacco Co. will reportedly drop Jack Paar; 2) Funnyman Robert Q. Lewis is still a liability to CBS, with no sponsor after nearly seven months on the air as a sustainer; 3) Alan Young, the Canadian wit, after starring for over two years on his own program, has been demoted to a supporting role on the Tony Martin show."
Despite the trouble, various companies still occasionally chose to sponsor the show and take the risk simply because Morgan had such a devoted following. Ultra-conservative Camel Cigarettes even went ahead and backed his show in its final year. As the forties were winding down, The Henry Morgan Show was at its height. Take this exchange featuring Morgan and the always-hilarious Arnold Stang transcribed by the excellent old time radio blog, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear:
ARNOLD: Well, well... Henry Morgan!!!
HENRY: Well... hello Arnold!
ARNOLD: Say, Henry... I heard your show last night...
HENRY: How'd you like it?
ARNOLD: Great, great... it was all I could do to keep from laughin'...
HENRY: Thanks a lot, I guess...by the way, I heard your show last week...
ARNOLD: Oh yeah? I'm glad you caught it...
HENRY: Yeah, yeah...I was at a party...you know how it is...everybody drinking...some drunk turned it on...
ARNOLD: Well, what'd you think of it?
HENRY: Well...there was a lot of noise...it didn't come in very well...
ARNOLD: What kind of noise?
HENRY: I was talking.
HENRY: But, say...that was a good joke you had there about Sinatra and the pipe cleaner...
ARNOLD: Sinatra and the pipe cleaner? That's Bob Hope's, isn't it?
HENRY: Yeah, that's right...but I like the way you told it...by the way, how's your Hooper rating?
ARNOLD: Well, it's eh...ehh...aw, that rating doesn't mean a thing...
HENRY: Mine's not so good either...as a matter of fact, you see, the trouble with me is...I've got a terrific listening audience that can't get phones...
ARNOLD: Sure...say, Henry, by the way...did you have a studio audience last night?
HENRY: Why, certainly!
ARNOLD: I knew it! I told my wife that I could swear I heard breathin'...but my wife read somewhere you got asthma...
As was the case on every show he appeared, Stang regularly upstaged Morgan. Stang's success came from his vocal hysteria, unlike Morgan whose laughs came more from the words themselves than the way they were delivered. The writing was strong enough that Morgan had no need to dress it up, but some critics still suggested the program be re-named The Arnold Stang Show. Morgan and Stang appeared together in the hilarious film So This Is New York (1948), another satirical project that was far more intelligent than most comedy of the time. You can read more about the only movie starring Henry Morgan (directed by Richard Fleischer from a Ring Lardner story) in this article about Arnold Stang. Contrary to yer Leonard Maltin guide, the film did receive an official VHS release. I know this because I checked out the damn thing from the Toronto Public Library several years ago. It's now missing from their system but sells on Amazon for eighty dollars - and I betcha it's the same copy. Stang wasn't the only notable supporting player who regularly appeared on the show. A young whosit named Art Carney was also a regular player on Morgan's program, and a hilarious one at that.
As with many artists of worth during the anti-communist hysteria of the late forties, Henry Morgan was shunned by a group of idiots. He had appeared on the critically acclaimed radio special Hollywood Fights Back on October 26th, 1947. The star-studded variety show was assembled to speak-out against the creeping American style fascism that was in the process of ending many careers. The show featured everyone from Artie Shaw to Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall to Myrna Loy, but a few years later some of the performers had to recant and claim they only appeared on the show because commies had duped them. Almost sixty years before Stephen Colbert delivered the most important satirical screed of our time at The White House Correspondents' Dinner, Henry Morgan did the same thing. Morgan was speaking at the 1947 Radio Correspondents' Association Dinner in front of an audience that included J. Edgar Hoover and President Truman. He made the two uncomfortable several times over the course of his speech. The biggest blow came with his remark, "Whenever it is quiet in Washington, you can count on the Un-American committee to issue a report. Maybe sometime later, when it has a chance, it will start gathering the facts."
A couple years later, Morgan received this letter in the mail:
Mr. Henry Morgan
310 East 50th St.
New York 22, N.Y.
Dear Mr. Morgan:
As you know, I am the originator of RED CHANNELS.
As you also know, only a small portion of your record in connection with Communist fronts was given in that book ... A new and much more complete book is now in preparation. It is not my intention to create undue hardship for anyone ... I enclose a confidential memo listing reported affiliations on your part with Communist fronts and causes. Only a few of these were used in my former book ... If you care, in your interests, to comment on these to me before I publish them, I shall be glad to hear your side of the story ... It is also neccessary that this matter be confidential between us. Should you attempt to draw a certain fraternal organization (which is now endeavoring to "clear" people) into our conversation, I shall consider the matter ended automatically ...
Henry Morgan never had to testify at the McCarthy hearings, but this didn't matter. June 20th, 1950, Henry Morgan was off the radio, not to be employed in the audio medium for five years. Don't miss the opportunity to select from ten different episodes of The Henry Morgan Show here, six others here and another five here. He tried to bring a variation of his radio program to TV in 1951 with Henry Morgan's Great Talent Hunt with Art Carney by his side, but like so much radio turned into television, the show failed quickly.
It is sad that Morgan's scandals all had to do with socialist sympathies or disdain for advertising and big business. Morgan's worst trait was far more scandalous, but a blip on the radar compared to the horrors of his left-wing associations. In the late forties, news broke that Morgan had clobbered his soon to be ex-wife in the face with a closed fist. If an August 1963 interview with TV Guide can be taken at face value, Morgan makes Jerry Lewis look like Gloria Steinem. The first part of his response is obviously more trademark sarcasm from Morgan, but it quickly takes a hard turn into unabashed misogyny:
TV GUIDE: I remember one of your radio shows in which you had some pretty unflattering things to say about women. This was, I believe, shortly after your divorce. Would you give your views on women?
MORGAN: Women should be very attractive and never taught to read. The trouble with the average woman is that she's a little below average. Since 90% of the women one meets seem to be constantly auditioning to become morons, and since half these people are women, it figures that 90% of them aren't too bright either.
For devoted fans of Henry Morgan's comedy, this is a bitter pill to swallow.
Long before he became the godfather of song parodies, Allan Sherman was a New York television writer and producer. Having burned through several creaky looking television ventures from 1949 through 1952, Sherman was shopping around a new idea with his writing partner Howard Merrill. The new idea was I've Got a Secret, one of the most successful game shows in television history. It was produced by the soon-to-be successful game show mavens, Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. During the period in which the pair was trying to determine who they would hire as permanent celebrity panelists, Goodson approached Morgan. He told him he wanted to use him but had to be certain he was without any Communist affiliations. Morgan was testy, having already been cleared of any "wrong doing." He showed Goodson a letter of innocence he'd received from the FBI itself, but Goodson still wanted to run a check explaining that since the FBI's letter was a couple years old, he would need more up to date information. Morgan couldn't believe it, and had he not been having so much trouble finding work, he probably would have told Goodson to you-know-what. Eventually Morgan did become a panelist on I've Got a Secret, a spot he retained for years. Occasionally when host Garry Moore was unavailable, Morgan filled in as guest host. He would be associated with the game show genre for the rest of his life. Watch some clips of the Morgan era IGAS here and here.
Morgan's snide nature was often the highlight of the game shows he appeared on, both good and bad. While other panelists readily applauded at guests who came on I've Got a Secret and balanced household items on their nose, Morgan's hands clapped rarely. While other panelists were in hysterics when broad comedians appeared as guests, Morgan's face was usually frozen, either in contempt, or with an intellectual superiority that was too aware psychologically of what made an audience laugh. The January 22-28, 1954 edition of TV Guide published a lead article titled Have They Tamed Henry Morgan? that touched on his unimpressed demeanor. The piece verbatim, from back in the day when TV Guide was a highly literate read:
If Henry Morgan is any sort of a prophet, the unemployment problem that has plagued him for years will soon reach the acute stage.
The irreverent Mr. Morgan, with a long and valiant record of sponsor-baiting, feels that his is a losing battle. He now fears that the supply of companies willing to have their products praised with faint damns is running low. In short, he foresees another Morgan exit from TV.
This certainly would disturb the Morgan cult, a loyal but dwindling group that has delighted in Henry's spirited tilting at some of our more vulnerable advertising windmills. But then Morganites have gone through lean years with Henry before. Henry calls this his "third career," in deference to two long stretches of unemployment on his record, stemming from a certain unconventional approach Henry takes to funny business.
The only Morgan now available on a Nationwide basis is the subdued and rather unamused Henry now picking up some easy cash as a panelist on I've Got a Secret, New Yorkers can still get nightly doses of the unexpurgated Henry via a local show, Here's Morgan. On this, Henry is his irascible self, with one difference. He now rarely turns his barbed wit on the sponsor, concentrating instead on the social and political scene. This may be the forerunner of the new Morgan - Morgan the social commentator. When TV gives him the heave-ho, he figures to become a writer.
Though Henry worships Fred Allen as the funniest man on earth, he holds Fred partly responsible for the decline of satire. When Fred was riding high on radio, Stop the Music, a quiz show, was thrown up against him on a rival network and, by giving away gobs of money, drained the Allen audience. Henry's complaint is that Fred didn't fight back hard enough and since he was the satirists' spiritual leader, the rest tumbled with him.
Henry's own special flair, of course, is the needling of commercials, usually his own. When he was sponsored by Schick razors, his show featured a Shavathon that supposedly established Schick as the world's fastest razor. He once introduced the commercial by saying, "Here's Ted Husing, the world's greatest announcer with the world's lousiest commercial." After he was dropped by Schick, he said it was because "I pushed and I pulled, but I didn't click-click."
Life Savers dropped Henry after one broadcast when he joked that the company was bilking the public by drilling holes in its products.
Perhaps the most tolerant sponsor of all was Mr. Jesse Adler of Adler Elevator Shoes. Henry had a glorious time scrambling the commercials: "An Adler Elevator Shoe is a meal in itself" or "Wake up your lazy liver bile with a pair of Adler Elevators." Mr. Adler, a sweet-tempered guileless man, found that the Morgan bits WERE selling shoes, so he rarely complained, but this nettled him: "Old Man Adler claims that Alder Elevators make you two inches taller the minute you put them on. The claim is correct - you can be two inches taller IF you can stand up in them. But what about the trousers, Adler? Do they stretch too?"
Radio and TV have been Henry's favorite targets. Examples: "The Answer Man:" Q. Should olives be eaten with the fingers? A. No, the fingers should be eaten separately. "Movie Gossips:" Mickey Rooney will or will not make a movie next year. Remember, you heard it here first. "Giveaways:" Among the prizes for the winner will be - a long playing record of the Minute Waltz AND six dozen tennis shows, size twelve.
Henry's bizarre humor has disillusioned more than sponsors. Once when his wife was taking a bath a man burst into the apartment screaming, "Mrs. Morgan, come quickly, your husband has just been killed in an auto accident." Mrs. Morgan reacted like a sponsor when she found the man doing the shouting was Henry. She divorced him.
Henry's biggest TV venture was a short-lived spoofer called The Great Talent Hunt, with such acts as a man who played "Stars and Stripes Forever" with two wet dishrags on a cheesecake, a man who could play the scherzo from Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony by beating his cranium with soup spoons, and a little boy whose whistle could be heard only by gnus. Out of acts, the show expired.
Morgan is now relatively happy with his I've Got a Secret panel job, which he finds easy and a lot of fun. And one of these days, it just may turn out that the U.S. public will again be ripe for good, old-fashioned biting satire. And we trust, ready to give it to us will be that kinky-haired iconoclast whose hopeful introduction alwys is, "Hello anybody, here's Morgan." - Bob Cunniff
The relationship that Morgan had with I've Got a Secret host Garry Moore led to Morgan guest hosting Moore's morning variety program The Garry Moore Show. The New York Times commented on such a week incredulously in an issue from August 1st, 1954:
Henry Morgan, a Changed Man
Subbing for vacationing Garry Moore, apparently his intent was to be genial above all else ... Mr. Morgan has a great many commercials on this show and he handles them all as if he loved the sponsors deeply. Henry is certainly a new man.
In the mid-fifties, jazz and folk label Riverside Records released a panorama of various Henry Morgan monologues titled Here's Morgan! (pictured above). Riverside was one of at least three jazz labels to put out a comedy release during the era, a break from the normal pace. Riverside released Henry Morgan while Fantasy Records pressed Lenny Bruce and Pacific Jazz put out recordings by cult fave Lord Buckley. In all three cases the jazz labels obviously thought their comedic picks would appeal to the same hip, intellectual audience that dug the bop albums. Fantasy also put out was Orson Bean at the Hungry i and Pacific Jazz had another by forgotten Canadian comedian John Barbour. Download Riverside's Here's Morgan! LP in its entirety over here.
Morgan, together with singer Isobel Robins starred on a bizarre satirical comedy LP on the obscure Offbeat Records titled The Saint and the Sinner. Tracks were traded off between the two performers, Morgan with some silly monologue followed by a showbizzy nightclub tune sung by Robins. The album opens with a track titled Morgan-Tone System. Henry provided notes for the cut, "A rather dull monologue which sounds funnier if played on stereo equipment, provided that everyone sits at the exact spot at which the sounds converge and that about half the listeners are loaded. By the time the sober customers finish shushing the drunks, it will be over anyway and you can go to... [next track listing]" The LP seems to have been issued around 1959 and features music by The Mickey Leonard Quartet. The record also features Morgan's take on beatnik poetry set to jazz. The bottom of the LP has small print stating, "Be sure to buy the next in this series, "A Yen for Zen," or, "Dirty Sayings of Lao Tse." Around the same time Henry contributed the liner notes to Orson Bean's Fantasy Records LP at the hungry i. The treatise he contributed for Orson was avant-garde to say the least, and you can read the whole thing here.
Henry Morgan's brand of satire is said to have been a direct influence on Mad Magazine. Soon after the famous publication changed from a Harvey Kurtzman comic book into a magazine with the larger than life William M. Gaines calling the shots, Henry Morgan became a sometime contributor (as did comedy iconoclasts Stan Freberg, Bob & Ray and Ernie Kovacs). But even before he ever made a direct contribution, Morgan would play a part in establishing the magazine's mascot. Harvey Kurtzman relayed this anecdote in an interview with The Comics Journal many years after the fact, "The name Alfred E. Neuman was picked up from Alfred Newman, the music arranger ... Actually, we borrowed the name indirectly through The Henry Morgan Show. He was using the name Alfred Newman for an innocuous character that you'd forget in five minutes. So we started using the name Alfred Neuman. The readers insisted on putting the name and the face together ..."
While still a regular on I've Got a Secret, Henry Morgan joined the cast on NBC's very hip current affairs program Monitor. The show sought to provide listeners with something educational and entertaining that television could not deliver. It is often credited with sustaining the entire NBC radio network during a time when radio had already lost most of its audience. Henry appeared as a commentator on the very first broadcast in 1955. He was the Sunday afternoon host of the program from the mid-sixties until the early seventies when he left the country. Listen to parts of a December 1969 episode of Monitor hosted by Morgan here.
As mentioned in the TV Guide profile, Henry Morgan returned to radio on the local level, hosting another show titled Here's Morgan for New York's WBAI-FM. The show had Henry, solo, talking about whatever he felt like for approximately fifteen minutes. One show ran only ten minutes when he decided he "didn't have anything more to say." The show itself ran for a healthy six years plus.
In 1964 Henry signed on to a television show that was, without question, the most appropriate fit for his personality since the end of The Henry Morgan Show. That Was the Week That Was played on American television against all odds. It was the smartest television comedy of the nineteen sixties. Based on a British show of the same name, the American version of TW3, as it is often called, featured the sharpest brains in comedy. The original pilot episode aired in the fall of 1963 and featured, as co-hosts, the odd pairing of Henry Morgan and Henry Fonda. When the program was turned into a series by NBC in January 1964, regular contributors included Morgan, Nichols & May, Tom Lehrer, Steve Allen, Buck Henry, Mort Sahl and Woody Allen. The program touched on political topics never previously made fun of on American TV. The show was mocking American involvement in Vietnam long before the protest movement gained national prominence. Take for instance the lyrics to this song sung on the program by Nancy Ames that make fun of the disconnect between the government's version of events and the reality (with lyrics that were most likely written by Tom Lehrer):
"Here in the American Em-bass-eeee
We're helping the natives out
With famine and drought
We're courting them
And they love us
Beyond any doubt
Leave the windows open, Rob
They're throwing rocks again
You'll get accustomed to the custom
It happens now and then
Get the rickshaw ready, Ralph
They've burned the lim-o-sine
But isn't it nice to know
They used American gas-o-line
Yes, our foreign policy
Is working well
Don't believe all the papers
Things are swell!"
Like the best of television, the series did not last long, leaving the air in May of 1965. Listen to some of the That Was The Week That Was comedy LP on an edition of The Generation Exploitation Podcast devoted to nineteen sixties political upheaval over here. TVparty.com has a video clip of the show featuring Henry Morgan - find it here.
Recently an unaired game show pilot hosted by Henry Morgan has surfaced on the internet. What's the Law? features Morgan presiding over a celebrity panel featuring Joan Rivers, Linda Lavin, Barry Nelson and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. There is no mention in Morgan's autobiography of the taping, nor is there any reference to the story behind the show in any book or website that I know of. All that can be determined is whatever you take from watching the footage - something you unfortunately can't do right now - as it has been removed from YouTube . Regardless, I gauge it's from 1967 or 68.
Morgan continued on television with 1969's My World and Welcome To It, an NBC series based on the works of humorist James Thurber and produced by many of the people formerly involved with The Dick Van Dyke Show. Sheldon Leonard, John Rich and Alan Rafkin were all on board for the show that television historian Rick Mitz describes as "based on drawings, stories, inspirational pieces and things that go bump in the night ... a real gem ... The show had [actor William Windom] walking into an animated, fantasy world. NBC canceled the show after one season, but CBS bought it and aired it from May 1972 until that September." Morgan, who was a huge fan (and drinking partner) of Thurber's, had a supporting role on the series. Morgan's character on the show was based on Robert Benchley, another comedy writer of the thirties and drinking partner of both Morgan and Thurber. You can watch a full episode of the show here.
In the early nineteen seventies, Morgan moved to Canada, spending two years in Toronto and two years in Montreal. Henry had scored a gig doing weekly commentaries for CBC Radio. Morgan was now, for once, working with a public radio station - no sponsors to deal with - no insipid advertisements to interrupt his material. Unfortunately, Morgan was at odds with some humorless producers. He also found the working environment drab and the CBC self-serving. His tenure at CBC Radio ended abruptly the day after a producer, both half his age and with half his radio experience, chastised his commentaries for "not having a beginning, middle or end." The next time on the air, halfway through the segment, he shouted, "THIS IS THE MIDDLE!" Eventually he concluded, "Here we are at the end, as instructed. This is the end. I quit." It was a case of self-sabotage that his former co-star Arnold Stang considered par for the course, "He was a masochist ... When things were going well for him, he would do something to destroy himself." The CBC refused to re-air the episode, as it normally would have, in the Pacific Time Zone. The media phoned notable Canadians working in the United States for their opinions. "He only went to Canada so he could say bad things about the United States," said noted political scholar Monty Hall.
Morgan had kept up his appearances in America during the Canadian period. He would fly to Los Angeles to appear on The Match Game and What's My Line? After he returned to America, Morgan spent the rest of the decade going from game show to game show and acting the role of an all-purpose curmudgeon. Morgan wrote his memoir in 1994, giving him one last chance to lash out at the bean counters, executives and sponsors that had plagued him, real or imagined, his entire career. Sadly, Camel Cigarettes and corporate America would have the last laugh that same year, when Henry Morgan passed away at the age of seventy-eight from lung cancer.
Many the famous name is referenced in Morgan's memoir. Here are a handful of quotes from the book where Henry Morgan tells it like it is:
Morgan on Rich Little: "He's okay. Or was."
Morgan remembers Rudy Vallee: "A wretched pop-tune singer."
Morgan on Garrison Keillor: "He never had a clue."
Morgan thinks of Merv Griffin: "He had no particular wit and no particular charm, but he had an assistant ... a girl ... who had both."
Morgan observing L. Ron Hubbard: "A thoroughly second-rate man who had the great good fortune to live in a second-rate time."
Henry Morgan joins Salvador Dali and other celebrity guests on various episodes of I've Got A Secret.
John Cale of The Velvet Underground makes his American TV debut on Henry's panel show.
Insult comic Jack E. Leonard makes fun of Henry on IGAS.
Henry Morgan as a panelist on To Tell the Truth.
The first old time radio program with Henry's name was a kiddie adventure show from 1932 titled Afloat with Henry Morgan. It had nothing to do with the subject of this article, but was instead a show about the famous pirate.
In the late nineteen forties, one of the most entertaining radio horror programs was Mystery in the Air starring Peter Lorre. The announcer was Henry Morgan. Ah, but not the one we've just explored. When The Henry Morgan Show became popular, the announcer of Mystery in the Air had to change his name to Harry Morgan in order to avoid confusion (people were still confused). Harry Morgan went on to be one of the most recognizable character actors of all time appearing in every television show ever, but most famously as Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H. Last I heard he was retired, but still alive at the age of ninety-two.
LINKS AND SOURCES
America's Freshest Wit Kids His Sponsors: Life Magazine, April 14th, 1947
Situation Wanted: Time Magazine, November 24th, 1947
Everything is Going Down the Drain: TV Guide, August 10th, 1963
My World and Welcome To It: The Great TV Sitcom Book by Rick Mitz (1980, Perigee Books)
That Was the Week That Was - Classic TV Satire of the 1960s! (1981, The Radiola Company)
Henry's Letter from Red Channels: Here's Morgan by Henry Morgan (1994, Barricade Books)
Raised on Radio by Gerald Nachman (1998, Pantheon Books)
Origin of Alfred E. Neuman: The Comics Journal Library Volume 7: Harvey Kurtzman (2006, Fantagraphics Books)