Though he has appeared on several television series, including one named after himself, McLean Stevenson is best remembered for playing the slightly befuddled Lt. Colonel Henry Blake during the first three years of the long-running series M*A*S*H (1972-1983). He has also occasionally worked in feature films, making his debut in The Christian Licorice Store (1971). Stevenson made his television debut playing Michael Nicholson between 1969 and 1971 on The Doris Day Show. The son of an Illinois cardiologist, Stevenson did not become an actor until he was 31. Prior to that, he sold medical supplies, worked as an insurance clerk, was a seaman, and served as Northwestern University's athletics director. It was while at Northwestern that Stevenson earned a theater arts degree. According to Stevenson, the idea to become an actor came to him while he was walking across a football field watching the players. Believing that most of them were wasting their time, he thought it better to go to New York and act. Following his education, Stevenson did just that and spent much of the '60s performing in nightclubs and comedy spots as well as working in summer stock. He also wrote comedy for Tommy Smothers.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Served in the Navy after high school and was assistant athletic director at his alma mater, Northwestern University.
- Was press secretary for cousin Adlai Stevenson's Presidential bids in 1952 and '56.
- Decided to pursuing acting after attending one of his cousin's parties in New York where he met numerous theater people.
- Acting debut was in the title role of The Music Man in summer stock.
- Established himself as a comedy writer on That Was the Week That Was and occasionally appeared in sketches with Alan Alda.
- Wrote for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour before landing a lead role on The Doris Day Show in 1969 as her boss.
- Big break came when cast as Lt. Col. Henry Blake on M*A*S*H.
- Guest hosted The Tonight Show for Johnny Carson 58 times.
- Headlined several series, including In the Beginning, The McLean Stevenson Show and Hello, Larry, but all were short lived.
- In 1985, co-founded and served as national spokesman for the Children's Burn Foundation, having been burned as a child by a Halloween pumpkin.