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 McLean Stevenson

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McLean Stevenson

  • Birth 14 Nov 1927 Normal, McLean County, Illinois, USA
  • Death 15 Feb 1996 Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Plot Courts of Remembrance, Columbarium of Valor, Niche G64649
  • Memorial ID 6113

Character Actor, Comedy Writer. He was born Edgar McLean Stevenson in the Bloomington/Normal area of McLean County, Illinois, to a father who was a cardiologist. His extended family was a provider of famous politicians to the American scene. While attending Bloomington High School he was active in sports however there was never any indication of an acting career. Stevenson was confused after high school graduation, had no apparent occupational direction and his quest was nomadic...a medical supply salesman, insurance clerk, radio announcer, clown on live TV and a stint in the Navy before enrollment at Northwestern University coming away with a theater arts degree and a desire for a show business career. A visit to New York while attending a political function was his defining moment and well placed advise motivated him toward a show business career. Stevenson decided to stay while enrolling at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy where Lee Strasberg and Sandy Meisner were instructors. He spent much of the 60's in the city while performing in nightclubs and comedy spots leaving to work the summers in stock theatre at Warsaw, Indiana. His first Broadway stage break came in 1962 with a title role in "The Music Man" followed by parts in "Bye Bye Birdie" and "I'll Always Remember Miss What's Her Name." He broke into TV as a guest actor on various series such as "Naked City" and "The Defenders." When acting roles were scarce, he wrote revue comedy which further established him in show business. Hollywood beckoned in 1968 and initially work was found as a writer for the "Smothers Brothers Show." While guesting on various venues, he landed a regular role on the "The Doris Day Show" and simultaneously appeared on "The Tim Conway Comedy Hour." A tryout for a comedy series called "MASH" landed him a leading role as mythical Henry Blake, commander of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War which became his career highlight and made him an American household name. He performed this character, a laid-back, off-centered commanding officer from its premiere in Sept 1972 until miffed by the secondary role asked to leave and was willingly written out during the 1974-75 season. His departure hardly led to his dream of a leading man status. He was very busy but a series of sitcoms all were cancelled after the first season..."Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes" "The McLean Stevenson Show" "In the Beginning, Hello, Larry" and "Dirty Dancing." (movie spinoff) He appeared 56 times as host of "The Tonight Show" substituting for Johnny Carson during his absences. His movie appearances were scanty with a small role in "The Christian Licorice Store" and the ET film "The Cat From Outer Space". McLean performed in public service as the spokesman for USAir and First Alert. He was barely active in the 90's having been diagnosed with cancer but hosted "The Crosby Clambake" on the Nashville Network from 1991 to 1993 performing for the last time with a supporting role in the 1994 PBS miniseries "Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City." He died from a heart attack following surgery for cancer in Tarzana, California and was cremated. A memorial services was held at the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Van Nuys. Legacy...During his three years on the MASH series, Stevenson collected three Emmy nominations and in 1974 garnered an Emmy nomination for writing a MASH episode entitled "The Trial of Henry Blake". Interesting family history...He was a member of the family that gave American politics two famous Adlai was vice president of the United States under Grover Cleveland from 1893-1897 and the other was governor of Illinois, twice the Democratic party's nominee for president and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Many others, minor Illinois official originated from the Stevenson family He worked as the press secretary to candidate Stevenson during his quest for the White House in 1952 and again in 1956. Stevenson was also the brother of actress Ann Whitney. He was very instrumental in his final years working with various charities while appearing in scores of golf tournaments, telethons and other fund raising events. His favorite, where he was the national spokesman, The Children's Burn Foundation in Sherman Oaks, California. He was motivated from memories of his own having been seriously burned as a child by a Halloween pumpkin. In a bit of trivia...McLean's hasty departure from MASH and his subsequent disappointing career has led to the coining of a word. "McLeaning" derived from his middle name, which in turn came from McLean County, Illinois, his birth place. Its connotation in Hollywood denotes an actor leaving a show and his or her character's subsequent demise.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 17 Aug 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6113
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for McLean Stevenson (14 Nov 1927–15 Feb 1996), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6113, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .