Childhood & Early Life
Edgar McLean Stevenson Jr. was born on November 14, 1927 in Normal, Illinois to Edgar and Lottie McLean. His sister, Ann Whitney, was a popular actress.
He graduated from Lake Forest Academy and soon joined the United States Navy. After serving the nation, he decided to study theatre at Northwestern University. He embarked on a career in radio after graduating with a bachelor’s degree.
While he did harbor intentions of getting into Hollywood, Stevenson mostly led an aimless life. He earned his keep by selling medical supplies and insurance. He also worked as a press secretary and continued working with the radio station.
When he visited New York for a political function in 1961, he was advised by his cousin to enter the show business since it was obvious that Stevenson had the charm. He stayed back in New York and performed in nightclubs and comedy shows while he studied.
Stevenson won a scholarship to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, which helped him gain a foothold in the industry. It was only after he graduated from the academy that he appeared on the big screen.
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McLean Stevenson made his debut in 1969 with the TV series ‘The Girl’. He received a bigger role later in the year in the comedy TV series ‘The Doris Day Show’. He portrayed the role of Michael Nicholson in the show for 49 episodes across three seasons from 1969 to 1971.
In 1971, he was seen in a string of TV movies, such as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones’, ‘My Wives Jane’, and appeared in the feature-length film ‘The Christian Licorice Store’. He was also seen in guest appearance in the TV series ‘The Bold Ones: The New Doctors’ and ‘Love, American Style’.
Despite a late start, Stevenson had established his presence in the industry. 1972 proved to be a pivotal year in his career as he was roped in to play the character of Lt. Col. Henry Blake in the highly-acclaimed comedy war series ‘M-A-S-H’.
His other appearances in 1972 included the TV movie ‘This Week in Nemtim’ and a guest appearance in the TV series ‘Insight’. Stevenson completely immersed himself filming for ‘M-A-S-H’ until 1975 and was only seen in a few releases such as ‘Shirts/Skins’ (1973) and ‘Win, Place or Steal’ (1974).
His role as of Lt. Col. Henry Blake catapulted him into fame as ‘M-A-S-H’ became a roaring success. He appeared in 72 episodes of the series across three seasons. His role also fetched him several nominations and won him a Golden Globe Award for the Best Supporting Actor in a TV series.
Apart from acting on ‘M-A-S-H’, Steven also wrote an episode titled ‘The Trial of Henry Blake.’ The episode was well-received by the critics and fans, and it was also nominated for an Emmy award in 1974.
After the success of ‘M-A-S-H’, Stevenson received bigger roles. He played Mac Ferguson in the TV series ‘The McLean Stevenson Show’ from 1976 to 1977 and appeared in twelve episodes.
In 1978, he was first seen as Father Daniel M. Cleary in the TV series ‘In the Beginning’, a role he played for nine episodes. He was also seen in the sci-fi comedy ‘The Cat from Outer Space’ as Link.
In 1979, Stevenson was first seen as Larry Alder in the family drama ‘Diff'rent Strokes’ in three episodes. The popularity of the series spun of the show ‘Hello, Larry’, where he played the titular role of Larry Alder for two seasons in 38 episodes.
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Over the next two years, his appearances grew sporadic. He was only seen in the TV movie ‘The Astronauts’ (1982) and a couple of episodes for the comedy romance ‘The Loveboat’ in 1981.
Stevenson had previously been a guest panelist for ‘Match Game’ in 1973 for many weeks and he returned to the same role in 1978. In 1981, he became a regular panelist for the show until its cancellation in 1981.
McLean Stevenson received his next recurring role in 1983 with the comedy series ‘Condo’, where he played the role of James Kirkridge for 13 episodes. Next year, he was seen in a guest appearance in the drama series ‘Hotel.’
Despite a successful start to the decade, roles dwindled toward the late 1980s. Stevenson was only seen in guest roles in episodes for ‘Tall Tales & Legends’ (1986), ‘The Golden Girls’ (1987), ‘Mathnet’ (1988), and ‘Square One Television’ (1988).
He received his next recurring role with the romance spinoff of the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ in 1988. Stevenson played the role of Max Kellerman for eleven episodes from 1988 to 1989. In 1989, he was seen in the TV movie ‘Class Cruise’.
Stevenson’s last big screen appearance was in the miniseries ‘Tales of the City’ in 1993. He portrayed the role of Booter Manigault in two of the six episodes. He suffered from various health ailments and took a backseat from acting.
Family & Personal Life
McLean Stevenson was thrice married. His first marriage was to Polly Ann Gordon and it lasted from 1957 to 1960. He later married Louise Herbet in May 1969. However, their marriage also failed, and the couple divorced in 1971. The couple had a son, Jeff MacGregor.
In December 1980, he married Ginny Fosdick and they remained together until his death in February 1996. The couple has a daughter, Lindsey Stevenson.
McLean Stevenson passed away on February 15, 1996 in Los Angeles, California when he was 68 years old. He was at the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, recovering from a surgery when he suffered from cardiac arrest.