Open main menu

Roger Bowen (May 25, 1932 – February 16, 1996) was an American comedic actor and novelist, known for his portrayal of Lt. Col. Henry Blake in the 1970 film MASH. He often portrayed stuffy defenders of the upper class and had regular roles on a number of television series. Bowen considered himself a writer who only moonlighted as an actor. He wrote eleven novels (including Just Like a Movie) as well as sketches for Broadway and television. He was also one of the co-founders of Chicago's comedy and acting troupe The Second City.

Roger Bowen
Roger Bowen 1971.jpg
Bowen in 1971
Born(1932-05-25)May 25, 1932
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
DiedFebruary 16, 1996(1996-02-16) (aged 63)
Marathon, Florida, U.S.
Cause of deathMyocardial infarction
Alma materBrown University
OccupationActor, novelist
Years active1963–1991
Spouse(s)Ann Bowen
Children3

Contents

Life and careerEdit

A native of Providence, Rhode Island, Bowen majored in English at Brown University, then attended graduate school at the University of Chicago. While writing theater reviews for The Chicago Maroon, he was asked to pen material for an improvisational troupe that included Alan Arkin and Mike Nichols. The troupe, Compass Players, evolved into The Second City. Bowen spent most of the 1960s playing "preppie" types on a number of TV & radio commercials. His first film role was 1968's Petulia, but his big movie break came in 1970 when he landed the role of Lieutenant Colonel Blake in Robert Altman's cult film MASH.[1] Bowen had in fact served in the U.S. Army in Korea, albeit after the Korean War had ended. (After serving in Japan as a Special Agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps (441st CIC Detachment – Bepu Field Office) from 1957–58, Bowen was sent to the 308th CIC Detachment in Seoul, South Korea in 1958.)

After MASH, Bowen returned to television and gained a fan following as Hamilton Majors Jr., the pleasantly snooty and supportive Ivy League boss of Herschel Bernardi on the TV sitcom Arnie (1970–72). He then joined the cast of The Brian Keith Show, then returned to commercials and movie cameo roles. In 1976, Bowen appeared in the TV parody film Tunnel Vision, doing a Henry Kissinger impersonation that he often did at parties around Hollywood. (The film featured a galaxy of comic stars including Chevy Chase, John Candy, Howard Hesseman and Joe Flaherty, but Bowen was given top billing as the others were still relative unknowns at the time.) Bowen also played minor roles in such films as Heaven Can Wait (1978), The Main Event (1979) and Zapped! (1982).

In the early 1980s, Bowen enjoyed another round of weekly TV work with recurring roles on House Calls (starring former M*A*S*H sitcom alum Wayne Rogers), At Ease, and Maggie Briggs. He made his final film appearance in the 1991 comedy What About Bob? starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, ultimately retiring from acting. He was a tournament chess player who participated in events in the Los Angeles area in the 1970s.

DeathEdit

Bowen died of a heart attack at the age of 63 while on vacation in Marathon, Florida.[1] His death came one day after that of McLean Stevenson, who played Colonel Blake for the first three seasons of the M*A*S*H television series.[2] Because of this coincidence, Bowen's family did not make the news of his death public until a week afterward, so that his obituary would not be mistaken for a garbled version of Stevenson's.

FilmographyEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1967 Funnyman Lester, Social Scientist
1967 Petulia Warren
1968 Bullitt Man Uncredited
1970 MASH Lt. Col. Henry Blake
1970 Move Rabbi
1973 Steelyard Blues Fire Commissioner Francis
1973 Wicked, Wicked Simmons, Hotel Manager
1976 Tunnel Vision Henry Kissinger
1978 Heaven Can Wait Newspaperman
1979 The Main Event Owner Sinthia Cosmetics
1980 Foxes Counsellor
1980 First Family Senator William 'Wild Bill' Hubley
1982 Zapped! Mr. Springboro
1987 Morgan Stewart's Coming Home Dr. Cabot
1991 What About Bob? Phil
1993 Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Naturalist filming whooping cranes from aircraft Uncredited, (final film role)

BibliographyEdit

  • Bowen, Roger (1979). Inga. Normandie Publishing. ISBN 978-0960298617.
  • Bowen, Roger (1995). The Silent Fifties. Normandie Publishing. ISBN 978-0960298624.
  • Bowen, Roger (1996). Just Like a Movie. Normandie Publishing. ISBN 978-0960298631.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit