Roger Bowen

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Roger Bowen
Roger Bowen 1971.jpg
Bowen in 1971.
Born (1932-05-25)May 25, 1932
Attleboro, Massachusetts
Died February 16, 1996(1996-02-16) (aged 63)
Years active 1963 – 1991

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 roles as a stuffy defender of the upper class and had regular roles on a number of television series. His successful acting career aside, Bowen always 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 famed comedy and acting troupe The Second City.

Bowen was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts. He said he was writing theater reviews for the University of Chicago student newspaper when 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 created the role of lackadaisical Blake in the 1970 Robert Altman cult film MASH.

While it was another veteran of TV commercials, McLean Stevenson, who would play Lieutenant Colonel Blake’s role on the long-running M*A*S*H television series, Roger Bowen already had solid exposure in the early 1970s. After MASH, Bowen 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).

After Arnie, Bowen joined the cast of The Brian Keith Show, then returned to commercials and movie cameo roles, showing up briefly in such films as Heaven Can Wait, The Main Event and Zapped!.

In the early 1980s, Bowen enjoyed another round of weekly TV work with recurring roles on House Calls (A costar was Former MASH comedy series Wayne Rogers), At Ease, and Suzanne Pleshette is Maggie Briggs. He made his final film appearance in the Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss film What About Bob?. He was a tournament chess player who participated in events in the Los Angeles area in the 1970s.

Roger Bowen served as a Special Agent - U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) in Japan (441st CIC Detachment - Bepu Field Office in 1957-1958). With a world wide reduction of U.S. Army military forces in 1957-58, Bowen was sent to Korea from Japan in 1958 and served in the 308th CIC Detachment in Seoul, Korea. With his experience in Korea, he was perfect for his role in the movie MASH.

Coincidental death[edit]

In a strange coincidence, Bowen's death of a heart attack came one day after the death of Stevenson.[1] Because of this, Bowen's family did not report his death to the media until a week afterward, so that it would not be dismissed as a garbled version of Stevenson's obituary.


  1. ^ Myrna Oliver (24 February 1996). "Roger Bowen, 63; Played Col. Blake in `MASH' Film". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 

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