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Bowen in 1971.
May 25, 1932|
|Died||February 16, 1996
|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).
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.
In a strange coincidence, Bowen's death of a heart attack came one day after the death of Stevenson. 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.
- Myrna Oliver (24 February 1996). "Roger Bowen, 63; Played Col. Blake in `MASH' Film". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 18 March 2012.