What was McLean Stevenson’s net worth and Salary?
McLean Stevenson was an American actor who had a net worth of $2 million at the time of his death in 1996. That’s the same as around $4 million today after adjusting for inflation.
McLean Stevenson was best known for starring as Colonel Henry Blake on the television series “M*A*S*H.” Stevenson’s portrayal of the affable and sometimes befuddled character brought him widespread acclaim, earning him a Golden Globe Award.
McLean infamously only starred on the show from 1972 to 1975, opting to leave after the third season to pursue other opportunities. Those other opportunities would prove to be only moderately successful while “M*A*S*H” went to air eight more seasons and became one of the most popular and highly watched series in TV history. Over 100 million people tuned-in to watch show’s finale in February 1983.
McLean Stevenson passed away on February 15, 1996 of a heart attack at 68 years old.
Early Life and Career Beginning
Born on November 14, 1927, in Normal, Illinois, McLean Stevenson grew up with a strong interest in performing. After attending Lake Forest Academy and later Northwestern University, he pursued various career paths before finding his calling in acting. Stevenson worked in insurance, served in the Navy, and even dabbled in politics before deciding to move to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting. Early work in stand-up comedy and guest appearances on television shows helped him build connections and develop his craft.
Stevenson’s breakthrough came when he was cast as Lt. Colonel Henry Blake in the television series “M*A*S*H.” Premiering in 1972, the series was set in a mobile army surgical hospital during the Korean War, and Stevenson’s portrayal of the commanding officer quickly resonated with audiences. His ability to balance humor and sincerity provided a humanizing touch to the character, making Lt. Colonel Blake a standout figure in a show filled with strong performances. Stevenson’s work on “M*A*S*H” remains one of his most celebrated achievements.
Unfortunately, Stevenson decided to leave the series after the third season to pursue other opportunities. He apparently preferred to be the star of the show and could see that his role was largely becoming a sidekick to other characters. His former cast mate Loretta Swit would later claim that he felt oppressed being in an ensemble cast of eight actors. He reportedly even told her:
“I know I will not be in anything as good as this show, but I have to leave and be number one.”
The decision to depart the series would widely be viewed as a blunder since the show went on to air eight more seasons and was BY FAR the most-popular show in television history up to that point by the time it concluded in February 1983, to an audience of over 100 million people. By seasons 9, 10 and 11, Alan Alda was one of the highest-paid actors in the world, earning an extraordinary salary of $300,000 per episode. A stunning figure for the time. With 20 episodes per season, Alda was earning around $6 million per season. After adjusting for inflation that salary is the same as around $22 million per year today. It’s not known what McLean Stevenson’s salary was when he left the show in 1975, but even the actor who played “Radar,” Gary Burghoff, was offered a contract of $4 million per season when he decided to leave in 1979. And offer he declined.
The writers of M*A*S*H opted not to tell the actors what was going on with Stevenson until they had written the episode in which he was killed off. In the final episode of the 1974-1975 season, titled “Abyssinia, Henry,” his character left on a plane after being discharged. The actor who played Radar, Gary Burghoff, is handed a piece of paper which he reads allowed:
“I have a message. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake’s plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors.”
None of the actors in the scene, including Burghoff, knew what the writers had done so their reactions were genuine shock:
This was a truly unprecedented move for a number of reasons. First, to keep the actors in the dark so their genuine shock could be captured by the cameras was considered a creative masterpiece. Secondly, up to this point no major television character in history had ever been killed-off in such a tragic and sudden way. Third, the sudden death served as a statement regarding the true horrors and unexpectedness of war.
(Not to be confused with the literal spinoff that was titled “AfterMASH”)…
After M*A*S*H, Stevenson faced challenges in finding roles that matched his earlier success. He starred in several short-lived television series, including “The McLean Stevenson Show” and “Hello, Larry,” but none of these projects captured the magic of his work on “M*A*S*H.” Despite these setbacks, Stevenson remained a beloved figure, making guest appearances on various shows and continuing to work in television throughout the 1980s.
Personal Life and Death
McLean Stevenson was married three times. He was married to his third wife Ginny Fosdick from 1980 until his death.
McLean Stevenson died on February 15, 1996 at the age of 68 from a sudden fatal heart attack. In a very strange coincidence, Roger Bowen, the actor who portrayed Colonel Henry Blake in the 1970 film “MASH,” died of a heart attack the very next day.