Read on to learn about some of the crazy things that happened on the production set during the creation of this beloved war comedy-drama TV series. Not to mention the fair share of drama that came along with the shows success. Hop on the ride, as we relive the good times M*A*S*H brought us, while peeking into its mysterious underbelly that has been tucked away for decades.
One of the advantages that the M*A*S*H hit TV series had, was the fact that some of its cast actually had real military experience, so much so, that the emotion, mindset, and discipline reflected on screen looked authentic and natural.
M*A*S*H was Alan Alda’s opportunity to shine, and shine he did, taking on the largest role of his career as Captain Hawkeye Pierce. Having served during the Korean War as a reserve, he perfectly adapted to his character, it fit like a glove! Alda was a gunnery officer, while Jamie Farr—known to most of us as Corporal Klinger—had experience acting in army training films. The stories and the acting resonated with the American viewers- some of them veterans themselves.
The producers of M*A*S*H knew that there were numerous challenges to be faced down the road before success could be achieved. First, they had to be subtle in expressing their opinions about the war, and clever in their innuendos covered behind dark comedy. But their first year actually tanked for a different reason: some viewers found it far too foreign and unrelatable. They needed to appeal to a wider audience if they were going to survive.
As a result of its low ratings, the network found itself on the verge of canceling M*A*S*H. There was a moment of reassessment, where it could’ve gone either way, before they decided to take a risk by moving it to Saturday nights, taking advantage of the audience who were holding out for The Mary Tyler Moore Show after having watched the ever-popular All In The Family. And it paid off! Thanks to this tactical maneuver, M*A*S*H secured its place as one of America’s all-time favorite TV programs.
America's Favorite Teddy Bear Before Ted
As mentioned, M*A*S*H has become many things to many people, with some even managing to take a literal piece of its history home with them. One an otherwise uneventful day on set, a nameless teddy bear was discovered in a random corner of the set at Fox Ranch. It was pulled out of oblivion by staff and given a starring role as Radar’s pillow pet. Its value has skyrocketed since.
That was all it took for the teddy bear to etch its way into our consciousness. Long after the last episode aired, the scrappy little bear was sold at auction, along with a letter from Gary Burghoff attesting to its authenticity. A total of 19 bidders fought it out for this adorable little piece of history. It was finally sold for a grand total of $14K. To think that somebody had just left it there at the set to rot!
From Gust Appearance To Iconic Cast Member
Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger, played by Jamie Farr, was apparently a mere afterthought; his effeminate, high-heel-wearing character, was there merely to insert quick jokes into episodes. He was never really intended to last longer than a single episode, but something about his character just clicked with the writers and audiences alike. His character’s unique way of traversing the war effort opened up new avenues and fresh ideas, so they kept Farr around.
Corporal Klinger was a sneaky character, often involved in opportunistic scenes, one-time get-rich scenarios that drew laughs and an odd kind of admiration. His long run in the show and the lasting love people have for him are a far cry from the original idea of having him depart after failing a psychological exam… which is ironic considering that’s exactly what Klinger was always hoping to do!
Inspired By Real People
M*A*S*H was interlarded with characters named after real people, and in a way, all those who were involved in the production were playing when they came to work. This gaming theme was taken quite literally when, in seasons 6 and 7, names of patients were inspired by professional baseball players for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Angels.
It was like having bits and pieces of reality mixed in a whirl of fiction; all in the name of fun. Even actor, Mike Farrell, made a request to name his fictitious daughter after his real-life daughter, Erin. And Radar’s girlfriends were derived from his real-life past relationships.
The Inimitable Alan Alda
Alan Alda’s career would go on to prosper in time, replete with six Emmy Awards, and an astounding 21 nominations. He even clinched a Golden Globe Award. Perhaps none of these would have been possible had he not been given the role in M*A*S*H wherein he appeared in every single episode that ran for 11 seasons—clear proof that he fit the job description perfectly—a mutually beneficial scenario for him and the program.
During the heydays of the show, Alda would travel every weekend from the set in Los Angeles to his family in New Jersey. He would have liked to move his family but wasn’t sure how long the series would last. With the benefit of hindsight, he surely would’ve taken the plunge and made the move!
Between Fiction and Reality
To increase the credibility of the show and overall performance, M*A*S*H was often based on real events, mostly scenarios that had happened during the Korean War. The actors, too, experienced them vicariously through tales told to them by those who have been on the battlefield themselves: veteran doctors and patients.
To maintain its appeal to a general audience, some of the details relayed by veterans to the writers and actors had to be censored and polished with humor. Actor, Gary Burghoff, who has a deformed hand in real life, had it kept off camera, covered in sets, slipped into his pocket, anything to keep it out of the view of the public.
No! Not Henry Blake!
Drawing its plots and storylines from wars and conflicts, death shouldn’t be a rare occurrence, and should even be expected to some degree. But followers of M*A*S*H felt the blow of Henry Blake’s death as if it was real. That’s when you know a TV series has woven itself deeply into the lives of its general viewers.
Letters of complaint, calls, and general exasperation were expressed through many channels, following the decision of writers to end Blake’s character in the 72nd episode (titled, “Abyssinia, Henry”). It was only supposed to be a bid of farewell with actor McLean Stevenson playing the part, being supposedly discharged, until a twist in the plot shocked the public in the form of a plane crash. It seems they could’ve handled his character leaving on happy terms, but his death they took hard.
Tension On Set
During the early stages of M*A*S*H, everyone was encouraged to have a say on how the series progressed. In a way, they went the direction of many-heads-are-better-than-one. Until, that is, the writers got fed up with all the tedious letters and notes they received from the cast.
The writers thought of ways to get back at the actors. Evidently, there was a growing division among them, and they wrote too many unnecessary details in their scripts. Everyone from both sides was now bent on making each other’s life difficult. This was stopped after one of the actors had to wear heavy parkas in a tropical scene, on a hot summer day in Malibu. McLean Stevenson got tired of the antics and left the show. Thankfully, things started simmering down after that.
Wayne Rogers, who played Captain “Trapper” John McIntyre, was one of those fan favorites in the M*A*S*H TV series. He was certainly important, with the business aspect of things considered, for being a factor for sales pull. However, legal trouble loomed when he declared that he intended to quit the show.
Management quickly threatened to sue for breach of contract, and they probably would have succeeded, except for one tiny hiccup: it turns out Rogers hadn’t signed a contract with them in the first place. He had originally been approached to play Hawkeye Pierce but wasn’t keen on how cynical the character was. He was offered the role of Trapper instead, but never actually put pen to paper. While the pair were supposed to have equally important roles, Rogers became increasingly bothered by the gradual increase in importance Alda’s character was given by the writers. In the end, he felt the integrity of the book the series was inspired by had been compromised and, with no contract pinning him down, was able to easily bow out of his role.
Is there a Nurse in the House?
In a setting regularly filled with doctors and patients, expect the number of nurses to be plentiful. M*A*S*H installed many of them in various episodes, some with speaking parts, others stashed in the background, a backdrop of non-speaking roles. The presence of nurses made the show look real, but none of the nurses would stay long in unpromising roles.
Because the nurses never played vital roles, writers started to give them names from Ham operators and the military, from phonetic alphabets, like Nurse Charlie. Actress Kellye Nakahar was frequently credited for her role as Nurse Kellye. She was also Nurse Able. Since she stuck longer than most, she eventually even had a speaking part in Season 11.
Not Exactly Historically Accurate
The TV series was based on real events largely drawn during the Korean War, and it was made to look as authentic as possible. In many ways, it was successful at this, but a closer look around the set would gradually reveal a bric-a-brac of inconsistencies.
Like, say, why would an army officer be loafing around the base in a pair of sneakers? Of course, these were shot at an angle to hide the fact. Actors liked to wear sneakers because of their comfort. They didn’t wear real soldier boots because it would be too loud around the set which, by the way, had aluminum cans, a pinball machine in the officer’s club; and a whole host of things that weren’t actually available during the depicted period.
McLean Stevenson's Grim Departure
While the writers of M*A*S*H were banging their heads to come up with a consistent creative stream, life up and got stranger than fiction. After McLean Stevenson grew tired of the political power-play between the writers and the cast, he decided to leave and try his luck elsewhere.
He wasn’t so fortunate after M*A*S*H though and eventually passed away in 1996 due to a heart attack. Meanwhile, Roger Bowen, who appeared in M*A*S*H back in 1970, also died that same year of the same ailment. In an extra eerie coincidence, they both died within a day of each other.
With the TV series struggling badly after its first season, no-one would have thought it would reach as far as it did. Even Alan Alda hadn’t moved his family to Los Angeles, and for a valid reason. They were so close to being canceled by CBS that first year. Yet, during their final episode, which aired on February 28, 1983, they broke television records, reaching 106 million viewers. The previous record had been held by none other than the Super Bowl, showing just how absolutely incredible this feat truly was.
The finale was titled “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.” It ran for two and a half hours, making it the equivalent of five regular episodes, with Alan Alda multi-tasking from acting, directing, and steering its creative process.
...To Be Continued
The M*A*S*H series was arguably the best program in TV history. The decision to wrap it up was not easy, and the network tried to hold it off for as long as it could. When the time finally came for farewells, the public, along with the show’s cast and staff, was left with a sort of separation anxiety. They all knew there was still a demand for more, and started to pick up what they could out of shrapnel.
This resulted in three spin-offs: Trapper J, M.D. followed the life of the character after the military as Chief Surgeon at a hospital in San Francisco. There was a focus on Radar’s character in W*A*L*T*E*R, how his life had supposedly turned out in St. Louis. Lastly, AfterMASH, starring Harry Morgan, William Christopher, and Jamie Farr, ended up failing thanks to impossible competition from a newly released show you may have heard of: The A-Team.
Musician, Turned Actor, Turned Musician
Gary Burghoff, a true artist at heart, had expressed interests in music and the arts before taking up the role of Radar O’Reilly. Most of his interests took a sideline when the opportunity came for him to star in M*A*S*H and, unsurprisingly, after the show finally ended, Burghoff retraced the steps he made as a musician.
He joined forces with his long-time friend, Lynda Carter, whom he had shared the stage with, playing in a band called The Relatives. He guested on Carter’s shows and, now retired, has taken to painting wildlife full-time.
The Reappearing Dress
After surviving the initial phase of early discharge, Klinger’s character grew stronger than ever. Viewer’s loved him for his zany attitude and crazy schemes. He could always be relied on to break the monotony by coming up with outlandish ideas. The wedding dress was a product of Klinger’s popularity.
The dress ended up being used three times in the series, starting off with Klinger’s marriage to Laverne Esposito. Margaret Houlihan got a hand on it too when she married Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot. Lastly, Soon Lee got a chance to wear it when she married the delightfully infamous Klinger.
It's An American Thing
The creators of M*A*S*H had big dreams for the show. Being a huge hit in America, they planned on making it expand to the UK, a staunch ally of the US during the war, where political sentiments are easily shared. Then there was the possibility of making it a universal success afterward, or so they thought.
The TV series flopped overseas. Perhaps its humor was too topical to Americans alone. One interesting guess offered for its failure was the use of a laugh track, which is common in the US but considered poor form by the Brits. This may have been a major turn off to UK viewers who don’t like to be instructed on when they should laugh.
Defending The Armed Forces
Everything the M*A*S*H series tackled had to be done with particular care. First of all, they thrived on real war experiences, the Vietnam War was still going on and things there weren’t unraveling as planned. Unsurprisingly, people can become extra sensitive to issues that surround a war where many young soldiers are dying.
The TV series took a hit when some critics misunderstood their message as being anti-army. People were passionate about the war, so going against the armed forces wouldn’t have been a sound idea. But the makers of M*A*S*H had every intention of backing the fighting men and women of America, it just criticized all forms of incompetence. If anything, it was anti-bureaucratic.
Where The Magic Happened
For a TV series that has reached a certain legendary status for its tenure and strong viewership, it is quite interesting to note that M*A*S*H had only two places to shoot their scenes.
Neither of these sets was ever used for any other purposes at first, so the one that was nestled in the mountains near Malibu in California was used exclusively for M*A*S*H’s outdoor and tent scenes. This meant heavy use, especially for the first few seasons. For indoor shooting, they had to bunk up in Fox Studios. Eventually, Fox Studios was given a makeover, allowing the show to shoot its outdoor scenes there as well.
Not only did the writers of M*A*S*H come up with names cherry-picked from people they knew personally, but they also enjoyed injecting their own relatable experiences into the lives of the characters in the program.
Lenny Bruce was given a dishonorable discharge while serving the Navy, and he wanted a similar circumstance applied to Klinger, whose zany personality fit the shoe. So the latter was made to crossdress in an attempt to get thrown out of the organization.
From Pages In A Novel To The Big Screen
The M*A*S*H TV series wasn’t just TV-land comedy. It had weight attached to its humorousness which actually touched on serious societal matters. It was borne out of the work of Richard Hooker, who wrote MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, based on the author’s own experiences as a soldier during the Korean War.
Hooker would go on to publish two more novels afterward, but none of them were as successful as the first. It was filled with everything needed to make a stellar show that would last 11 seasons. And it was published at just the right time to pique interest and draw a strong readership.
To Laugh Or Not To Laugh
The use (or misuse) of the laugh track mechanism wasn’t such a laughing matter when the M*A*S*H series was initially shot. In fact, CBS made it clear that its use was not merely a matter of choice, but mandatory.
This put the actors and producers in a quandary, especially for scenes in operating rooms where doctors are dealing with a patient’s guts. Some viewers found it annoying, while the network wanted to use it along with a live audience to serve as a cue for them to react accordingly to any laughing matters. Like all disputes between cooler heads, they came to an agreement and today’s DVD versions have an option to toggle the laugh track on or off.
Wanted- Korean Actors
As much as the creative minds behind M*A*S*H had wanted to portray every single detail of the show with authenticity, there was nothing much they could do with regard to one aspect: the absolute shortage of Korean actors.
To make up for this void, they ended up choosing from among a line of Asian actors, the closest they could get to fill the role of a Korean. They came up with a list that consisted of a Chinese-American, Japanese, and Japanese-American, all signed up to play the single role. Only one real Korean national was ever tapped for the Korean role.
Before Harry Morgan assumed the role of Colonel Potter, he had already starred in films such as High Noon and Thunder Bay. He also dabbled in radio, hosting Mystery In The Air. Morgan’s opportunity to join the M*A*S*H cast came during the show’s third season, following McLean Stevenson’s untimely departure. He was as thrilled as you might imagine.
Harry Morgan got so captivated by M*A*S*H that he brought a framed photo of his wife, Eileen, to display on his character’s desk. Eileen actually played the role of Mildred, Morgan’s character’s fictional wife.
The pilot episode was worked out by Larry Gelbart, writing it enthusiastically for only two days. He was responsible for developing the series from the 1970 film M*A*S*H, and for his two days’ worth of work, he got paid a massive $25,000 which would still be impressive by today’s standards.
While the TV execs were impressed, the novel’s author and the movie’s director were at creative odds with the show. They both felt it softened the anti-war and anti-authoritarian spirit of the earlier works and were unhappy with its adaptation.
Alda- The Man Of The Hour
Alan Alda’s name is bound to pop up excessively in any discussion of the M*A*S*H TV series, particularly on the topic of its success. This was Alda’s time to shine as an actor, an opportunity he never shied away from. But Alda was eager to try out different production roles, sometimes simultaneously working as director, writer, and actor for a single episode.
Alda wrote a total of 13 episodes and directed 31, becoming the first person to ever win an Emmy Award for each of the various functions he performed. Thanks to the series, Alan Alda was able to showcase his fleet of talents to the world.
Show Me The Money
There’s no getting around it: advertising annoys viewers. No-one likes waiting through the arduous commercials when all they want to know is what’s coming next in their favorite program. Having your joy cut into installments with slices of boredom in between isn’t fun. But these ads are how the networks pay for the shows we all enjoy, the legendary M*A*S*H series included.
When they were just starting up, during the first years, it would set you back $30,000 for a customized ad, running in the midst of an episode. During its eleventh season, the series finale, the cost to place an ad through the host network hit its own pinnacle. To expose your business before more than a million viewers, each individual ad (most of which ran for under a minute) cost a whopping $450,000.
One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure
Flooded with creativity, sometimes you just don’t know what writers and producers can come up with on set. The filming of an episode titled “As Time Goes By” yielded a time capsule which they decided to bury at the ranch. This property was sold two months later and the time capsule was forgotten in the midst of all the pressures of running a highly successful TV show.
The new owners of the ranch were surprised to stumble upon this buried capsule when a construction worker they hired dug it up. Perplexed, they got in contact with Alan Alda, who simply laughed and told them that they could keep the relic.
It is hard to foresee the future value of things because, well, that’s just how our linear experience of time works (for now). If anyone ever figures out how to jack the system, decision making will take a whole new turn. But for now, we’re stuck with our gut instincts and educated guesses.
When M*A*S*H was merely at its incipience, Robert Klein didn’t think much about the opportunity given him to play the role of Trapper John and nonchalantly turned it down. While he never hinted at having regrets about his decision, it’s hard to believe he didn’t feel at least one pang of regret after the series bloomed financially. But he didn’t just turn the gig down for nothing. Klein was focused on his stand up comedy routine at the time and insists that he had to follow where his heart was leading.
It's Hard To Say Goodbye
The cast and crew of M*A*S*H must have had a tough time letting go after the filming of the finale. After working for 11 seasons together, they had long since ceased to see each other workmates and had segued into the closeness of a family.
Funnily enough, the series finale wasn’t really the finale. Not for the cast and crew anyway. They gathered one more time after the filming of the monster last episode to capture one more sub-finale of sorts. Technically, the last show they ever made was “As Time Goes By.” Then they buried those time capsules and turned their backs on M*A*S*H, carrying only their memories with them.
The Mysterious Hat
By now you, can’t be surprised when M*A*S*H produces another odd item, showing up and disappearing mysteriously, like those time capsules, teddy bear, and the dress. The show ran for 11 seasons and a lot of things happened under our noses.
When the series had just started, credits were lined up in the film to highlight how and where the series had drawn its main ideas from. Alan Alda was shown with a hat in the process. This same hat was used by Donald Sutherland in the movie, and then it mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again throughout the remainder of the show’s life.
Yea or Nay
In its last year, the M*A*S*H TV series had been struggling coming up with new ideas. People who worked around it started to frazzle, pressured to come up with something fresh; the cracks began to show.
So they all gathered together officially and put the question up for a vote. The future of the show remained in the hands of those who were there for its birth, some newer ones too. Those who voted to continue the show apparently lost, but were responsible for the spin-off, AfterMASH, which commenced in 1983.
Based On A Novel
For all the smashing success the M*A*S*H TV series ended up enjoying, it didn’t show much promise when it began. In fairness to its creators, they were starting something that was relatively new and potentially controversial at the time. It was the first military-drama-comedy ever aired on TV, and many viewers found the amalgam an unusual one.
Even Larry Gelbart, who wrote the pilot show, didn’t know much about it at all while living in the United Kingdom. What made him write M*A*S*H was his deep appreciation for Robert Altman’s film. How the tides have turned since then! While the TV show has been insanely popular, many fans aren’t even aware that it was based on the book and movie that preceded it.
Throughout the eleven seasons of the M*A*S*H TV series, as diverse as the subject matters and themes they tackled were, it is worth noting that only one episode was deemed unfit to air. The episode wasn’t really unlike every one of those that had been shown, but the network regarded it to be thinly unpatriotic.
It concerned a number of military men who were calling for their repatriation back to the States, bidding against each other to travel home first. Management thought the back message controversial and demoralizing and didn’t want to trigger sentiments of those opposed to the war back home. Many soldiers wanted to go home and this episode would’ve incited it even more. So it never flickered to life on our TV screens.
M*A*S*H has enriched the lives of many of its viewers through its drama and humor. It provided good company to the anxious during a time of war and tribulation. It also provided great opportunities for artists to expand their careers and for writers to test their skills. It made a tough time in America’s history a little bit livable, which was a big thing.
For some actors, however, their extreme guest appearances netted them some unusual notoriety. John Ritter guested as a soldier who snapped during treatment, his taking of a hostage was frowned upon. Laurence Fishburne played the role of a racist commander who placed black soldiers in hazardous missions. And Patrick Swayze played a terminally ill patient, the tragedy of which foreshadowed his own death from a terminal illness in 2009.
No To Guns
To be in the military and despise guns must be a mountainous oxymoron to tackle. Even when Hawkeye was assigned as the Officer of the Day, he would fulfill his tasks without having a sidearm with him. And this was supposed to be during a time of war!
In one episode, Potter pleaded with Hawkeye to bring at least a pistol along on their way to the aid station, but the latter graciously rejected his request. Pointing his weapon to the sky, he screamed and unloaded all his bullets into the empty expanse above. He was a doctor, in the midst of the war, there to heal the injured, not to injure.
Who Is This Captain Turtle?
If you do not remember who Captain Tuttle was, that’s because there really was no captain to speak of. The only episode Tuttle “appeared in” was aptly titled “Tuttle,” and the so-called captain was just a figment of Hawkeye’s imagination.
However, weirdly enough, Tuttle’s name appeared during the show’s credits for playing himself. How odd for something that no one has ever heard of, nor seen, to be only in a person’s mind and yet become acknowledged in the show credits. Was this an early version of the now popular trend of placing easter eggs in shows, films, and games?
One of the M*A*S*H TV series’ stronger points was that many of those who were involved in it were former soldiers themselves, or had at least some direct experience working with the military or during wartime. It gave the show credibility, made the scenes feel less contrived, and added a sense of realness to everything, even the funny parts.
However, the TV program continued to create inconsistencies, which makes us wonder why none of the experienced cast and crew made any efforts to correct them. For one, there were too many Purple Heart Awards given to soldiers wounded in the line of duty, even after they got wounded for the second time. Purple Hearts are only given once. As a rule, if the same awardee gets injured again, he/she should be given the Oak Leaf Cluster. This wasn’t difficult to research and is just one of many similar discrepancies with military reality.
At The End Of The Day
No matter how well-created a show may be, how original the idea, and punctiliously wrought from start to finish, there is no guarantee how viewers will take it. There is no sure insulation against flopping. With such a variegated audience as there is in America, the challenge for M*A*S*H’s creators was amplified. But they did it.
One true measure for the series’ success is its longevity. Like a true classic, M*A*S*H has withstood the test of time; its messages and humor remain relevant, even to the current generation and quite possibly the next.
Hot Lips & Empty Arms
It would be sacrilege to forget a bombshell like an actress, Loretta Swit, who played the role of Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan; especially considering she was quite the gal surrounded by an ocean of men. That, and she played the role for all of M*A*S*H’s 11 seasons.
Looking back on the M*A*S*H series, Swit says her favorite episodes were “Margaret’s Engagement,” “Hot Lips & Empty Arms,” and “The Nurses.” All those titles seem perfectly fitting to her personality, but she further admits that she’s given up watching the program’s reruns.
By the time the M*A*S*H TV series was around seven years old, now quite established as a mainstay of American television, actor Gary Burghoff had started to tire of working on the set. He missed his family and wanted to spend more time with them, and this ultimately led him to quit.
Mike Farrel tried to keep him from leaving but failed. Four years after his departure, TV columnist Mike Drew wrote about it saying, “No castmates cried much over the departure of Burghoff,” to which the latter bantered, “While there may not have have been tears shed by my cast members over my leaving the show, they did know – and still do – of my contribution.”
Not The Same Man Off-Air
Actor Harry Morgan, who played the role of Col. Sherman Potter, resurfaced years after the M*A*S*H TV program had been off air. Nobody really knew what he’s been up to in 1996, so him making the headlines out of nowhere raised eyebrows, as well as curiosity among the show’s long-time followers.
As it turned out, Morgan was arrested for beating up his seventy-year-old wife, Barbara, who was found battered in their home when the police got there. The actor was charged with misdemeanor spousal battery, and faced up to one year of jail time and/or a $6,000 fine.
William Christopher played the role of Father Mulcahy in the M*A*S*H series. The sweet Irish priest was the chaplain of the 4077th, but all the while he had looked forward to serving another cause when the TV program wrapped up.
Christopher and his wife were both very devoted to their adopted son, Ned’s condition. Ned was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Christopher committed himself to helping the National Autistic Society bring awareness to the public. The couple even published a book detailing their experiences raising an autistic child. Christopher died in 2016, but the developments he and his wife made regarding autism remain a real-life blessing.
Like Father Like Son
Actor McLean Stevenson made very little adjustments when he took on the role of Lt. Colonel Henry Blake. He knew right away that it was going to be a breeze for him, being all too familiar with the character’s culture, behavior, and habits. How so?
When asked to comment about it, Stevenson said, “I played my dad. My father was a country doctor, and he was 80 years old when he passed away.” Lt. Col. Henry Blake and Stevenson both come from Bloomington, Illinois, and perhaps in his mind, he was told to literally just be himself when playing the role.
Klinger’s character was unpredictable, and that was an undeniable part of his charm. You just couldn’t be sure how crazy he was going to be in any given episode. His boisterous nature and shocking costumes made you wonder what on Earth could be next. For sure, the cross-dressing and scheming was fun while it lasted. But Jamie Farr knew he couldn’t play the role forever and was glad of the change when he shifted careers and became a company clerk.
What bothered Jamie Farr most about the role was how his children would take the combination of cross-dressing actor on-screen and dad in real life. He was afraid that they would be teased by their peers and felt that would be unfair for them.
As earlier mentioned, there always seemed to be a serious shortage of Korean actors, at least as far as the M*A*S*H casting was concerned. As consequence, they ended up having one real Korean actor play a variety of roles in many episodes.
This Korean actor, however, is a bundle of talent. Soon-Tek Oh, at one time, played five different roles in a single M*A*S*H episode in Season 4 titled “The Bus.” He also re-appeared in other occasions, again for different roles. He made another prominent appearance in the Season 8 episode titled “The Yalu Brick Road.”
Welcome To The Swamp
“The Swamp” doesn’t paint a very nice word-picture and doesn’t exactly sound like a place you’d want to spend a whole lot of time in. But this is what Trapper John and Hawkeye used to call their tent. Surprisingly, with them saying it, “The Swamp” doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all. In fact, coming from the charismatic duo, it starts to sound kinda cool.
According to the author of MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, back in college, Hawkeye’s buddies used to refer to his dorm as “The Swamp,” and this stuck with him as he traveled abroad. There is an exact replica of it at the Museum of the Kansas National Guard and the Holley Museum of Military History in Topeka, Kansas.