M*A*S*H continues to be one of the biggest TV shows to have graced the small screen. Set in the Korean War, this show revolutionized the format with its mixture of drama and comedy. Each episode drew in millions of viewers, and the finale is the record holder of the biggest audience to watch a scripted TV program in American history. The characters and the stars who portrayed them continue to enjoy the love of fans. Even though M*A*S*H was an international sensation, it boasts secrets that many people did not know. For example, actors had no idea which characters would die. We bet you have no idea which actors actually served in the military either. Read on to find out why Loretta Swit nearly left the show and more!
M*A*S*H Was Based On A Book
Did you know that M*A*S*H was based on a book? The source was a 1968 book by Richard Hooker called “MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors.” That was the pen name chosen by writer W.C. Heinz and former military surgeon Dr. H. Richard Hornberger.
Cast Members Swapped Parts
McLean Stevenson is the name of the actor who brought Henry Blake to life. Can you believe that he went in with the hopes of snagging the part of Hawkeye instead? Honestly, this was for the best!
Some Actors Really Spent Them In The Military
Alan Alda and Jamie Farr both spent time in the military before they worked in the show. The former was in the Army Reserve after his graduation from Fordham University. Meanwhile, Farr served in the army for two years. He was active in Korea and Japan after the hostilities were over.
A Comedian Turned Down A Role
Robert Klein is a talented comedian who got offered the role of Trapper John. He turned down the offer. Despite this, he went on to enjoy a great comedy career with almost a hundred credits to his name.
Wayne Rogers Did Not Sign The Contract
Fans of the show will know Wayne Rogers for playing Trapper John McIntyre. He managed to leave the show of his own accord thanks to a loophole of sorts. He did not sign his contract!
Klinger Was Not Written As A Straight Character
Klinger is a character who was only supposed to make one appearance. He was also supposed to be gay. He went on to be one of the most popular characters on the show, which is a great feat.
They Toned Down The Laugh Track
When the show started, the producers did not want to have a laugh track to put an emphasis on how serious the subject matter was. CBS did not agree but let them do without one when it came to scenes in the operating room. If you watch the show, the canned laughter got mixed lower as time went on.
The Pilot Episode Was Written Quickly
It is not easy to write since inspiration tends to be intermittent. We have to admit that we are very impressed to learn that writer Larry Gelbart finished the whole pilot script in only 3 days!
The Show Did Not Tell The Cast Everything
We might not know certain things about the show, but the cast members did not know everything about it either. Can you believe that Alan Alda was the only one informed that Henry Blake was going to die?
The Cast Boasted Incredible Star Power
The show had a great cast. We all know this, right? Some of the big stars that appeared on the show include the likes of Leslie Nielsen, Patrick Swayze, and Ron Howard. It happened before they made it big.
The Actual War Was Much Shorter Than The Air Time
The Korean War only went on for around 3 years. The show had a much longer run. It was on the air for 11 years. The pilot aired on September 17, 1972. The finale, meanwhile, aired on February 28, 1983.
Alda Was More Than Just An Actor
On top of his lead role, Alan Alda also got the opportunity to direct 31 episodes. He co-wrote 13 episodes as well. We have to say that we are impressed by how talented this guy was!
They Auctioned Off The Teddy Bear
For 3 decades, they thought that Radar’s trademark teddy bear was lost to history. They found it and auctioned it off. It is appropriate that the winning bid went to Gary Burghoff, who played Radar himself!
Someone Discovered The Buried Time Capsule
In an episode from the final season, the characters hid a time capsule. A couple of months after the end of production, a construction worker found the container on where the set had been. That’s pretty cool!
Loretta Swit Was In Nearly All The Episodes
Loretta Swit is the actress who brought Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan to life. There were only four cast members who stuck around for the entire 11-season run, and she was one of them. Overall, she was only absent in 11 episodes out of 256. Her personal favorite episodes were “Margaret’s Engagement,” “Hot Lips & Empty Arms,” and “The Nurses.”
Alda And His Accolades
Alan Alda brought home Emmy awards for the acting, directing, and writing that he did for the series. He was the first person who ended up winning in all three categories for a single show!
They Picked The Names Very Carefully
Mind you, they were very careful about picking the names of even the smallest part you can imagine. In 1977, an episode featured characters that were named for the California Angels baseball team that year.
A Writer Named A Character After His Ex
Let us look more into the names, shall we? There was a character that was named after the ex-girlfriend of one of the writers! We bet that this character was not the best one among the crew.
The Cast Did Not Hold Back On Complaints
As the show went on, the cast members started to get more vocal about their plot complaints. To get back at them, the creative team made them do winter scenes in heavy clothes when it was 90 degrees.
A TV Spin-off Called W*A*L*T*E*R
There were several spin-offs, which includes one in which Walter “Radar” O’Reilly went home after the war. He lost his family and started a law enforcement career. It was aired only once and never again.
Klinger Became More Significant Than Intended
Klinger was supposed to make a single appearance. However, he became such a hit with viewers that he ended up becoming a regular character instead! We are glad that they ended up changing their mind.
Erin Was The Name Of His Real Daughter
Actor Mike Farrell had a request about the name of his character’s daughter. He asked the team to change it to Erin, which is the name of his real-life daughter. Isn’t that the sweetest thing ever?
It Was A Photo Of His Real Wife
We do not know if you remember it, but there was a photo of Mildred, Potter’s wife, on his desk. The picture is actually the real wife of Harry Morgan, who played Potter! What a nice touch.
They Did Not Shoot The Finale Last
Even though the final episode was truly iconic, it was not really the last thing the crew ever filmed. The penultimate episode, which aired under the title “As Time Goes By,” was actually shot last.
The Cast Stayed Close After The Show Ended
Loretta Swit stayed close with many of her colleagues even after the show came to an end. She and Harry Morgan, who played Col. Sherman T. Potter, were especially close. They even became neighbors and stayed that way until he died in 2011. The actress is also on very good terms with Alan Alda and his family. She used her fame to her advantage and landed roles in TV shows such as Cagney and Lacey and The Love Boat. She was hoping to leave M*A*S*H* for the role of Christine Cagney, but the producers refused to break her contract for it. She had to drop the offer.
The Final Episode Was Truly Iconic
We have an incredible fact about the finale of the show. It is the record holder for the most-watched non-sports TV program in the United States! More than 77 percent of the population watched it.
The Hat Was Not In The Show
In the opening credits of the show, Alan Alda sports the type of hat that Donald Sutherland wore in the film adaptation, which came out in 1970. Aside from that, the hat was not featured in the show.
They Removed The Laugh Track In The U.K.
It is a little hard to imagine the show without its controversial laugh track. We are sure that American viewers would be showed to hear that they took it off completely when it was aired in the U.K.
They Used Klinger’s Wedding Dress Three Times
Klinger’s wedding gown was worn thrice on the show. He wore it when he got married to Laverne Esposito. Margaret Houlihan donned it when she and Lt. Col. Donald Penobscott got married. Soon Lee also wore it when she and Klinger tied the knot!
Hawkeye Was Not A Fan Of Guns
Hawkeye did not carry a gun on the show. In fact, there was just one instance in which he was forced to use a firearm. In that scene, he only fired it into the air!
The “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” Episode
There is another interesting thing about the legendary final episode of the show. Called “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” it was the only one on the entire show to have the title displayed on the screen.
Captain Tuttle Played Himself
During the closing credits of “Tuttle,” you will see that Captain Tuttle got the credit for playing “himself.” What did it mean? It was actually a nod to the fact that there was no Captain Tuttle in the episode. He was only the product of Hawkeye’s imagination!
The Powerlines Were Visible
Did you notice that the background of a couple of exterior shots showed visible powerlines? In reality, the producers noticed that they were present. However, they did not have the funds to redo the scenes.
They Got The Purple Hearts Wrong
A couple of characters on the show were awarded many purple hearts. It was an error. You see, they only give out purple hearts for the first injury a soldier sustained in battle. After that, the military awards oak leaf clusters for subsequent injuries.
They Messed Up The Time Difference
The show made a mistake when they talked about the time difference between Korea and New York. A bunch of times, Radar said that it was 18 hours. The truth was that it is only either 13 or 14 hours, depending on the time of the year.
All The Nurses Had The Same Name
Across the show, there were a number of background nurses played by different actresses. Even though this was the case, each and every single one got called “Nurse Baker.” What a strange course of action!
Naming Them After The LA Dodgers
In 1978, there was an episode of the show that had a group of patients with interesting names. They were named after the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team that won the National League Champion that year!
They Did Not Have Enough Korean Actors
When the series was ongoing, there was not a big talent pool of Korean stars in the industry. This was the reason the producers often cast actors and actresses of other Asian ethnicities to play those roles.
A Real Korean Actor On The Set
In fact, there was really only one true Korean performer on the show: Soon Tek Oh. He played several roles in the show. He was a big star from the ‘60s and stayed active in the business until his retirement in 2006. The photo is a still from Charlie’s Angels. He died in 2018 at only 85 years old.
Basing The Details On Real People
A lot of characters from the show, both guest and regular ones, had personal details or names that came from the lives and interests of the writers and actors. Exhibit A: Klinger comes from the same hometown as Jamie Farr, his actor.
The Spin-Offs Of The Show
There were 3 spin-offs of the show. We already talked about one of them, W*A*L*T*E*R. Its pilot aired just once. Aside from that, there was also the more successful Trapper John, M.D., as well as AfterMASH
What AfterMASH Was About
It is not hard to guess what W*A*L*T*E*R and Trapper John, M.D. had been about, but what about AfterMASH? This one starred Klinger, Col. Potter, and Father Mulcahy as they worked at Veteran’s Hospital after the end of the war. It had a run of two seasons.
It All Boiled Down To A Vote
Understandably, the writers had been having trouble coming up with new ideas by the 9th season. They could not help but feel like the show was running out of steam. Alan Alda wanted the 10th season to be the last one, but CBS persuaded him to hang on for another season. The other members of the cast held a vote to see if the series should be over even though it was still very popular. When the majority said yes, the rest was history. The people who said otherwise appeared in the spin-off show, AfterMASH.