Behind-The-Scenes Secrets That Even The Biggest M*A*S*H Fans Did Not Know

Published on 03/25/2020
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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!

Behind-The-Scenes Secrets That Even The Biggest M*A*S*H Fans Did Not Know

Behind-The-Scenes Secrets That Even The Biggest M*A*S*H Fans Did Not Know

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.

M*A*S*H Was Based On A Book

M*A*S*H Was Based On A Book

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!

Cast Members Swapped Parts

Cast Members Swapped Parts

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.

Some Actors Really Spent Them In The Military

Some Actors Really Spent Them In The Military

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.

A Comedian Turned Down A Role

A Comedian Turned Down A Role

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!

Wayne Rogers Did Not Sign The Contract

Wayne Rogers Did Not Sign The 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.

Klinger Was Not Written As A Straight Character

Klinger Was Not Written As A Straight Character

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.

They Toned Down The Laugh Track

They Toned Down The Laugh Track

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 Pilot Episode Was Written Quickly

The Pilot Episode Was Written Quickly

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 Show Did Not Tell The Cast Everything

The Show Did Not Tell The Cast Everything

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 Cast Boasted Incredible Star Power

The Cast Boasted Incredible Star Power

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.

The Actual War Was Much Shorter Than The Air Time

The Actual War Was Much Shorter Than The Air Time

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!

Alda Was More Than Just An Actor

Alda Was More Than Just An Actor

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!

They Auctioned Off The Teddy Bear

They Auctioned Off The Teddy Bear

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!

Someone Discovered The Buried Time Capsule

Someone Discovered The Buried Time Capsule

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.”

Loretta Swit Was In Nearly All The Episodes

Loretta Swit Was In Nearly All The Episodes

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!

Alda And His Accolades

Alda And His Accolades

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.

They Picked The Names Very Carefully

They Picked The Names Very Carefully

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.

A Writer Named A Character After His Ex

A Writer Named A Character After His Ex

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.

The Cast Did Not Hold Back On Complaints

The Cast Did Not Hold Back On Complaints

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.

A TV Spin-off Called W*A*L*T*E*R

A TV Spin-off Called W*A*L*T*E*R

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.

Klinger Became More Significant Than Intended

Klinger Became More Significant Than Intended

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?

Erin Was The Name Of His Real Daughter

Erin Was The Name Of His Real Daughter

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.

It Was A Photo Of His Real Wife

It Was A Photo Of His Real Wife

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.

They Did Not Shoot The Finale Last

They Did Not Shoot The Finale 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 Cast Stayed Close After The Show Ended

The Cast Stayed Close After The Show Ended

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 Final Episode Was Truly Iconic

The Final Episode Was Truly Iconic

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.

The Hat Was Not In The Show

The Hat Was Not 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 Removed The Laugh Track In The U.K.

They Removed The Laugh Track 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!

They Used Klinger's Wedding Dress Three Times

They Used Klinger’s Wedding Dress Three Times

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!

Hawkeye Was Not A Fan Of Guns

Hawkeye Was Not A Fan Of Guns

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.

The "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" Episode

The “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” Episode

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!

Captain Tuttle Played Himself

Captain Tuttle Played Himself

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.

The Powerlines Were Visible

The Powerlines Were Visible

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 Got The Purple Hearts Wrong

They Got The Purple Hearts Wrong

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.

They Messed Up The Time Difference

They Messed Up The Time Difference

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!

All The Nurses Had The Same Name

All The Nurses Had The Same Name

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!

Naming Them After The LA Dodgers

Naming Them After The LA Dodgers

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.

They Did Not Have Enough Korean Actors

They Did Not Have Enough Korean Actors

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.

A Real Korean Actor On The Set

A Real Korean Actor On The Set

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.

Basing The Details On Real People

Basing The Details On Real People

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

The Spin-Offs Of The Show

The Spin-Offs Of The Show

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.

What 'AfterMASH' Was About

What AfterMASH Was About

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.

It All Boiled Down To A Vote

It All Boiled Down To A Vote

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