Have you ever watched MASH, one of the longest-running series on TV? The CBS-produced show follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the “4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” in Uijeongbu, South Korea during the Korean War and it has been one of the most popular TV series in the U.S. Well, here are some behind-the-scenes facts that even a big fan of MASH may not know.
Ever wonder why this show was so realistic? Prior to the series, Alan Alda, who played the role of Hawkeye Pierce, was on active duty during the Korean War. Jamie Farr, or Corporal Klinger, also served his duty during the Korean War. Other than Alan and Jamie, Wayne Rogers and Mike Farrell also had military experience before being part of MASH.
Still remember Radar’s teddy bear? Well, it went to under the hammer at more than $14,000 after approximately 20 bids in 2005. Gary Burghoff included a notarized letter, which confirmed that the bear was the ONLY bear used in the series. The Teddy Bear even had a secret name given by Burghoff – TIGER!
What if McLean Stevenson, or Henry Blake, in MASH had played the role of Hawkeye? It’s not actually as crazy as it sounds. McLean Stevenson auditioned for the role of Hawkeye before he was convinced to accept the role of Henry Blake.
Not every successful TV Series achieved its success in its first season, and neither did MASH. During its first season in 1972, viewers did not seem to like it very much. As a result, CBS moved it to Saturday nights. Thanks to CBS’s decision of not canceling the show, ratings for Season Two shot up. It went from strength to strength and the legendary TV Series remained popular for almost a decade.
We may only have had the “effeminate gay” for one episode! Initially, the writers only planned to have Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger (played by Jamie Farr) for one episode. However, as the character turned out to be a huge success, Klinger was kept throughout the series. Originally Klinger was supposed to be gay but was changed to a cross-dressed heterosexual man who tried hard to be discharged from the Army. “Unluckily”, Klinger was eventually promoted to sergeant instead of being discharged in the show.
Wayne Rogers left the show after Season Three and was threatened with legal action for quitting. However, it was later found that Wayne Rogers did not even sign a contract due to objecting to the “morals clause” which allows the producers to fire an actor if his/her behavior reflects poorly on the production.
In Episode 72, Henry Blake was to be discharged from the army as the actor McLean Stevenson had decided to leave the series. However, the writers made a terrible decision in letting Henry Blake be killed on a plane back home over the Sea of Japan. Fans were so annoyed that CBS received more than 1,000 letters complaining of the death of Henry Blake.
How did the writers come up with such fascinating stories? Unlike other shows that tend to be original ideas based on writers’ personal experience, MASH was inspired by the book MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. The writer, Richard Hooker created the book based on his experiences at the 8055th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Mr. Hooker also wrote sequels to Mash, including MASH Goes to Maine in 1972 and MASH Mania in 1977.
If you watch the series very closely and you happen to be familiar with the Korean War, you may identify some historical inaccuracies. For instance, the boots worn by the actors were not actual army boots as army boots were too uncomfortable to wear. In addition, the use of aluminum cans, pinball machines and candy bars with UPC codes were inaccurate as they were only created after the 1960s.
Hawkeye Pierce was played by Alan Alda. For the eleven years that the series were shot in California, Alda flew back to New Jersey to meet his family every weekend because, according to himself, he did not know how long the show would last.
There were only two actors who were in both the pilot episode and the finale. One is the Alan Alda, the other is Loretta Swit, who played the head nurse Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in all but 11 episodes of the series during the eleven years. She remained active in film and TV series after MASH and she even started a jewelry design business and wrote a book on needlepoint.
12. Three Weddings, Same Dress
You may still remember Mr. Klinger in the wedding dress when he married Laverne Esposito. Did the wedding dress look familiar? Here are some clues. The dress was also used at the wedding between Margret Houlihan and Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot and the wedding between Soon Lee and Kelinger.
Have you noticed the audience laughter in MASH? Well, most of it was from a laugh track used by CBS. However, if you want to have a military TV series free of the laugh track, you can get a DVD of the show where you can turn it off.
Although the series was about the Korean War, there was only one Korean in the entire eleven seasons – Soon Tek Oh. He appeared in five episodes as five different characters. The reason was very simple – there were not enough Korean actors in Hollywood at that time.
The finale of the show was not filmed the last. The episode that was filmed last was the penultimate episode, “As Time Goes By.” which was aired on February 21, 1983.