Before M*A*S*H: 7 stars and what they did prior to being cast on the hit show

Seven stories about who that cast was and what they did prior to M*A*S*H.

Anybody involved with M*A*S*H is certified television royalty. The Korean War-set comedy/drama is the rare show that captures both incredible critical acclaim and astounding audience viewership. It's no surprise that M*A*S*H is considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time. It also launched its cast into the collective consciousness, with many of its actors now most-recognized for the characters they portrayed on the show's 11 seasons.

While most of these actors are associated primarily with the characters they played on M*A*S*H, it's hard to picture who they were or what they did before the show entered production. So, here are seven stories about who that cast was and what they did prior to M*A*S*H

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1. Alan Alda

 

Alphonso D'Abruzzo was born in New York City on January 28th, 1936. The son of actor Robert Alda, the man who would become Hawkeye plied his trade in the family business, beginning a theatrical career in Barnesville, Pennsylvania at the age of 16. Later, Alda trained with improv troupes "Second City" and "Compass," honing the skills that would later bring him Emmy-winning acclaim. Alan Alda was the creative team's first and only choice for the role of Hawkeye.

2. Gary Burghoff

 

Prior to becoming Walter "Radar" O'Reilly, Gary Burghoff was a relatively unknown actor, appearing in the off-Broadway production You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. But before he ever even considered acting, music was Burghoff's calling. While attending high school in Delavan, Wisconsin, Burghoff joined a local orchestra, where he drummed, sang and regularly appeared in clubs around Milwaukee. Upon graduation, he moved to New York City, where he studied acting with such luminaries as James Tuttle, Sandy Meisner and Charles Nelson Reilly.

3. Loretta Swit

 

Hailed at the time as one of the most interesting, multifaceted characters on TV, Loretta Swit's portrayal of Margaret "Hot Lips" Houilhan was the primary female voice throughout M*A*S*H's run. Prior to her famous turn as Houilhan, Loretta Swit's first job in show business was teaching dance lessons to children, before she moved to NYC to studay at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She would later tour with a Florida theater company performing The Odd Couple alongside E.G. Marshall and Shelley Berman. On TV, she'd have guest roles on future hits like Gunsmoke, Mannix and Mission: Impossible.

4. Larry Linville

 

For five years, Larry Linville presided as the local antagonist in M*A*S*H, and viewers loved seeing Hawkeye and co. get the best of Frank Burns' unreasonable, petty ways. But before he was the unit baddie, Larry Linville was a military hopeful. A childhood interest in planes led Linvilled to enroll at the University of Colorado to study engineering, with his eventual goal being to fly jets for the United States Air Force. However, that interest was quickly supplanted by a burgeoning acting career, and he won a scholarship to London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts before performing alongside Ingrid Bergman in Broadway's More Stately Mansions.

5. Wayne Rogers

 

Graduating with a degree in history from Princeton University in 1954, Wayne Rogers joined the U.S. Navy as a navigator aboard the U.S.S. Denebola. Happenstance led him to acting: While docking in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Rogers visited an old friend who'd become a director. Upon attending a rehearsal, Rogers immediately caught the acting bug, going on to appear in movies such as Once in Paris, Cool Hand Luke, and Chamber of Horrors.

6. McLean Stevenson

 

Here's an interesting bit of political trivia: McLean Stevenson was the cousin of two-time presidential hopeful Adlai Stevenson II, and served as press secretary for both campaigns. McLean Stevenson's life briefly paralelled that of his character Lt. Col. Henry Blake when Stevenson served a tour with the medical corps. Stevenson would later appear onscreen in The Doris Day Show and The Tim Conway Show before landing his role in M*A*S*H.

7. William Christopher

 

With his portrayal of Father Mulcahy, William Christopher provided a necessary reprieve from the stress and problems experienced by the other characters. But before becoming ordained, Christopher found his calling in his third grade play, where he played the part of Ilgamood the Groundhog. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University, Christopher grew from beneath Ilgamood's considerable shadow with roles in The Patty Duke Show, Hogan's Heroes, and Gomer Pyle, USMC. Eagle-eyed viewers can also find William Christopher in two episodes of The Carol Burnett Show.

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9 Comments

CoreyC 15 months ago
Harry Morgan Dragnet
David Ogden Stiers Mary Tyler Moore
Zwitsal 15 months ago
Alan Alda wasn't the first choice for Hawkeye, that was Wayne Rogers. But he went for the Trapper part because it fitted him more.
Pacificsun 15 months ago
Am sick to death of MASH, only because it will be thrown at us for 14 hrs. a week in the month of May. But surely do respect these outstanding actors. And all the craft-talent that went into developing and maintaining the MASH Series. This article is the first of it's kind to showcase a brief background of the actors. But you know anyway, how they paid their dues long term, gaining experience and developing their personality-styles (talent). Which is so evident in the Series for the reason of displaying their range. It was the perfect Series (theme) for doing so, meaning with legitimacy and purpose. Those ardent fans are fully acknowledged for their deep appreciation and knowledge of the Series, as it's been spanning the generations.

Thank you MeTV writers, both for the story, and for making it so available to its cult following! They deserve it, for their loyalty and support!!
cheduff Pacificsun 14 months ago
Yes I am also mortified that the A-Team is out on May 1st replaced with more MASH. Why can’t we get Mission:Impossible more than one episode per week at 300am??
Jon cheduff 14 months ago
A-TEAM should be back on MeTV Monday, June 5.
Lantern 15 months ago
Wayne Rogers also co-starred on the short-lived early '60s series "Stagecoach West". This is currently being aired on ME TV+.
Cougar90 Lantern 15 months ago
I didn't even know there was a Me-TV+.
Rob Cougar90 15 months ago
I don’t get me Tv + in my area.
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