Alan Alda wanted a very private life for him and his family during his time on M*A*S*H

He was a ladies' man who only cared about one woman.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Away from all of the cameras, many celebrities had their own interests and hobbies that weren't associated with any character they've ever played. Gary Burghoff was a passionate bird watcher, Eddie Albert was a conservationist and little Opie grew up to direct films.

But then there was Alan Alda — the resident family man outside of M*A*S*H. Alda played the role of Capt. Hawkeye Pierce for a total of 11 seasons during M*A*S*H's long and successful run on television.

His character was a bit of a ladies' man, known for being a womanizer and having short-lived romantic relationships throughout the series. In real life, Alda even rose to the status of "sex symbol."

Ask Alda and he would have argued against his "sex symbol" status, but ask any woman who watched M*A*S*H between 1972 and 1983, and they would have given you a long list of reasons why it was true.

At home, Alda was a reserved person who focused more on his wife, Arlene Alda, and his three children than the fame or status he received from his time with the series.

When Alda wasn't filming, he and his family were tucked away in their New Jersey home. That's the way he liked it — private.

"I talk with reluctance about my own life, first of all because I want to keep it private," Alda said in a 1979 interview with The Charlotte Observer. "Secondly, I really hate to read in print those long paragraphs about how great Arlene and I are doing at this stuff. I mean, we work hard, and we do what we have to because we place a high value on our life together and the quality of it."

According to the interview, Alda liked the idea of a group of Army medics trying to cope with the war and each other, but he was concerned that the series would make war look like a fun time rather than how gruesome it actually is.

"The thing that I found useful was that the effects of war arrived onstage, not adventure," Alda said. "In fact, you rarely see anybody carrying a gun, and you almost never see a gun fired. Most of the time you see the garbage of war, the human wreckage."

Alda would spend almost 11 hours a week sitting on planes while traveling from New Jersey to Hollywood. According to the interview, Alda began to use this time to write scripts for M*A*S*H and other projects.

He would commit himself to tiring 18-hour days just to crank out new episodes of the series. When he was done, he would fly home and do it all over again. A seriously hardworking family man. 

According to another 1979 interview with The State, Alda said when his wife was busy (as a photographer) he would take over all the household duties and cater his entire day to the needs of Arlene and his children. 

"I mean, it's not just the cooking and the cleaning — it's being available when the kids call. It's hanging out to get the complaints. It's not having a half an hour to yourself during the day."

He and Arlene met in 1956 when she was a clarinetist with the Houston Symphony. The love between the couple inspired us all and gave many faith that a healthy and long-lasting marriage was possible.

Alda said the problem with America and divorce rates was because "what men are doing is depriving themselves of bright and interesting women." He knew what kind of bright and interesting partner he had in Arlene and not even a job in Hollywood could get in the way of that.

"When you become successful, work makes the biggest demands on you," Alda said. "But then you say 'Wait a minute!' If success means losing your family, losing connection with your mate, your spouse, then what's the purpose of it? I put my relationship with my mate first, and the rest can wait. My wife would do this for me if the tables were turned."

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