Before M*A*S*H, David Ogden Stiers sustained a brutal injury that nearly ended his acting career

"At the hospital, they used 62 stitches to sew my face back together," the M*A*S*H surgeon said.

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"I treat myself far better than you Bowery denizens. My body's a temple," Charles Winchester III boasts to Hawkeye and B.J. in the M*A*S*H episode "Tell It to the Marines."

David Ogden Stiers, the actor who played Winchester, saw physical fitness as important to his ambitions as an actor. He knew he needed to look and feel good to make it in show business.

His favorite way to stay in shape was cycling, but it was this hobby that landed the actor in the hospital for injuries that threatened to end his acting career, just a few years before he was cast on M*A*S*H.

"I was cycling down a hill and hit a slick spot," Stiers explained to Tampa Bay Times in 1976. "My bike went one way and I went another, skidding on my face. At the hospital, they used 62 stitches to sew my face back together."

Folks were unsure how long it would take for Stiers' face to heal, so everybody was astounded when the actor appeared at an audition five mere weeks later and got cast immediately in a TV pilot.

One TV writer called his recovery "striking," and described his face as "an almost perfect healing." Stiers had a couple of theories why his face healed up so quickly.

"I credit the expert care I received in the emergency room of the hospital and the subsequent natural response to healing that comes from a healthy body," Stiers said — evoking that "body is a temple" line he would later deliver as Winchester on M*A*S*H.

In that M*A*S*H episode "Tell It to the Marines," Winchester, the character who sees himself as above most others, temporarily gets placed in charge of the camp as commanding officer.

It was a role Stiers had played before, leading a team of doctors. The same year Stiers took his spill on his bike, the TV pilot that he joined cast him as a medical clinic director for a show penned by Mary Tyler Moore Show writers. It was called Doc.

Unfortunately, that series lasted only two seasons, but its cancellation freed up Stiers to join M*A*S*H, where he became a fan-favorite character.

Next time you're watching Winchester deliver a snooty, shrewd barb to Hawkeye, look closely at the actor's face, and you'll see the only scar from his terrible accident that almost canceled his acting career: a tiny line on his upper lip.

"That adds a spot of character," Stiers, known for intense, marvelous character acting, joked.

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DanSkopp 3 months ago
The movie MASH had come out just after I came out of the Army Medical Corps in 1969. Of course I fell in love with the movie with Donald Sutherland and the rest of the MASH gang. It is interesting to see that the name of my Howetown was listed on the sign the told the millage from Korea to certain cities!! My hometown? Escanaba, Michigan!! I also fell in love with the TV series and have all the MASH episodes on DVD!!
Coldnorth DanSkopp 1 month ago
Hello fellow Yooper. I know Esky well
foxonly 3 months ago
Sounds like his bicycle accident happened at a similar age and likeness to one I had which had 63 stitches in my face. When I was lying bleeding like a sieve reaching out for a woman walking her dog, she got so frightened she turned and ran the other way while holding the dog. Then somehow, someway I made it back to my house without passing out and when my wife opened the door and screamed, the first words from my mouth were don't use any good towels. The accident was so bad that the hospital emergency thought I was a motorcycle accident case and treating me as such. They even got a maxillofacial surgeon out of a midnight matinee show he was attending with his wife to put me back together. Knocked my two front teeth out, otherwise I'd have to this very day all perfect teeth sans the two front replacements. Damn life is rough at times.
frances3agape foxonly 3 months ago
WOW! Luckily you survived. Hope this did not trigger PTSD for you.

PS - DID your wife use the good towels ?!?!?!?
Sorry. "Inquiring minds want to know."
daDoctah 3 months ago
That other series, "Doc". Was that the one that starred Barnard Hughes as the title character? I remember when it somehow transitioned from a drama to a sitcom, right about the time Steve Martin did a guest appearance as Doc's estranged son.
JeffPaul76 daDoctah 3 months ago
NO, That's a different Doc Show, I remember watching a few episodes of that one.
daDoctah JeffPaul76 3 months ago
Actually, it was the same show. After I posted I looked it up on IMDb and Mr Ogden Stiers' name was listed. As I said, it went from being a relatively serious program with a little light humor scattered throughout to being a more typical zany situation comedy with a wacky patient of the week.
frances3agape daDoctah 3 months ago
Did you see my post on the article about Stiers' stuttering?
vinman63 3 months ago
Fantastic job of minimizing scars.
frances3agape vinman63 3 months ago
Yes, AMAZING outcome
rosemaria 3 months ago
Yr fans are happy you got healthy, so we can enjoy yr wonderful talent!!
David rosemaria 3 months ago
I guess you're not aware that he passed away on March 3, 2018.
Andybandit 3 months ago
Wow, that injury is scary. He was good playing Winchester. I liked him better than the Frank character. Winchester was a little nicer than Frank was.
lynngdance Andybandit 3 months ago
Yeah, Winchester is way better than ferret face Frank lol. When I first began watching M*A*S*H, I started watching the later seasons first (that’s what they were showing reruns of at the time), and I couldn’t stand Winchester, but then I went back and watched the earlier episodes and discovered how repulsive Frank is, and now I’m like “Welcome to the Charles Emerson Winchester Fan Club!” 😆
I can only tolerate both Frank and Charles in moderation, as both of them can be very unlikable characters in their own ways, but they also have their strengths as well: with Frank, he was definitely a character you loved to hate, and his weasely moments were often quite hilarious; with Charles, he could actually give Hawkeye and B.J. a run for their money, and proved to be a worthy adversary for the two of them (plus, the way David Ogden Stiers could deliver those "Boston Bull" lines with such seriousness made the things Charles say unintentionally hilarious).
DanielZabo lynngdance 3 months ago
The Frank Burns character was way more funnier than his smugness Blue Blooded Charles Winchester. Even though Burns was just as repugnant.

lynngdance DanielZabo 3 months ago
I just meant that Winchester seemed like a nicer person. You know, rude and snooty enough to be the “unlikeable character”, but not pure evil like Frank was lol.
IdaKnow56 lynngdance 3 months ago
I agree with you on Winchester being a nicer character than Frank. Remember the episode where Winchester had to kiss up to the visiting general who got him transferred to the 4077th in the first place? He tried to send the general a local business girl to entertain him at bedtime, but Margaret got there first with the reports and the general attacked her. She ran to the bar to bawl out Charles, then to Col. Potter. The general slithered into the bar and offered to take Winchester to Tokyo with him if he would testify that Major Houlihan was the one who approached him. Winchester was tempted, but when the moment of truth came he said the general was lying through his teeth. I think Frank Burns would have backed up the general and sold out his girlfriend for a chance to get out of the 4077th and get a cushy post in Tokyo General. He was weak, morally and physically, constantly complaining about the other surgeons "showing off" by saving more lives than he, as well as urging wounded soldiers to go back to the fighting to prove their patriotism while he cowered under his bed every time the camp was bombed. Yep, old Frank was a real peach--rotten to the pit. Winchester may have been an arrogant snob, but at heart he was a gentleman.
lynngdance IdaKnow56 3 months ago
Exactly! 😄
frances3agape lynngdance 3 months ago
Ditto
And after reading more about Stiers (wikipedia and imdb), it proves his acting talent because he was was NOTHING like Winchester
LoveMETV22 3 months ago
I like his character on M*A*S*H. It's unfortunate what happened to him with his bicycle. But I have to wonder if Hawkeye and B.J. where there, (from a character role) what their reaction or response would be.
I feel like they'd probably take it a little more seriously than if it was Frank. If it was Frank, they'd be cracking jokes about how he was an accident waiting to happen, and maybe even taunt him that he and Margaret would now be Beauty and the Beast. With Charles, while I'm sure they'd probably still slip in some snide remarks, they probably would be a little more empathetic towards his misfortune.
You made good points. Lol on the Beauty and the Beast.
KitKat67 LoveMETV22 3 months ago
Well, remember the episode where Frank had a strangulated hernia? Despite giving him a few zingers, they automatically went into healer mode, using their skills to make him comfortable and then to perform emergency surgery. If they could do this for a man who filed court-martial charges against them, (with Hawkeye facing a firing squad one time!), then they would have done the same if Charles, (who they respected as a surgeon and were more annoyed by than actually hated) had gotten torn up in an accident.
JHP 3 months ago
as a tv actor - he was scary good

from MASH to the MTM show
JosephScarbrough JHP 3 months ago
MTM is how he got M*A*S*H in the first place. Associate producer-turned-main producer Burt Metcalfe was home with the flu during a hiatus from filming M*A*S*H, and was trying to find somebody to replace Larry Linville after he left; Burt saw David Ogden Stiers playing the pompous station manager on MTM and felt that was exactly who they needed to replace a character like Frank Burns.
JHP JosephScarbrough 3 months ago
and the Winchester char was another perfect balance on the show - he was right wing but a caring and very likeable character - so so good
DanielZabo JHP 3 months ago
Easy with those right wing comments. Stereotypes aren’t nice.......Remember.....?
JHP DanielZabo 3 months ago
will do but I like stereo:)
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