Humphrey Bogart made a MASH movie during the actual Korean War

It was originally titled 'MASH 66' and even has a connection to 'M*A*S*H'.

The Everett Collection

There was a time when Hollywood feared no American audience would understand what "MASH" meant. Oddly, this was during a time that real MASH units were deployed in the Korean War. 

In March 1953, some four months before the armistice would end the conflict, MGM released a Korean War picture called Battle Circus. The film originally carried a different name. It was titled MASH 66. The studio suits decided Battle Circus would somehow be more clear to theatergoers, as the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital constantly pulls up stakes and moves its tents like a traveling circus. 

The name hardly mattered. The star put butts in seats. Humphrey Bogart headlined the movie, his only work for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Bogie had recently added another Oscar his mantle thanks to his performance in 1951's The African Queen. Few idols in Hollywood — on the planet — were bigger. 

MGMThe 8666 preceded the 4077 in Hollywood.

As Major Jed Webbe, Bogart was the "Hawkeye Pierce" of the story, if you will, in that he was the main character, an Army surgeon and a drinker. That being said, his no-nonsense temperament was more Potter than Pierce. Hawkeye was a big fan of nonsense. Hawkeye served in the 4077th. Jed Webbe served in MASH 8666th, shortened to "the 66."

This being a big-screen attraction, romance was involved, much as in the M*A*S*H television series. The "Hot Lips" of the plot, June Allyson played Lieutenant Ruth McCara, a raw but cool-headed nurse. 

MGMJune Allyson in the lead nurse role

At the end of the picture, as Bogart and McCara reunite to end the grim tale on a positive note, her character runs up a hill near a Bell helicopter. It's a shot that foreshadows the opening credits of M*A*S*H. You can practically hear "Suicide is Painless" playing in the background. Some of the production shot at Camp Pickett, Virginia, where real MASH units trained. Col. K. E. Van Buskirk, a veteran who commanded one of the first MASH units in Korean, worked as the film's technical advisor.

MGMDoes this bring the M*A*S*H opening credits to mind?

Like the television series (and Robert Altman film), the production aimed for a semblance of realism, which is why the two projects look uncannily similar. The tent interiors bring to mind "The Swamp." The surgeries are shot in a similar framing, as you can see in the top image.

MGMA ''Swamp''-like tent interior

And, indeed, Battle Circus and M*A*S*H shared some casting. Philip Ahn, a Los Angeles born actor of Korean descent, landed the most significant Korean role in Battle Circus, as a prisoner who gets his hands on a grenade. McCara defuses the tense situation.

MGMAhn in 'Battle Circus' and ''Hawkeye''

Ahn later appeared in three episodes of M*A*S*H. He was the family father in "Hawkeye," the unforgettable fourth-season spotlight on Alan Alda. You might also recognize him as the grandfather in "Exorcism" or Mr. Kim in "Change Day."

The movie barely turned a profit, which explains why its goes rather overlooked in the chronicles of MASH units onscreen. But it's worth putting on your radar if you're a fan of Radar.

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Cougar90 14 months ago
It was better than a lot of stuff they have now. Trivia--when Bogart is burning the documents he really burned his hand in that scene.
bnichols23 45 months ago
I knew the instant I saw the ref to Bogie that it was Battle Circus. Underrated & not the best flick Bogart was ever involved in, but not bad, actually. A gotta-see for any fan of Rick Blaine's.
Wiseguy 45 months ago
Leonard Maltin gave the movie two stars and commented "Bogie saddled with bad script and syrupy June."
pat 45 months ago
Would like to see MASH 66 , u should run it sometime. Make a big deal out of it PR wise. U should do that with a lot of old movies, a once a week thing , try it , see how it goes, ya never know
madmark1 pat 45 months ago
I bet if you typed it in on Amazon prime you could probably rent or maybe even buy that movie I watched today No Time For sergeants it had Andy Griffith and Don Knotts in it that’s a classic but it was funny some say that was kind of the inspiration for Gomer Pyle.
bnichols23 madmark1 45 months ago
Don's scenes with the locking rings & fast instructor patter were classic. MSgt King's dialogue was perfect in the scene too. -laugh- "He got 'em togetrher, didn't he?"
madmark1 bnichols23 45 months ago
Yes I liked that seen with the rings also.I liked the saluting toilets also😆
pat 36 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Brian 45 months ago
This is a good war movie; I've seen it at least once all the way through. It's on TCM every so often. I was never a big fan of June Allyson, but she's not too bad in this. I would've preferred a sexy actress in her role because I find June to be more of a "Mom actress." Plus, June Allyson seemed to be in too many movies back then.
Cougar90 Brian 14 months ago
June Allyson was big box office at MGM in the late 40s and 50s.
augustavo 45 months ago
I'm a Bogie fan but have never seen this movie. I would like to see it though.
bnichols23 augustavo 45 months ago
Worth at least one viewing. Keenan Wynn has a fairly good part in it too.
srrainwater augustavo 45 months ago
If you have TCM you might get lucky. That is where I first saw it.
AgingDisgracefully 45 months ago
If only Bogart could have met Frank Burns...
srrainwater 45 months ago
'Battle Circus" is one of my favorite war movie about the Korean War. Because it dealt with the Medical and Nurses Corps
cperrynaples 45 months ago
Yes, this was Bogart's first movie after Warner Brothers cut him! He spent his last decade as a free agent! In fact, his last movie The Harder They Fall is highly underated! Fun Fact: Jethro's real father is in THAT movie!
texasluva cperrynaples 45 months ago
Yes Max Baer was his father. He was the heavy-weight champ for 364 days back in the 1930's. He had over 50 knockouts in his career. Also fighting Max Schmeling (Germany) and defeating him. Schmeling was a buddy of Hilter and instructed to lie to the American Press about Jewish Persecution in Germany. Fight was in Madison Square Garden where Baer won by knockout.

The Harder They Fall (1956) was Bogart's last film and a awesome movie. Rod Steiger playing the heavy (shady fight promoter). For those who would like a thread direct to the movie I have it here.
cperrynaples texasluva 45 months ago
Max Sr. played a punch-drunk fighter that horrified Bogart's character! He saves a young fighter from the same fate at the risk of his own career! Steiger's performance here is even better than On The Waterfront ["You were supposed to protect me! I coulda been a contender instead of a bum!"]!
texasluva cperrynaples 45 months ago
The fight game has always been kind of shady. The 2nd (Cassius Clay) Ali vs former convict Sonny Liston fight (may be a phantom punch) in the 1st round. Dives were probably common. In the movie the fighter Toro was supposed to get thousands and they charged him for training and everything else and came out to less then 50 bucks. Bogart's character was so upset and he gave Toro much of his money to go back home. What ya going to do. Either get the living tar beat out of you to wearing cement galoshes. It was some kind of movie.............
Wiseguy cperrynaples 45 months ago
Fun Fact: Jethro is the character's name not the actor's.
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