Larry Gelbart never wrote stage direction for Alan Alda

"He seemed to understand the part almost intuitively."

There’s a nature to the relationship between the cast and crew of M*A*S*H that almost feels symbiotic. The actors on set had such firm trust in the writers that they could genuinely believe in their plotlines and scenes as actors. The writers kept their faith that the actors understood their characters, and allowed for open communication between cast and crew. Because of this, M*A*S*H goes from a good show to a great one.

A notable example of this trust comes from the creator and producer of M*A*S*H, Larry Gelbart, who shared a show factoid about one Alan Alda. In an article in St. Joseph News-Press, Gelbart revealed, “In all the scripts I wrote for M*A*S*H, I never once wrote a stage direction for Alan Alda.” Gelbart explained his reasoning, and continued, “He seemed to understand the part almost intuitively, to expand it, to make it more meaningful, to infuse it with his own wit and tenderness and integrity.”

Gelbart also confessed, “I suspect that this is his last year of the show. From here on, he’ll probably concentrate on theatrical films. He’s never been hotter.” The article was published in 1979, but Alda, ever the dutiful soldier, marched on with M*A*S*H until its conclusion in 1983.

Of the show, Alda said to The Jackson Sun, “We were all dared on by the potential of it. That people can be at once nurturing, as these doctors and nurses are, and bestial, as the war is, represents such an unfathomable part of the human experience. To find people caught in that complex contradiction of actions - you never get to the bottom of that!” Still, Alda conceded, “There isn’t an unlimited number of stories, and copying ourselves would not be satisfying for us, or for the people watching. It’s time to move on.”

Alda also added that although he had faith in the material, he didn’t understand the complete impact that the series would have. He said, “I never thought we’d change the world. That’s asking too much. I thought we’d make people feel, make them rub up against their neighbors.”

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5 Comments

Suzies1952 4 months ago
I agree about the bathrobe I liked both Stevenson and Morgan maybe Morgan more only because Linville was gone only because I didn’t like the way him and Margaret acted, like they were above everyone else when they were having the affair while he was married I didn’t like that, i don’t think adultery is funny in anything
John 4 months ago
Nope, never cared for ALDA. Apparently I'm in the minority of humanity.
Anyway, I just think the show could have been managed much better by the producers

When Farrell showed up it turned into the Hekyl and Jekyll show with the magpies Pierce and BJ.
A little overwhelming and not terribly funny
John 4 months ago
MASH which turned into the Alan Alda show when Stevenson and Rogers left started to gag me.

I liked it much better with Stevenson and Rogers.

In one episode ALDA is changing a tire on a Jeep!

Chief surgeon changing a Jeep tire? I don't think so.

And that crappy red bath robe for 11 years, Give me a break!
LoveMETV22 John 4 months ago
Sounds like your not an Alan Alda fan, which everyone has the right to their opinion. However there were/are other series where one actor has a leading role. M*A*S*H is just one of them. Liked Stevenson as well, but Morgan did a good job in the commanding officer role,(jmo).
LoveMETV22 4 months ago
He said, “I never thought we’d change the world. That’s asking too much. I thought we’d make people feel, "𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝗿𝘂𝗯 𝘂𝗽 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗻𝗲𝗶𝗴𝗵𝗯𝗼𝗿𝘀.”
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