Larry Linville loved speaking with college students about acting, M*A*S*H and Maj. Frank Burns

Linville told students his dream was to rise through the sky. Instead, he rose through the ratings with M*A*S*H's success.

The Everett Collection

Though he'll likely always be associated with his "bad guy" persona, M*A*S*H star Larry Linville was never afraid to open up about his time on the hit series, especially with the youth of the acting world at the time. 

Linville's character of Maj. Frank Burns became a standout in the series' first five seasons. His constant feuds with Hawkeye, his romance with Maj. Houlihan and his undeniable patriotic stance are all reasons Burns, and Linville, stood out. 

"I pulled out every box in my head marked nerd, moron and slime," Linville said in a 1986 newspaper article from The Philadelphia Inquirer. He said it to a crowd of students on the campus of Glassboro State College in New Jersey, now named Rowan University. 

In his post-M*A*S*H life, Linville made appearances on campuses nationwide. 

Though he became one of the many stars on M*A*S*H, Linville initially thought the show wasn't going to get off the ground. In 1987, he told students at Murray State University in Kentucky, "trying to make a TV show out of a popular movie is the kiss of death," per a Paducah Sun article. 

The California native was proved wrong instantly. 

"The first time we read the script together... we had magic... personal, human chemistry. Everyone was wildly excited," he said, mainly because "we weren't making television, we were making litty bitty, short movies."

It was an unusual path to stardom for Linville, who aspired to rise through the sky, not through the ratings on a hit dramedy series. 

"I was going to fly faster, farther and higher than anybody had before. I was going to fly for NASA. NASA didn't exist, but that was okay." 

Linville earned a glider pilot's license at just 12 years old, leading to his aspirations for space travel. Though when he got to high school, things changed. He told students he went out for the football team to get girls, but found theater was the way to go. His stage debut was a Christmas pageant, and he played the innkeeper that turned away Mary and Joseph.

"Typecast from the beginning," he told the students, who erupted in laughter, per the article. 

Linville felt interacting with the drama department, acting and performing student body was important, as "a lot of the decisions that shaped my life took place in college," he said in The Philadelphia Inquirer article.

Linville's presence was well-received, as his speeches and interactions often lasted multiple hours. "[The M*A*S*H characters] became part of your life," one student said. Part of the reason the characters were so memorable was the background of the actors. 

"We weren't Hollywood types. We had all worked in theater," said Linville, who graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. 

Linville is proof that the "moment" we so often hear about in the entertainment industry can come at any time. He echoed that message to theater programs across the nation.

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31 Comments

Chrissypoo 12 months ago
Ironically Larry Linville was one of the most liked cast member.

And Gary Burghoff was the least liked - so much so they had to suspend him from the set for a month.
Adamtwelvia Chrissypoo 1 month ago
I heared when Larry announced his plans to leave the cast begged him to stay. That was how much he was loved. They even wanted to do a big send-off ep for him, but he declined saying it was time to move on.
That's why his name is still in the opening credits for the first few eps of season 6
sagafrat69 12 months ago
Apparently in those last few seasons Hot Lips had a hair/makeup stylist in camp at 4077th. She's a Army nurse in war torn Korea. Kind of a head scratcher. Loretta Swit had an opportunity to be part of Cagney series but MASH producers wouldn't let her out of contract. A shame considering after L.L. left writers didn't give her character much to work with other than the marriage and divorce. She deserved better.
Adamtwelvia sagafrat69 1 month ago
I dunno. She got good character develpment after Frank left and she wad no longer his mouthpiece.
AgingDisgracefully 12 months ago
I repeat. But thanks to Frank/Larry for teaching me that your change purse "will say 'No!' to pickpockets with a capital N."
sagafrat69 12 months ago
When the series lost writers like Gelbart/Reynolds and actors like Linville the show went downhill from a comedy standpoint and never really recovered. From what I've read L.L. was nothing like Burns which makes him a truly brilliant actor. The first 5 seasons were classic t.v. and the last 4 seasons +finale are disasters. Should've been a 7 season show. And why did Ferrell have to grow that stupid mustache? You have the hilarious episodes before the lip hair and the not so funny episodes after.
JHP sagafrat69 12 months ago
well...the 'stache - it did look like a caterpillar (or was it termed a dead mouse by Hawkeye?)
considering no one else on the show ever had facial hair...maybe?
trainer1158 sagafrat69 12 months ago
I didn't like to see the characters adopt '70s hair and makeup styles rather than remain true to styles in the early '50s. Farrell's mustache and hair are perfect examples, as well as Margaret's shag haircut, which I, too, had in the early '70s.
Adamtwelvia sagafrat69 1 month ago
Thanks for saying the first 5 seasons and the show should have been a 7 season show. Shows ya don't hate Potter.
But for me the show ended at season 8.
KawiVulc 12 months ago
For my money the best actor in the series.
Adamtwelvia KawiVulc 1 month ago
Him and Harry Morgan
JHP 12 months ago
Larry needs more credit for what he did on the show - the show lost something when the character was gone - but then as all other replacements in that show it kept chugging along with no decline in quality,

He had to take a lot of guff playing the character on the set but leave it behind after the taping/production was through. The one Ep that makes me tear up due to laughter is when he has that grenade in the swamp and the pin falls out - and then later he comes back with that Korean family

"if they don't understand - the Ox can translate" - from Hawkeye

but there are other lines in other Eps like

"air RAID air RAID!!" (so many other ones)
Adamtwelvia JHP 1 month ago
It helps that the cast and crew loved him.
JHP Adamtwelvia 1 month ago
it was a perfect casting and even more perfect acting
harlow1313 12 months ago
The Burns character was written with few dimensions, but as her helicopter flies away, cryptically he says, "Goodbye, Margaret."

Perhaps it is the second most powerful series moment, a little below Radar's announcement of Henry's fate.
JHP harlow1313 12 months ago
AAAAAgreed for sure:)
Sway 12 months ago
Larry did a great job portraying Frank Burns, however the character was written as pretty much one dimensional which didn’t give him leeway to practice his craft.
Pacificsun Sway 12 months ago
Very true. In fact another MeTV article explained that LL felt he took the character as far as he could. I thought that was a very diplomatic and gracious explanation that the writers locked him in to a certain expectation. And unless the writers can weave in a story transition (meaning justification) it's difficult to take a character where viewers either might not understand, or accept.
LalaLucy Pacificsun 12 months ago
Good insights. Would that we could have had Frank stick around and experience character growth. L.L. would have knocked it out of the park.
cperrynaples 12 months ago
Would you believe he did Howard Stern? Howard did a parody of MASH in the '90's and he was the only star to do it!
LoveMETV22 12 months ago

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Interesting story, nice to see Larry Linville portrayed positively in an article.
The seasons with LL were funny. They found a good replacement in David Ogden Stiers.
An enjoyable series on the whole.

JHP LoveMETV22 12 months ago
Just remember

"Frank Burns eats worms:)"
nd1irish JHP 12 months ago
Frank Burns: “It’s nice to be nice to the nice” 😂 Oh Ferret Face.
JHP nd1irish 12 months ago
my most fav moment in that Ep was when she got out of the jeep

MAN-o-MAN
Pacificsun 12 months ago
This is such an appreciated story, I can't believe there aren't a ton of comments. What happened to all the rabid MASH fans. But what LL reveals explains so much about the success of MASH. I think it was how he phrased it, theater background, not Hollywood types. The difference is, that one is often too self-aware (Hollywood Style Success). And other more performance oriented (Theater Training),
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 12 months ago
" I can't believe there aren't a ton of comments. What happened to all the rabid MASH fans."
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Well the comments will probably trickle in slowly. At least storage shouldn't be a problem for the moment.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 12 months ago
Too Funny. Am aware of the movie, but never watched!
JHP LoveMETV22 12 months ago
I think we are too busy watching M*A*S*H :)
LoveMETV22 JHP 12 months ago
I don't watch it faithfully, however glad it's a mainstay on MeTV.
JHP LoveMETV22 12 months ago
me-too:) I know most of the lines on the early Ep's:)
Cougar90 12 months ago
I didn't know that about him.
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