This overlooked M*A*S*H nurse was a pop singer and part of a Disney favorite
You might know Marcia Strassman from 'Welcome Back, Kotter' and 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kid'.
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"Requiem for a Lightweight" may be the third episode of M*A*S*H but it contains a few firsts. It was the first episode to feature William Christopher as Father Mulcahy. If you recall, a different actor, George Morgan, played the character in the pilot episode. This story also features the first-ever Hawkeye salute. We learn Frank Burns' middle initial, Frank W. Burns, when it appears printed on the side of a punching bag. And that's interesting, because later in the series, of course, we learn that Frank's middle name is actually Marion. Just a little continuity error.
But we are here to discuss another first. "Requiem for a Lightweight" debuted a new character, Nurse Margie Cutler. Marcia Strassman played the short-haired brunette. Hawkeye and Trapper are smitten with Cutler — which compels Hot Lips to send her away. Not permanently. Cutler pops up in six episodes throughout the first season. In "Yankee Doodle Doctor," she has fun with Hawkeye and Trapper in a phony Marx Brothers film the 4077th pranksters make. She warms to Hawkeye in "Bananas, Crackers and Nuts" and becomes a ringleader of the other nurses in "Edwina." And then she was gone, making her final appearance in "Ceasefire."
So what happened to Strassman? Well, she landed a much bigger role in Seventies sitcoms.
"A very close friend of mine Peter Meyerson wrote [a] pilot," Strassman explained in an interview with Pop Goes the Culture TV. "And he called me one day and he said, 'I just wrote this pilot and this part is perfect for you.' And there were very few parts then that were perfect for me because I was a little odd — I didn't look like your normal TV wife."
The role was Julie Kotter, wife of schoolteacher Gabe Kotter on Welcome Back, Kotter. Her character eventually goes on to work at Buchanan High School with her husband. You may also recall her "world-famous tuna casserole."
But that was not the only prominent role for Strassman post-M*A*S*H. The actress went blonde for her key part in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids film series from Disney. It is almost certain that more people have seen her in this role than any other, considering the franchise includes Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!, an attraction at Epcot, Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris that operated for more than a decade.
Strassman and Rick Moranis reprised their roles as Diane and Wayne Szalinski for that pseudo-sequel. The official sequel, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992), earned her a Saturn Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
The franchise is slated to make a return with the forthcoming Shrunk. Unfortunately, Strassman passed away in 2014 following a long battle with cancer.
You might not realize that Strassman made a name for herself in another realm of showbiz before M*A*S*H. A native of the New York / New Jersey area, Strassman recorded a psychedelic pop song called "The Flower Children," which became a hit on the West Coast, especially in San Francisco, the epicenter of the hippie movement, where it climbed to No. 2. She cut a couple more singles that are deliciously steeped in Sixties culture, like "The Groovy World of Jack and Jill" and "Star Gazer."
Her part on M*A*S*H may have been small, but she brought a vibrancy to the tents of the 4077th. She easily could have been a bigger part of the Korean War comedy. But she deserved the bigger spotlight.