M*A*S*H was one of the most popular sitcoms in the history of television. It ran from 1972 to 1983. Putting it in the rare group of series that last for more than a decade. The final episode was a record-setting event, with more than 105 million people tuning in. With it being nearly 40 years since the finale aired, there aren’t many MASH actors who are still alive. Many members of the main cast have passed away over the years. Including William Christopher (Father Mulcahy), Wayne Rogers (Trapper John), Larry Linville (Major Frank Burns), Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter), and McLean Stevenson (Lt. Colonel Blake).
In this video, we’re going to look at the few remaining actors from the show and what they’ve been up to in the years since. Be sure to watch to the end to learn how they’ve kept in touch through modern technology.
Odessa Cleveland played Ginger Bayliss from 1972 through 1975. She’s one of the MASH nurses most frequently featured in the first few seasons. She also guest-starred on an episode of Trapper John, M.D., one of the spin-off series that followed MASH, in 1986. Nurse Bayliss was one of the few black actors that had a recurring part on the show. Her character focal point in the the second season episode “Dear Dad…Three” when she was forced to treat an angry, racist patient.
Jeff Maxwell played Igor Straminsky throughout the series’ run. He never became a series regular, but his character appeared here and there for ten years. Many of his appearances in the early seasons went uncredited but as time went by, his part became more important to the episodes. These days, he hosts a podcast called MASH Matters. On that show, he discusses MASH and the film and TV industry in general with his co-host Ryan Patrick.
George Morgan isn’t very recognizable from his time on MASH. He played the role of Father Mulcahy in the pilot episode but a new actor — William Christopher — took over the role from that point on. Unfortunately, Morgan’s acting career didn’t go very far after he was replaced on the show. He’s only had three professional acting roles since then, according to IMDB.
Morgan is hardly the only sitcom actor that lost a role after the pilot episode. In fact, his MASH co-star Loretta Swit originally cast as Cagney in the CBS series Cagney and Lacey. Her contractual obligations for the final season of MASH forced her to give up the role. Other prominent examples are Lee Garlington, who was originally cast as Elaine Benis on Seinfeld, and Amanda Walsh. Who preceded Kaley Cuoco as the female lead on The Big Bang Theory.
Mike Farrell played Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on MASH. He joined the show in season four as a replacement for Wayne Rogers’ character “Trapper” John. Farrell’s wife at the time, Judy Farrell, also appeared on MASH in the cast role of Nurse Able. More recently Mike Farrell has appeared on popular drama series like NCIS and American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
Gary Burghoff played the fan-favorite character Walter “Radar” O’Reilly for the first eight seasons of MASH. He was the youngest of the show’s main characters and is only 78 years old today. Burghoff is notable for being the only actor from the 1970 movie MASH to reprise his role on the TV series two years later. He left the cast in 1979 but returned later the same year for a two-part special episode called Goodbye Radar.
Jamie Farr played Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger for all eleven seasons of MASH being a cast but it was only a recurring role for the first three seasons and promoted to a series regular in the fourth season. At 87 years old, Farr is the oldest remaining main cast member from the show. Before landing his role on MASH, Farr actually served in Korea with the United States Army. According to an article he wrote for the U.S. Naval Institute, Farr wore his real dog tags on the show.
Loretta Swit played Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, the only female in the main cast of MASH. She guest-starred on several popular series in the early 1970s including Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke, and Mission: Impossible. But it was her role on MASH that made her a household name. Her performance on the show was critically acclaimed and she was nominated for ten Emmy Awards over the show’s run, winning two of them. Swit has mostly retired from acting, having only one acting role since the 1990s, according to IMDB.
Alan Alda played Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce for the full eleven-season run of MASH as a cast. He was the only actor that appeared in all 256 episodes of the show. Over the show’s run, he won five Emmy Awards and remains a well-known, successful actor today. His most recent work was a recurring role on the TV series Ray Donovan and a supporting role in the Oscar-nominated film A Marriage Story.
In the years since the show went off the air, the surviving cast members have reunited on a few occasions. In 2018, more than 35 years after the award-winning final episode of MASH, Jamie Farr and Loretta Swit came together as presenters at the Daytime Emmy Awards in Pasadena California.
A more complete reunion happened the following year, in 2019, when Swit, Burghoff, Farrell, and Farr all appeared on Alan Alda’s podcast Clear+Vivid.
Fans of the show have been rewatching, reading about, and dissecting MASH for decades so you would think that everything that could be said has been, but it seemed that’s not the case. When the cast got together for Alda’s podcast, the stories started to spill. The podcast conversation is a must-listen for anyone who’s a fan of the show.
You can immediately hear the chemistry between the old friends and colleagues. Alda says in the introduction, the kidding and laughing began as soon as they heard one another’s voices. The surviving cast treats listeners to some favorite behind-the-scenes stories as well as some fascinating never-before-shared details.
They recalled the stark filming conditions on the Fox lot and at the mountain filming location. For instance, the ventilation was poor in Colonel Potter’s office set, to the point that Gary Burghoff started to suffer from a lack of oxygen. And there was no telephone access in the field, which resulted in Alda reading a strange line from the script with a typo.
It was a full six years before there was even a bathroom available on the stage. And Swit recalled that McLean Stevenson had so many ants in his dressing room, one his boots was moving.
They also talked about how they had to pay for their own coffee and peanut butter early in the series’ run. Farr tells a story of the cast going to the then-president of 20th Century Fox Television, Sy Salkowitz, and each slapping a $100 bill on his desk to demand more peanut butter. They had so much that it reached from the floor to the ceiling.
Farr also talks about the origin of several of the memorable dresses he wore on the show. One was a gold lame outfit once worn by none other than Ginger Rogers. According to Farr, Rogers caught him in the commissary one day saying, “That dress looked a hell of a lot better on you than it did on me.”
They also reminisced about pranks they played on one another, including one from David Ogden Stiers involving frozen yogurt and Sir Richard Attenborough.
Burghoff shared the history of Radar’s first name, Walter. It was in tribute to one of his childhood friends. The real Walter has since passed away but Burghoff remains in touch with his brother to this day.
Whether you’re a casual fan of the cast of MASH or you know everything there is to know about the show, you’ll likely hear a few new stories in the podcast. They also talk about some of the things that have changed with working on modern TV shows compared to the methods used in the days of MASH. And hearing those familiar voices after all these years is pretty heart-warming.