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The fourteen-year-old son of director Robert Altman, Mike, wrote the lyrics to the theme song "Suicide is Painless". Because of its inclusion in the subsequent television series, he continued to get residuals throughout its run and syndication. His father was paid $75,000 for directing, but his son eventually made about $2 million in song royalties, with payments continuing, from first syndication through the present day, as M*A*S*H (1972) continues in syndication around the world.
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Tom Skerritt recalled that the dialogue was about 80% improvised. In order to create a different kind of atmosphere, Robert Altman cast some of the parts from improvisational clubs who had no previous movie or TV experience.
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According to Johnny Mandel and Robert Altman, the film's famous theme song was intended to be the "stupidest song ever written". After attempting to write the lyrics himself, Altman said he found it too difficult to write "dumb enough", and instead gave to the task to his fourteen-year-old son. Mike Altman allegedly wrote the lyrics in five minutes, not even expecting to be paid, since he was the director's son. He ended up making millions in royalties off the song.
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The first take of the shot where Hot Lips is revealed in the shower didn't work because Sally Kellerman anticipated the reveal, and was already lying on the floor when the tent flap went up. To distract her, Robert Altman and Gary Burghoff entered the shower tent and dropped their trousers while the shot was rolling outside. While Kellerman was staring at them, the tent flap was raised, resulting in her genuine surprise and shock when she realized what had happened. In the Special Edition double disc DVD, they say that Radar (portrayed by Gary Burghoff) had been standing naked beside the camera, and that's the reason why Sally Kellerman looks so surprised when the flap was raised.
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Robert Altman said that during filming, Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland together went to the studio and complained that Altman was filming too much of the secondary characters. They requested that he be removed from the film, but the studio refused. After the film was completed and received its accolades, only Elliott Gould confessed the matter to Altman. As a result, he received parts in other Altman pictures, whereas Robert Altman never cast Donald Sutherland again.
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The operating scenes were almost cut out due to their graphic nature. However, two women who were visiting the set told the producers that the operating scenes were what made the movie, and should be kept in.
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The story goes that when Robert Altman was editing the movie with editor Danford B. Greene, they had nude pinups on the walls of the editing room. The head of post-production came by and tried to stop Robert Altman from using the editing machine, as he wasn't a designated editor, and Altman threw him out of the editing room. The next day, a memo came down from the 20th Century Fox front office stating a new policy that there were to be no pinups on the walls of editing rooms. Altman took the memo to the sound recording studio and added it as one of the loudspeaker announcements during the film.
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Robert Altman cast so many unknowns that after the few known actors (Tom Skerritt, Elliott Gould, etc.), the opening credits are entirely "Introducing".
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During the opening titles, when the soldier carrying a wounded soldier on a stretcher trips and falls down, it had not been scripted by Ring Lardner Jr.. It was actually an accident by the actor who tripped over something. Robert Altman decided that instead of editing it out, to use it to foreshadow the dark humor theme as the movie's first small, but real, laugh.
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Speaking about the troubles he had with the studio, Robert Altman was quoted as saying, "This film wasn't released, it escaped".
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When Donald Sutherland's parents went to see the film, his father stood up and said "Hi, Donny!" after the scene where Hawkeye says "Hi, Dad" to the camerawoman in the Jeep.
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The scene where Father Mulcahy is blessing the Jeep was improvised. Rene Auberjonois found the blessing in a copy of the Army Chaplain's Handbook, and thought it would be a good addition to the story, and to his character. Robert Altman agreed, and the scene was shot in one take.
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Robert Altman felt that he was able to get away with so much during shooting because the officials at 20th Century Fox were keeping a closer watch on their two massively expensive projects, also war films, although they were both about World War II, Patton (1970) and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970). All three films turned out to be critical and box office successes.
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The opening title sequence has a text that identifies the place as South Korea. This was added at the insistence of the studio, after Robert Altman had removed every reference to South Korea, intending it to be mistaken for Vietnam, which would reinforce the anti-war theme of the film, which was in line with the national anti-war sentiment in the country at the time the film was produced and released.
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When studio executives first saw the dailies, they complained to Robert Altman that the soldiers looked dirty compared to the soldiers in Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Patton (1970). Altman, a veteran of World War II, replied that soldiers in war are dirty. The next day, the executives told the producers of those two films to make their soldiers look dirtier.
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With its initial box-office take of $41 million in 1970 dollars, this movie, up until that time, was the second highest grossing comedy film of all time, coming in just below only The Graduate (1967). On an inflation adjusted basis, MASH still (as of 2020) ranks highly on the list of highest grossing comedy films.
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Robert Altman was initially considering James Garner for the part of Hawkeye until Donald Sutherland lobbied hard for the role. Garner was a Korean War veteran who had been wounded and treated in a military hospital during the war.
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One innovation of Robert Altman was the almost constant overlaying of dialogue: as many as four conversations could be happening at once in a given shot. While this was considered unorthodox and revolutionary at the time, Altman's instinct was vindicated when audiences agreed that the technique contributed to the feeling that war was "messy and confusing". The technique has been emulated on several occasions since.
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Roger Bowen (who portrayed Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake in the movie) died on February 16, 1996. McLean Stevenson, who portrayed the role of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake on M*A*S*H (1972) for the first three seasons, died on February 15, 1996.
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According to Robert Altman, Ring Lardner Jr. was very upset with the liberties taken with his script. Lardner later won an Academy Award for his screenplay. Lardner allegedly told Elliott Gould, "There's not a word that I wrote on screen."
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When the movie was released, the military wanted not to run the movie in their theaters because of its anti-war message. The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled the military could not withdraw the film for this reason. Instead, the military chose to run Patton (1970) in the following week, feeling that film was more complimentary to the military.
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According to Elliott Gould, Sylvester Stallone revealed to him that he was an extra in this film. When Gould later told this to Robert Altman, Altman refused to accept this as fact, because he was not a fan of Stallone's work.
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According to Robert Altman, this was the first R-rated movie to use the word "fuck" in it, but he claimed that it wasn't his idea. During second unit shooting for the football game that comes near the end of the film, John Schuck was told to say something "really nasty" to his opponent. Schuck came up with "All right, bub, your fucking head is coming right off," which made it into the film's final cut. But according to Andy Sidaris, who directed the football game footage, he came up with that line.
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During filming, Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould became so frustrated with the directorial style of Robert Altman (who often had his actors talk over each other at the same time, to simulate real-life conversation) that they went to the head of production to demand he be fired. They were concerned that the movie would end up as a mess, and a movie disaster at the box office might ruin their careers. They were told by the studio head not to worry, that the movie would only be seen at a few drive-ins across the country, and that hardly anyone would ever see it. Gould later confessed the complaint to Altman, which kept them in good humor with each other, and allowed Gould to be cast in other Altman films.
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The loudspeaker shots and announcements were added after editing had begun, and the filmmakers realized that they needed more transitions. Some of the loudspeaker shots have the Moon visible and were shot while the Apollo 11 astronauts were on the Moon.
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Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland kept calling each other "Shirley" on the set. Gould did it in one shot, cracking Sutherland up, and Robert Altman decided to keep it in the film. "Shirley" was a reference to Donald Sutherland's (then) second wife, Shirley Douglas.
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Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland were famously unhappy with Robert Altman during filming, because they felt he was spending too much time working with the extras and background talent and not with them, and they tried to get the studio to fire the director. Altman later said if he had known his stars had felt that way, he would have resigned, but he didn't learn about it until later (actually confessed by Gould to Altman privately). In an interview with Mitchell Zuckoff for his 2009 oral biography of the director, Gould was quoted as saying, "I think that, in hindsight, Donald and I were two elitist, arrogant actors who really weren't getting Altman's genius."
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Screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. was the only Academy Award winner out of the movie's five nominations. Before winning the award, Lardner had practically disowned the movie when he saw that very little of his original script made it into the final cut.
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The film is radically different from the novel. Robert Altman described the novel as "pretty terrible" and somewhat "racist" (the only major black character has the nickname "Spearchucker," although this would have been quite typical and accepted during the time frame the movie was set in). He claims that the screenplay was used only as a springboard. However, the screenplay itself reveals that, while there is some improvisation in the film, and although Altman moved major sequences around, most sequences are in the screenplay. The main deletion is a subplot of Ho-Jon's (portrayed by Kim Atwood) return to the 4077th as a casualty. When Radar steals blood from Henry, it is for Ho-Jon's operation under Trapper and Hawkeye's scalpels. When the surgeons are playing poker after the football game, they are resolutely ignoring a dead body being driven away, Ho-Jon's. The main deviation from the script is the trimming of much of the dialogue. Interestingly, the Ho-Jon character made a return to the land of the living in M*A*S*H (1972), although he was portrayed by a different actor, Patrick Adiarte.
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Although this film was set on the front lines of the Korean War, the only gunshots heard during the entire run of the movie are from the referee's pistol during the inter-camp football game.
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Robert Altman was originally promised five "points" (a percentage) of the film's profits. After a disagreement between Altman and one of the 20th Century Fox executives, the offer of points was taken back before production began. When the film became a big hit, Altman's agent asked for the points back; the studio was considering it when Altman was quoted in the press saying how much he hated working for 20th Century Fox. He was never given the points back, and his compensation for directing the major hit stood at $75,000, although his son, Mike Altman did earn over $2 million in royalties, mostly during Robert Altman's lifetime alone (continuing to earn royalties through 2020, due to the use of the song as the theme for M*A*S*H (1972) during both it's original television run, and massive worldwide syndication) for writing the lyrics to the song, "Suicide is Painless," for the staged suicide scene of Captain Waldowski (portrayed by character actor John Schuck), whose character was known as the 'Painless Pole,' or simply 'Painless.' The "Suicide is Painless" song, previously unplanned, and done on a spur of the moment, supposedly taking Mike only five minutes to write the lyrics, which were set then to music by Johnny Mandel. Mandel later protested the ultimate use of the song, when he discovered that the song was to become the main theme song for the movie. Since Mandel also received royalties for years for the use of the song for M*A*S*H (1972), it was said that he recanted his complaint, and was later quite content with how the song was used.
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Robert Altman didn't want Sally Kellerman initially because he thought "she was too attractive," and he intentionally wanted unattractive actors and actresses. This is contrary to how the vast majority of movies are cast, wherein the actors are purposefully attractive, even in depictions of actual persons who were not that attractive in real life.
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G. Wood (who portrayed General Hammond) played the same character in this movie, and in the first three episodes of M*A*S*H (1972).
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This is often incorrectly cited as the first American film to use the word "fuck". It was the first to be given an MPAA R-rating. Other than its possible use in Bosko's Picture Show (1933), the word can be heard in earlier films, including I'll Never Forget What's'isname (1967), Medium Cool (1969), Ulysses (1967), David Holzman's Diary (1967), and Futz (1969), amongst others.
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Sylvester Stallone appears as an extra about 10 minutes into the film, as a soldier having lunch, Robert Altman was not aware of Stallone's use as an extra at the time, he did not find out until later.
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This was not the first Korean War-based movie to carry the title "MASH." In 1953, Humphrey Bogart starred in a film also about a MASH unit by the same title. But the studio thought the title might make audiences think it was about potatoes, so the title was changed to Battle Circus (1953).
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This and Catch-22 (1970), two films satirizing mid-twentieth century American wars (World War II, American engagement 1941-1945; and the Korean War, American engagement 1950-1953), were released in the same year. Of the two films, MASH (1970), based on a best-selling novel, and Catch-22 (1970), also based on a best-selling novel, featured a huge cast, and boasted director Mike Nichols fresh from his success with The Graduate (1967), Catch-22 was expected to be the more successful film. When the reverse proved to be true, Robert Altman hung a banner in his office reading, "Caught-22".
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In a recent article in the New Yorker: Gary Burghoff, who portrayed Radar in both television and movie iterations of MASH told the reporter he treasures both experiences. Burghoff described how Robert Altman hated the TV show; he has been very vocal about how much he detests the Alan Alda/Larry Gelbart and company CBS interpretation of MASH. "Altman despised it. In his director's commentary for the film, recorded for the 2000 DVD release, Altman calls the show "the antithesis of what we were trying to do," and claims not to know or like any of the people involved with it. ("Alan Albert, or whatever his name is.)" Burghoff told the reporter that Robert Altman's resentment of the TV show probably stems from the fact that the show's popularity came to almost entirely eclipse the influence of his film. (Altman had no fondness for Hornberger's novel, either, calling it "just terrible.")
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According to George Litto, when studio executives first saw the film, they handed Robert Altman "ten pages of notes for cuts and changes they wanted made", then producer Ingo Preminger arranged a test screening in San Francisco. By the time Hawkeye was stealing the Jeep, the audience was openly applauding the film, and executive Richard D. Zanuck allegedly said "Tell Bob to forget about my notes."
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Fourteen other film directors passed on directing this movie before it was offered to Robert Altman. Among those considered were Stanley Kubrick and Mike Nichols.
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M.A.S.H. stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. They remained as active units in U.S. Army service until 2006, when the last one was donated to Pakistan.
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During production, a caption that mentions the Korean setting was added to the beginning of the film at the request of 20th Century Fox. The Korean War is explicitly referenced in announcements on the camp public address system and during a radio announcement that plays while Hawkeye and Trapper are putting in Colonel Merrill's office, which also cites the film as taking place in 1951, this was purposefully done so the audience would not think that the war being depicted was the Vietnam War, which was ongoing at the time of this film's production and release.
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Gary Burghoff is the only actor to play the role of Radar in four out of five incarnations of the M*A*S*H franchise, in this film, M*A*S*H (1972), AfterMASH (1983), and the failed pilot W*A*L*T*E*R (1984). He did not appear in Trapper John, M.D. (1979). The next most frequently returning characters are Trapper John McIntyre (this film, M*A*S*H (1972), and Trapper John, M.D. (1979)), and Father John Francis Patrick Mulcahy (this film, M*A*S*H (1972), and AfterMASH (1983)), although they were played by three and two different actors, respectively.
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This film was the thirty-eighth movie to be released on home video, which at the time was in the form of video cassettes to be played in VCRs. In 1977, 20th Century Fox licensed fifty of its titles to a fledgling video duplication and distribution company called Magnetic Video Corporation. 20th Century Fox purchased the company in 1978, laying the groundwork for its own successful home video operation.
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Sylvester Stallone confessed to Elliott Gould that he had been an extra on this. When Gould told this to Robert Altman, Altman thought it hilarious that he had directed a Sylvester Stallone picture.
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The accounting department at 20th Century Fox claimed shooting was four days behind schedule on only the second day.
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Robert Altman originally wanted Elliott Gould to play Duke Forrest. It was only at Gould's request that he was cast in the role of Trapper John, as he was worried that he would spend more time focusing on Duke's accent than he would memorizing his lines.
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Despite the fact that this film was a huge critical and commercial success, and therefore a valuable asset, and came from a major studio/distributor (20th Century Fox) the original camera negative has been lost.
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There was a cartoon parody of MASH called M-U-S-H (1975), which aired during ABC television network's Saturday morning children's block during the 1975-1976 television season. It featured an all dog cast modeled on both the movie version and TV version characters, with names like Bullseye (Hawkeye), Cold Lips (Hot Lips) and Colonel Flake (Colonel Blake). M*U*S*H stood for Mangy Unwanted Shabby Heroes.
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The character of Major Frank Burns (portrayed by Robert Duvall) is a combination of two characters from the original novel, Captain Frank Burns and Major Jonathan Hobson.
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All of the characters, based on the characters from Richard Hooker's novel, are composites of people Hooker knew, met casually, worked with, or heard about. Richard Hooker was originally the joint pseudonym of actual combat surgeon H. Richard Hornberger, M.D. and American Korean War journalist and writer W.C. Heinz, who was later an expert commentator on numerous sports documentaries beginning in 1998. The Hooker pen name was later enhanced with a third author joining the team, WIlliam E. Butterworth, (a.k.a. W.E.B. Griffin), who was the co-author of the sequel series of books beginning with 'Mash Goes to New Orleans" in 1974.
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This was John Schuck's film debut, who was cast as "Captain Walter Kosciusko 'The Painless Pole' Waldowski," the MASH dentist, specifically because of Schuck's very pronounced under-bite.
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One of the first films to be released on VHS and Beta for home video, along with The Sound of Music (1965) and Patton (1970).
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Premiere Magazine voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006. In the years since MASH premiered, it has been selected or voted to many best and greatest movie lists.
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There were many things that made it to the MASH movie and TV show that came from the book; and were in fact based on the real life experiences of the author, Richard Hooker (a.k.a. Richard Lee Hooker, who's real name was Richard Hornberger.) There was in fact, a real life Klinger; a doctor in Korea who did dress up in drag, there was a real life Margaret; a strong willed head nurse who clashed with Hornberger, and a real life Ho-Jon; a Korean teenager who hustled and worked for the doctors so that he could move to America and get an education. The names were changed but the people were real! The other characters, Henry Blake, Duke, Trapper, were all amalgamations of the people Hornberger did in fact interact with. This article describes the veracity of M*A*S*H (1972), the TV show, and MASH (1970), the movie, to the real situations that the author experienced: "The book was adapted to a hit movie and then a major long running hit TV show that helped capture life in the unit. Like the books (Hornberger) wrote, it included a strong-willed head nurse, a Korean teenager whom the doctors sent to the United States for college on their own dime, and a doctor who dressed in drag at least once. And it helped capture the sarcasm and heart of Hornberger himself through Hawkeye Pierce, whose sarcasm and heart helped his friends and patients sustain operating conditions that were primitive and, often, nearly hopeless."
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In 1971, 20th Century Fox somewhat perversely reissued this film on a double bill with a very different kind of war film, Patton (1970).
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Gary Burghoff's feature film debut, while his overall film debut had been in 1967's NET Playhouse: An Evening Journey to Conway Massachusetts (1967), on TV. "MASH" was his third filmed role overall.
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Austin Pendleton turned down the part of Radar in order to work on Catch-22 (1970) instead. He has since admitted that this is the biggest regret of his career.
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Film debut of National Football League great Johnny Unitas, in an uncredited role as a football player from another unit.
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Several of the MASH character names appear on the large memorial plaque of Harvard alumni who had served and died in the US Civil War in the lobby of Harvard University's Memorial Hall. Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce even came from Maine.
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According to Malachy McCourt, he was the original choice for the part of Father Mulcahy, because Robert Altman wanted a "real Irish priest". Producer Ingo Preminger didn't agree, so the part ultimately went to Rene Auberjonois.
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In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked MASH (1970) as the #54 Greatest Movie of All Time.
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Robert Altman had a habit of chucking the original script and letting the actors just improvise. All of this so infuriated screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. that he ultimately told the director, "You've ruined my film," and announced at the movie's first screening that there was not one word of his that remained in it. (Lardner went on to win an Academy Award for best screenplay.) It's ironic that a movie that was mostly improvised and where you cannot hear and understand a lot of the dialogue, since it is overlapping in many scenes, would win the best screenplay award.
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When Ring Lardner Jr. visited the set, Robert Altman at first glance decided to start giving him shit: "Hey, somebody find the script! Here comes the writer!"
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MASH (1970) almost did not get released. The executives at 20th Century Fox did not like all the violence. Robert Altman said in an interview: "the Fox execs (were) panicking over the blood in the operating room. "This film wasn't released - it escaped," Altman says. "Because the general second level of bosses at Fox, they thought it was terrible."
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According to the documentary The Real M*A*S*H (2010), which was produced in 2010; the 4077th MASH unit was based on the actual 8055th Army MASH unit, which served in the Korean War. Various characters in the movie and TV show were real; including Margaret Houlihan; who was based on the Head Charge Nurse for the 8055th, Ruth Dickson. Hawkeye was based on author Richard Hornberger. Other characters were amalgamations of different people in the 8055th unit during the Korean War years.
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When Hawkeye arrives at the first camp, the audience hears the Public Address system call several men to the departure area. One of them is named "Robert A," a sly reference to Robert Altman.
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Alan Alda said the Hawkeye character he portrayed was different from the Hawkeye played by Donald Sutherland in Robert Altman's film of MASH (1970), released in 1970. (Both were based on Richard Hooker's 1968 novel, "MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors.") "Sutherland's Hawkeye seemed very depressed. (TV show creator/writer) Larry Gelbart's character was much more lively, he had a sardonic sense of humor," Alda said, adding that Sutherland's Hawkeye was married, while his was not. Alda also said the Hawkeye he depicted "seemed so far from me. I had no idea how to play a womanizer who drank too much, was a smart aleck. I had to figure out how to be that person." Another difference between the movie and television versions of M*A*S*H, Alda said, was that the latter "could go back show after show. We could explore the characters in a way no movie could. The characters could deepen, they could change in their relationships with each other."
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According to Elliott Gould, he and Robert Altman got into a heated argument on-set after Altman told him that he needed to act like Corey Fischer.
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The song being played over the loudspeakers when the MPs are taking Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) away in a straitjacket is "The Japanese Farewell Song (Sayonara)".
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Frank Burns is played by Robert Duvall in the movie; a man who at one time was famous for playing mentally handicapped or mentally suspect (some would say crazy) people. His last big role before the MASH movie, which everyone remembered him for, was playing Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Duvall is the only actor associated with MASH, either movie or TV show, to win an Oscar. Duvall's quiet, soft spoken, Boo Radleyish Frank could not be more different from the loud arrogant blowhard Larry Linville in the TV show! Incidentally, Frank was hauled off to a mental institution at the end of MASH the movie. This incident was retconned out of the script and the character's back story for the TV show. (At the end of season 5; when Margaret finally marries Donald Penobscott; Frank has an off-screen breakdown. He is sent to a mental institution like he is in the movie; and then quickly recovers, only to be sent stateside to become a Chief of Surgery at a Veteran Administration hospital in his Indiana hometown. All of this happens off screen and is explained by Potter to Hawkeye and BJ. So in a way Frank does get sent to a mental hospital, just like he does in the movie; but this incident is pushed back about five years to explain his departure). Ironically, in the TV show, Hawkeye ends up going to a mental institution, for a while anyway, in the last episode; just like Frank does.
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Director Robert Altman brought the movie in three days ahead of schedule and nearly $500,000 under the $3.5 million budget.
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When it came out, MASH (1970) was a critical darling; and it even won the Oscar for best screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr.. But the New York Times did not like the movie. Times critic Roger Greenspun said the following "Although it is impudent, bold, and often very funny, it lacks the sense of order (even in the midst of disorder) that seems the special province of successful comedy."
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Contrary to popular belief, excepting the general Korean War setting, most of the specific events of MASH (1970) do not carry over into M*A*S*H (1972), the television series. Both are entities that stand on their own, the movie only served as inspiration for the series.
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The asterisks in the title were added as a marketing ploy, but the official name of the movie has always been simply 'MASH.'
There were two shy, young, company clerk type Privates, with glasses and clipboards, running around in the movie, and getting into trouble, Private Lorenzo Boone and Private Radar O'Reilly; played by Bud Cort and Gary Burghoff, respectively. Boone was actually the bigger role of the two. His key scene is when he is helping Frank Burns, played by Robert Duvall, treat a patient during surgery. Burns makes a mistake and the patient ends up dying. Then Burns turns to the kid and yells at him "See, you killed him!" Boone starts crying; and then Trapper, played by Elliott Gould who has watched this whole thing, beats up Frank. Most people who watch this scene assume it's Radar, (because they look so similar), but it's not, it's Boone. In the movie Radar mostly interacts with Henry, using his ESP to predict what his orders will be; and then repeating them, just like he does in the show; and he also helps Trapper and Hawkeye rig a tent where Margaret and Frank are being intimate, and broadcast it all over the camp. These two characters were conflated into one on the TV show; they were both rolled up into "Radar" on the show; because Burghoff came back for the TV show; but Cort, then a rising movie star after Harold and Maude (1971) was released, did not.
Pauline Kael, who in 1970 was the world's most famous film critic and who was notoriously tough on movies, loved MASH (1970), saying it was one of the best comedies in recent times: "MASH is a marvelously unstable comedy, a tough, funny, and sophisticated burlesque of military attitudes that is at the same time a tale of chivalry. It's a sick joke, but it's also generous and romantic - an erratic episodic film, full of the pleasures of the unexpected."
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During Painless' suicide ceremony, the group at the table depict Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper", with "Painless" Waldowski in Jesus' place.
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When Hawkeye and Trapper go to Tokyo to operate on a congressman's wounded son, they identify themselves as "the pros from Dover." The book on which the film is based revealed that in civilian life Hawkeye would go to golf courses and tell management that he was the pro from Dover who was just passing through. About 80% of the time this would help him get free rounds of golf. Hawkeye's use of the term as part of a con was not explained in the film. Because of this limited use in the film, the term "Pro from Dover" was has come to mean any outside consultant who is used to troubleshoot and solve problems for an organization.
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Both the TV show and movie are based on a book, "MASH: A Story of Three Doctors," by Richard Hornberger, writing as Richard Hooker. There was actually a whole series of books by first the original author (Hornberger), and later by William E. Butterworth, III (a.k.a. W.E.B. Griffin, also writing under the pen name of Hooker) that most people have forgotten about: "MASH", "MASH Goes to Maine," "MASH Goes to New Orleans," "MASH Goes to Paris," "MASH Goes to London," "MASH Goes to Morocco," "MASH Goes to Las Vegas," "MASH Goes to Vienna," "MASH Goes to San Francisco," "MASH Goes to Miami," "MASH Goes to Hollywood," "MASH Goes to Texas," "MASH Goes to Moscow," "MASH Goes to Montreal," and "MASH Mania." The original book was written and published by Hornberger as Hooker in 1968; the last one was written and published by Butterworth/Griffin as Hooker, without Hornberger's actual writing, but with his involvement in a consultative capacity, in 1977.
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George Roy Hill, Sidney Lumet, Bud Yorkin, William Friedkin and Stanley Kubrick were among 20th Century Fox's fourteen previous choices to direct this film, and they all turned it down, before it was finally offered to Robert Altman to direct.
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In one key scene in the movie, Radar catches Margaret and Frank being intimate in the supply tent. Acting under orders from the Swamp men Hawkeye, Duke and Trapper, Radar bugs the tent and hooks the microphone up to the camp PA system, where Margaret and Frank's shenanigans are broadcast all over camp. During the incident we hear Margaret telling Frank to "kiss my hot lips!" And this becomes the basis for her nickname. Although when when we're watching the scene it's clear she's not talking about her mouth! But this more explicit connotation was lost in the more censored television version of MASH; in the show when they say "Hot Lips" they are clearly talking about her mouth! Also there were a couple real life prototypes for Margaret. One was the 8055th Charge Nurse Ruth Dixon. Another one was a camp nurse named "Hot Lips Hammerly". So Hot Lips in MASH (1970) and M*A*S*H (1972) was named after a real nurse named Hot Lips.
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In the book, Hawkeye was married to Evelyn Pierce and has several children, and is faithful to his wife. In MASH (1970), Hawkeye's still married with kids, but not faithful. In M*A*S*H (1972), Hawkeye becomes a full out swinging single, a promiscuous and confirmed bachelor; very different from the super faithful family man of the book.
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Interestingly, Richard Hornberger, the original writer of "MASH: A Story of Three Doctors'; hated both the movie and TV series based on his book; particularly the TV series which featured a very progressive, liberal, and preachy Hawkeye character; which was the complete opposite of the way Hornberger saw himself. Conversely Robert Altman; the director of MASH (1970); thought the original book was "pretty terrible"; he called it very sexist and racist. Altman also hated the TV show that was based on his movie as well. He said the following in a 2002 article about the TV show: "I didn't like the series because that series to me was the opposite of my main reason for making this film - and this was to talk about a foreign war, an Asian war, that was going on at the time (he was referring to Vietnam). And to perpetuate that every Sunday night for 12 years - and no matter what platitudes they say about their little messages and everything - the basic image and message is that the brown people with the narrow eyes are the enemy. And so I think that series was quite a racist thing. I didn't approve of it, I don't like it, and I thought it was the antithesis of what we were trying to do. But most people don't even know this movie exists. If you poll the world, they'd say, 'Oh, that was that series with Alan Albert,' or whatever his name was." TV show creators Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds has never commented on the original book or movie. The only commentary Reynolds has given on all of this is that although he is very proud of the work he has done with the TV show; it was a very unpleasant experience working with the actors and the other producers. He said the original shows are very good but in the later episodes the quality waned and the show got preachy.
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Bud Cort, who would later that year find fame starring in Harold and Maude (1971) with Ruth Gordon; debuted in this movie. (He played Private Lorenzo Boone).
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How Hawkeye changed from the book; to the movie to the TV show is very dramatic. In the book he is described as being a redneck from Maine in his twenties. The following New Yorker article talks about Hawkeye in the book and the dramatic change from book, to movie to TV show: " As depicted in the book, Captain Benjamin Franklin (Hawkeye) Pierce is a bumpkin from Bumpkintown, Maine. One of Hornberger's characters describes him as "an uncouth yokel." The character is introduced as being in his late twenties, a former college athlete, married with two young sons, and an avid reader of Maine Coast Fisherman magazine. While Donald Sutherland had not exactly hit the casting bull's-eye (Sutherland told me that he and Altman never discussed the Mainer accent called for in the screenplay-"heah" for "here," etc.), he was arguably within range of the character, having been brought up in Nova Scotia and naturally quiet, unassuming, and laconic. When the producers of the television series recruited Alan Alda to play Hawkeye, they not only intentionally missed Hornberger's target entirely but wound up in the woods somewhere. "We needed an attractive, funny guy," the show's original producer and co-creator, Gene Reynolds, told me, "a leading man, a hero, someone who could carry the show." Reynolds had seen Alda onstage in New York and was convinced that this was the guy. Alda's Hawkeye is flamboyant, intellectual, and manic-almost always the center of attention. New York-y, even. Where Sutherland's charisma is sneaky, Alda's is all out front. It stretched the limits of plausibility to imagine him back home in Maine, building lobster traps with his dad, but, as Alda told me, "We weren't doing the book, and we weren't doing the movie. I don't think that the somewhat depressed character portrayed in the film would have worked for very long in the show."'
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The on-field footage of the football game was directed by Andy Sidaris, who would later become known for directing Malibu Express (1985) and several other B-level action movies starring naked Playboy models. According to Sidaris in an interview, Robert Altman came to him in tears and begged him to direct the game footage because Altman didn't know anything about football. Sidaris, who was directing NFL football game coverage for ABC at the time, agreed. Sidaris said he not only shot the footage, he also helped cast it and even ad-libbed some of the dialogue, including John Schuck's character saying "I'm gonna take your fucking head off!" At the end of the picture, he went to a screening they had at Fox and the PR guy and the producer hugged him, saying "My God, Andy, without you we couldn't have never done this fucking picture." That screening was for 300 sportscasters and sportswriters, and they gave it a standing ovation. Then Sidaris looked at the closing credits and saw that they taken his name off. Sidaris was furious. Robert Altman took all the credit. They all thought he directed the football game along with everything else.
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Included among the American Film Institute's year 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
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Although the young Radar is approximately 18 or 19, actor Gary Burghoff was 27 years old. By the time he started the television series he was almost 30.
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In the original film, the opening theme "Suicide Is Painless" is performed by Ahmad Jamal with lyrics by director Robert Altman's 14-year-old son MIchael. On later audio releases, it was replaced by an instrumental similar to the TV theme.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Tom Skerritt and Bud Cort appeared in Harold and Maude (1971). Bud Cort played the eponymous Harold, and Tom Skerritt, credited as M. Borman, played a motorcycle officer. When considering the role of Harold, Bud Cort asked the opinion of Robert Altman, his mentor. Altman cautioned that Cort might find himself forever typecast. For this reason, Cort turned down the role of Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). Robert Altman directed them in this movie.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Features Sally Kellerman's only Oscar nominated performance.
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Screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. was the only person to win an Oscar for MASH (1970). In terms of the MASH franchise, the only actor associated with it (including the movie and the TV show) who won a competitive acting Oscar was Robert Duvall (for Tender Mercies (1983) from 1983), although Donald Sutherland was awarded an honorary Academy Award for his body of work in 2017, and at least a dozen actors associated with MASH have been nominated for Oscars; including Sally Kellerman for best supporting actress for this film and Pat Morita (who appeared on the TV show) for best supporting actor for The Karate Kid (1984). (They lost those awards to Helen Hayes for Airport (1970) and Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields (1984), respectively). Another guest actor on the series, Ron Howard, did win an Oscar as best director of A Beautiful Mind (2001) and was nominated in that category again for Frost/Nixon (2008).
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Ho-Jon was a character in the movie and TV show, although he was portrayed by different actors in each.
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Robert Altman was no stranger to directing military-themed films. He directed numerous episodes of the TV series "Combat" (1962 -1967) including 11 in the first season.
In her being nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in this film, Sally Kellerman lost to Helen Hayes for Airport (1970), and in fact was the only one of the nominees in the category that year who would never appear in one of the "Airport" movies; the other three nominees were Hayes's co-star in the original film Maureen Stapleton, Karen Black who would star in the sequel Airport 1975 (1974) (nominated for Five Easy Pieces (1970), and Lee Grant who would appear in the all-star cast in the next film in the series Airport '77 (1977) (nominated for The Landlord (1970)).
Included among the American Film Institute's 2004 list of the top 100 America's Greatest Music in the Movies for the song "Suicide Is Painless."
Father Mulcahey's nickname "Dego Red" is a term from Prohibition days referring to bootleg wine made by Italian immigrants. Being a red-headed Irish priest who kept a supply of ceremonial wine, the choice of this as his nickname is apparent.
Sally Kellerman had an uncredited part in the Twilight Zone episode The Twilight Zone: Miniature (1963), that starred future MASH (1970) costar Robert Duvall.
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The film's distributor, 20th Century Fox, and the publisher of the book on which it is based, William Morrow, became sister companies in 1999 when Fox parent News Corporation purchased the publisher from Hearst, making it an imprint of HarperCollins. The subsequent split of News Corporation in 2013 made HarperCollins part of a new company under the News Corporation name, while 20th Century Fox remained part of the old News Corporation, now known as 21st Century Fox. Most of the latter company, including 20th Century Fox, was subsequently purchased by Disney in 2019, with TCF later becoming 20th Century Studios.
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According to Sally Kellerman, Robert Altman gave her the famous line "Oh my God, they've shot him!" as they were preparing to shoot the football game scene, by lowering his crane to her level and saying, "When the gun goes off to end the quarter, you say ...". Presumably he then gave Roger Bowen his line in response ("Hot Lips, you incredible nincompoop ...), so Kellerman on the first take would have been as surprised as later audience members.
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In the movie, Hot Lips has no sexual contact with Hawkeye or Trapper, but she does hook up with the third Swamp man Duke Forrest. When the other boys catch the two together, they tease him like schoolchildren for showing favor to the camp nerd. This is different from M*A*S*H (1972), where Margaret is not intimate with Duke, who is only in a couple of early episodes, but she does have romantic flings with both Hawkeye and Trapper.
In the movie, Frank Burns (Robert Duvall ) is taken away in a straitjacket, never to be seen again. However, in the television series, he stayed on for five seasons, and in the beginning of the sixth, the character is said to have had a breakdown, but eventually gets treatment, and is promoted and sent to a VA Hospital in his home state of Indiana.
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MASH the Movie .vs. TV Show: "Henry Blake" stays on in the movie, but Hawkeye leaves. In the series, Henry Blake gets his orders to go home, but dies in The Sea of Japan. Hawkeye stays until the Korean War ends.
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