Alan Alda

Actor


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

Alan Alda describes his M*A*S*H character "Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce," as "… a sharp wit, a little bit of a smart aleck, competitive about his surgery, liked to laugh, could make a little fun of himself, probably liked making fun of other people more, really liked women a lot and had an old fashioned idea about women, hated war and hated people dying if he could do something about it." Alda was the recipient of multiple Emmys during the long run of M*A*S*H , as its star, as well a writer and director. In his nearly three-hour Archive interview, Alda speaks about his early years that included a serious bout with polio as a child. He acknowledges his improvisational performance background with Second City and Compass in Hyannis Port. He describes his early appearances on television, as a regular on the satirical That Was the Week That Was and the syndicated version of the erudite guess-the-occupation quiz show What's My Line? For M*A*S*H, Alda comments on the series' production, including the creative contributions of writer/creator Larry Gelbart and producer Gene Reynolds, gives his impressions of the ensemble, and discusses memorable episodes. He reveals his feelings about filming the show's last scene, which was both emotional and chaotic due to the extensive media presence. Finally, he talks about hosting the series Scientific American Frontiers, as well as guest-starring on ER, for which he received his 29th Emmy nomination. Michael Rosen conducted the interview on November 17, 2000 in New York, NY.

"Wherever I could get work, I worked…I thought I would be a stage actor. It never occurred to me that I'd have some big success on television."

Highlights
Alan Alda on his M*A*S*H character, "Hawkeye" Pierce
02:59
Alan Alda on winning an Emmy, and how some of your best writing work can come as a surprise
01:30
Alan Alda on the M*A*S*H episode "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet"-- its dramatic significance and Alda's critique of a scene in which he cries on camera
01:23
Alan Alda on the last episode and the shooting of the last scene shot of M*A*S*H
02:07
Alan Alda on his career: "Wherever I could get work, I worked... I thought I would be a stage actor. It never occurred to me that I'd have some big success on television."
00:18
Alan Alda on his fidelity to Larry Gelbart's scripts to the extent that he spoke a typo on M*A*S*H
01:27
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his name change, childhood, parents; seeing vaudeville and burlesque acts
05:09
On the influence of Vaudeville and burlesque on later television comedy
02:25
On his father (actor Robert Alda) and other early influences; performing with his father
01:45
On wanting to be a writer and writing his first sketch
03:55
On his mother
01:05
On early hobbies, wanting to be a writer, first job
01:13
On his early interest in making movies and performing and directing
02:45
On having polio as a child, developing an interest in reading
03:52
On listening to early radio shows with Arthur Godfrey, Jack Benny and their influence on him
05:43

Chapter 2

On Phil Silvers, Red Buttons bringing him onstage as a baby
02:25
On performing in Summer Stock as a teenager; wanting to be a writer
02:15
On enjoying early television; on his interest in magic
04:30
On his father performing on experimental television in the 1930s; appearing on television  on the program "Secret File, USA" in Europe with his father in the 1950s; on other early television roles
06:16
On being a stage actor v. a television actor; his approach to memorizing lines; on his methodology of working with other actors
01:49
On appearing on the Phil Silvers show and having trouble memorizing his lines
05:50
On being shy, getting to know his fellow actors
02:16
On the relationship between the writers and the actors on M*A*S*H, as facilitated by director Gene Reynolds
03:46

Chapter 3

On his fidelity to the written word to the extent that he spoke a typo on M*A*S*H.
02:18
On the M*A*S*H episode "The Interview"
01:30
On his improvisational training
02:42
On Phil Silvers
01:14
On working as a stage actor and learning from theater actors, honing his acting skills, and reflects on his work on the theatrical production of "Pearly Victorious" with Ossie Davis.
On working at Naked City, learning from other actors; tricks of the trade in filming with shorter actors
On the challenges of acting on camera; and how this sometimes sacrifices the ability of an actor to be spontaneous.
On appearing briefly on various television episodes in the 50s and 60s

Chapter 4

On appearing on That Was the Week That Was
01:47
On TVQ ratings, game shows, how it may have helped him get cast on M*A*S*H
02:46
On his knowledge about the Vietnam War, reading the script for M*A*S*H
07:35
On M*A*S*H going on the air in 1972, social climate, censorship
02:56
On Network censorship at the beginning of M*A*S*H's run; on the "virgin" Islands episode
11:18

Chapter 5

On his character, "Hawkeye" Pierce, on M*A*S*H
02:59
On Gene Reynolds; on becoming interested in directing
08:32
On Larry Gelbart, Burt Metcalfe; on members of the cast of M*A*S*H
07:40
On working with Harry Morgan and his sense of humor
02:30
On specific episodes of M*A*S*H
03:50
On the M*A*S*H episode "Inga" and doing a handspring on his way down the aisle to accept the Emmy award for that episode
01:07

Chapter 6

On the last episode and the shooting of the last scene shot of M*A*S*H
06:48
On Scientific American Frontiers
04:24
On E.R. and being his own critic
01:34
On how fame to him had more negatives than positive
03:51
On his proudest achievement, his family
01:23
Shows

Dragnet

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Alan Alda on a story Harry Morgan told him about how serious Jack Webb was on the set of Dragnet
01:01

M*A*S*H

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Alan Alda on the process of learning lines with the ensemble cast of M*A*S*H and the importance of laughter with fellow actors
05:08
Alan Alda on the relationship between the writers and the actors on M*A*S*H, as facilitated by director Gene Reynolds
03:46
Alan Alda on his fidelity to Larry Gelbart's script to the extent that he spoke a typo on M*A*S*H: "Larry wrote it, so I said it"
02:18
Alan Alda on the way improvisation was incorporated into the classic M*A*S*H episode "The Interview"
01:46
Alan Alda on the approach of making a comedy show about war in developing M*A*S*H
04:36
Alan Alda on the way Larry Gelbart got around the censors to use the word "virgin" in an episode of M*A*S*H
01:14
Alan Alda on the research done on M*A*S*H
00:32
Alan Alda on the network's objection to the sight of a jock strap on an episode of M*A*S*H
01:48
Alan Alda on his M*A*S*H character, "Hawkeye" Pierce
02:59
Alan Alda on getting shots just as the sun set while directing M*A*S*H
01:51
Alan Alda on his impressions of M*A*S*H producer Gene Reynolds
02:29
Alan Alda on M*A*S*H show creator/writer Larry Gelbart
01:39
Alan Alda on the philosophy behind adding new characters to M*A*S*H
00:41
Alan Alda on M*A*S*H executive producer Burt Metcalfe
01:09
Alan Alda on working out a scene with Wayne Rogers on M*A*S*H, after shooting for the satisfaction of getting it right
01:43
Alan Alda on Loretta Swit's contribution to making her M*A*S*H character three-dimensional.
01:37
Alan Alda on working with Harry Morgan on M*A*S*H, and Morgan's sense of humor
01:28
Alan Alda on the M*A*S*H episode "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet"-- its dramatic significance and Alda's critique of a scene in which he cries on camera
01:23
Alan Alda on writing the M*A*S*H episode "Dear Sigmund" and the performance of Allan Arbus as "Major Sidney Freedman"
02:14
Alan Alda on the M*A*S*H episode "Inga"
01:07
Alan Alda on the content and the shooting of the last scene shot of M*A*S*H
04:03
Alan Alda on the M*A*S*H finale
02:14
Alan Alda on how CBS believed in M*A*S*H despite initial low ratings
00:58
Alan Alda on why M*A*S*H was a successful television show
02:04

M*A*S*H: "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"

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Alan Alda on the M*A*S*H finale
02:14

M*A*S*H: "The Interview"

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Alan Alda on the way improvisation was incorporated into the classic M*A*S*H episode "The Interview"
01:46

Phil Silvers Show, The aka You'll Never Get Rich aka Sergeant Bilko

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Alan Alda on appearing on The Phil Silvers Show very in his early career
00:46

Scientific American Frontiers

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Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers
04:24
Alan Alda on the approach to the series Scientific American Frontiers, for which he serves as host.
04:44

Secret File, U.S.A.

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Alan Alda on his father's appearance on Secret File, U.S.A.
01:44

That Was the Week that Was

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Alan Alda on appearing on That Was the Week That Was and rehearsing with David Frost through a closed door minutes before they went live
01:09
Alan Alda on how the format of That Was the Week That Was and compares it to the British version
01:47

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Alan Alda on the network's objection to his showing a clip from his movie "The Four Seasons" on The Tonight Show
02:12
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
Alan Alda on about Standards & Practices' objection to the use the word "virgin" in an episode of M*A*S*H
01:16
Alan Alda on the "family hour" concept of the 1970s to censorship
01:38
Alan Alda on the network's objection to the sight of a jock strap on an episode of M*A*S*H
01:48

Characters & Catchphrases

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Alan Alda don his M*A*S*H character, "Hawkeye" Pierce
02:59

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Alan Alda on his adoration for the early radio comedians and talk show hosts such as Arthur Godfrey and Steve Allen
04:19
Alan Alda on how the burlesque comics and vaudeville influenced him at an early age
02:45
Alan Alda on his father, Robert Alda's, early TV parts
01:44
Alan Alda on working with and being influenced by actor Burgess Meredith with Naked City
03:32
Alan Alda on writing the M*A*S*H episode "Dear Sigmund"
01:34
Alan Alda on the craft of writing
00:42

Emmy Awards

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Alan Alda on doing a handspring down the aisle to accept the Emmy Award for writing
00:39

Fame and Celebrity

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Alan Alda on the downsides of fame
03:50

Korean War

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Alan Alda on the connection between the Korean war setting of M*A*S*H and the then-contemporary conflict in Vietnam
01:24

Pivotal Career Moments

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Alan Alda on his father, Robert Alda's, early TV parts
01:44

Vietnam War

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Alan Alda on the connection between the Korean war setting of M*A*S*H and the then-contemporary conflict in Vietnam
01:24

We Cried

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Alan Alda on the M*A*S*H episode "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet"-- its dramatic significance and Alda's critique of a scene in which he cries on camera
01:23

Women

View Topic
Alan Alda on Loretta Swit's contribution to making her M*A*S*H character three-dimensional.
01:37
Professions

Actor

View Profession
Alan Alda on his methodology for memorizing lines
04:17
Alan Alda on the importance of the relationship between the writers and the actors on M*A*S*H, as facilitated by director Gene Reynolds
03:46
Alan Alda on the role of improvisational training in his acting work, and specifically the work done at Second City.
02:12
Alan Alda on the uncomfortable things actors must do to accommodate the camera
03:02
Alan Alda on working out a scene with Wayne Rogers on M*A*S*H, after shooting for the satisfaction of getting it right
01:43
Alan Alda on the M*A*S*H episode "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet"-- its dramatic significance and Alda's critique of a scene in which he cries on camera
01:23

Writers

View Profession
Alan Alda on writing the M*A*S*H episode "Dear Sigmund"
01:34
Alan Alda on winning an Emmy, and how some of your best writing work can come as a surprise
01:36
Genres

Comedy Series

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Alan Alda on seeing early vaudeville acts and the comedy of George Burns and Gracie Allen, and how it relates to later television comedy.
02:26
Alan Alda on his love for comedians Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and Steve Allen
04:06
Alan Alda on the importance of laughter with his fellow actors on M*A*S*H, and in life
03:46
Alan Alda on learning from other performers and actors by standing in the wings, literally, to see the tricks behind their craft
02:36

Game Shows

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Alan Alda on how his TVQ rating from game show appearances may have helped him get cast on M*A*S*H
03:22

News and Documentary

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Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers
04:24
People

Steve Allen

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Alan Alda on his adoration for comedian Steve Allen and recollects the spontaneity of the "Man in the Street" routines on Steve Allen's Tonight Show
04:19

Allan Arbus

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Alan Alda on writing the M*A*S*H episode "Dear Sigmund" and the performance of Allan Arbus as "Major Sidney Freedman"
02:14

Ossie Davis

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Alan Alda on working with Ossie Davis in "Pearly Victorious" and how impressed he was with the actor
01:44

Larry Gelbart

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Alan Alda on his fidelity to Larry Gelbart's script to the extent that he spoke a typo on M*A*S*H
01:27
Alan Alda on M*A*S*H show creator/writer Larry Gelbart
01:39

Buster Keaton

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Alan Alda on watching from the wings Buster Keaton perform on stage
01:00

Burgess Meredith

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Alan Alda on working with and being influenced by actor Burgess Meredith with Naked City, and having to accommodate Mr. Meredith's height
02:17

Burt Metcalfe

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Alan Alda on M*A*S*H executive producer Burt Metcalfe
01:09

Harry Morgan

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Alan Alda on working with Harry Morgan on M*A*S*H, and Morgan's sense of humor
01:28

Gene Reynolds

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Alan Alda on the relationship between the writers and the actors on M*A*S*H, as facilitated by director Gene Reynolds
01:47
Alan Alda on M*A*S*H producer Gene Reynolds
02:29

Wayne Rogers

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Alan Alda on working out a scene with Wayne Rogers on M*A*S*H. after shooting for the satisfaction of getting it right
01:43

Phil Silvers

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Alan Alda on Phil Silvers as a unique comedian who created a distinct character
01:01

Loretta Swit

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Alan Alda on Loretta Swit's contribution to making her M*A*S*H character three-dimensional.
01:37

Jack Webb

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Alan Alda on a story Harry Morgan told him about how serious Jack Webb was on the set of Dragnet
01:01

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