Talented “M*A*S*H” actor Alan Alda starred in all 255 episodes of the show, but he honed his directing skills on the show with 31 episodes too.
But did you know Alda wrote 13 episodes and directed 31 episodes of that show’s 11-year-run?
Alda won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series, thanks to one “M*A*S*H” episode. In the fifth season, his “Dear Sigmond” earned him the award.
The episode dealt with depression and Alda’s idea was not well received at first. But Alda wrote the script to make sure that actor Allan Arbus’s character, Psychiatrist Sidney Freedman, was cheerful on the outside but down in the dumps on the inside.
The 85-year-old New York native had the education and experience to get behind the camera. Alda attended Fordham University and earned a degree in English and Theater from the school. Then, he ended up in Korea for six months as an Army reservist.
The “M*A*S*H” show went from Sept. 17, 1972, to Feb. 28, 1983.
Alda Walked Fine Line of Acting and Directing
But it was a challenge to work in front and behind the camera at the same time.
How’d he do it?
“Not easily,” Alda admitted in a 2017 interview with the Harvard Business Review. “One of our daughters, when she was about eight, said, ‘You’re directing yourself? What do you say? “You, go there.”’
The actor admitted the balance was a problem because he needed objectivity both as an actor and director.
But one way he got around it was simple: More takes. Directors love to choose the best work out of their actors.
“So I’d have things to choose from in the editing room,” Alda said. “Maybe that came off looking like I was more concerned about my own performance than other people’s, but that wasn’t why I did it.”
Personally, Alda took that time and turned it into six Emmy Awards and six Golden Globe Awards. Interestingly enough, the man was the first ever to win an Emmy for acting, directing, and writing on the same program.
The “M*A*S*H” show itself was nominated for over 100 Emmy Awards and won 14.
Family Affair For One ‘M*A*S*H’ Episode
In the eighth season, Alda directed himself with two Alda kin.
While he played Hawkeye, his dad Robert Alda (Borelli), and brother Antony Alda (Corporal Jarvis), had some screen time in the Alan Alda-directed “Lend A Hand” episode.
According to an IMDB note, Alan Alda wrote the “M*A*S*H” episode to reconcile with his father. Alan Alda always gave suggestions to his dad for their vaudeville act, and in the M*A*S*H episode, dad Robert dished them out to Alan’s Hawkeye character.
The website noted that Robert Alda’s idea for the Korean War docs to work as “Dr. Right” and “Dr. Left” played out by the end of the episode to make up for the show and real life.