‘M*A*S*H’ Star William Christopher Made Several Appearances in Mayberry Universe

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Did you know that Father Francis Mulcahy on M*A*S*H played one of Gomer Pyle’s Marine friends? Or that the actor was a visitor to Mayberry a couple of times?

You know the actor as William Christopher, who joined M*A*S*H after the pilot episode in 1972. But before he found his footing at the 4077th with a bunch of wise-cracking doctors, American audiences knew him as Private Lester Hummel on Gomer Pyle, USMC. Christopher made 16 appearances on the Andy Griffith Show spinoff. And back then, he was known as Bill Christopher.

And Christopher made two stops in Mayberry. He was the main guest star on the 1966 episode “A New Doctor in Town.” Yes, Christopher was the new doctor, playing Thomas Petersen. Andy Taylor invited him to his house, explaining that he lived just off Main Street. No one in town wanted to be Petersen’s first patient, even though the good doctor had a degree from Johns Hopkins. Petersen was replacing Dr. Bennett, who had served as Mayberry’s doctor for four decades.

Andy Griffith fans also might have recognized the future M*A*S*H chaplain as an IRS agent on “Aunt Bee’s On TV” from the year before. He also had even more ties to the Mayberry universe. After all, he appeared in the movie The Shakiest Gun in the West with Don Knotts. And he was in Hearts of the West with Griffith.

You could also make a case that Christopher prepared for M*A*S*H with his work on the 1960s-era war comedy Hogan’s Heroes. He made three appearances on the show, portraying three different characters, including a German soldier.

And Christopher wasn’t the only M*A*S*H star to have some roots in Mayberry. Jamie Farr, who portrayed Corporal Klinger, guest-starred on both The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle. In 1966, he played Grecos in an episode called “The Gypsies.” Then on Gomer Pyle, he guest-starred in episodes in 1965 and 68.

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Meanwhile, some major Andy Griffith stars played some memorable characters on M*A*S*H. Ron Howard, aka Opie Taylor, portrayed a compelling character on the M*A*S*H episode called “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet.” This was in season one when Howard was almost 19. Critics said it’s the first time this comedy used death as a major plot point. Howard portrayed a character named Wendell, who was only 15. But he joined the Marines using his brother’s ID. It was all to impress a girl. Hawkeye treated him for appendicitis.

The person who died was a friend of Hawkeye’s. And Henry Blake told Hawkeye “There are certain rules about a war. Rule Number One is: Young men die. And Rule Number Two is: Doctors can’t change Rule Number One.” So Hawkeye turned in Wendell for being underage. He was able to save that soldier from a bullet.

George Lindsey was another major character from The Andy Griffith Show who showed up on M*A*S*H. That was in 1978. Lindsey, who portrayed Gomer’s goofy cousin Goober, played the exact opposite on M*A*S*H. He was Dr. Roy Dupree, a snobby surgeon from Arkansas. In the episode, Temporary Duty Hawkeye and DuPree swapped medical units.

You can watch all these shows on cable or on various streaming services. Happy viewing.

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