‘M*A*S*H’ Star Donald Sutherland Turns 87: Remembering the First Hawkeye Pierce

by Joe Rutland
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For those who remember seeing the Robert Altman movie MASH, which preceded the TV show M*A*S*H, then you recall Donald Sutherland. He’s been in a lot of movies over his long, illustrious career. But Sutherland, who turned 87 years old on Sunday, made one of his marks as Hawkeye Pierce. Yep, before Alan Alda would make that role his own, it was Sutherland playing the wise-cracking doc in the middle of Korea. While we celebrate his birthday, let’s also take a minute to point out some other cinematic gems from Sutherland’s career.

He starred in The Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes, National Lampoon’s Animal House, JFK, Ordinary People, and The Hunger Games among many others. But people will remember him from MASH. Others in the cast included Elliot Gould, Sally Kellerman, and Robert Duvall. Back when the movie came out, Sutherland did an interview with the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) about it.

MASH has done well because it has, somehow in its own specific, managed to catch the general trend of everyone in North America,” he said. “And in France, too, and in England. It’s also a new thing in film. Most of the work in the film was improvised. Intellectually, it projected the feelings of an awful lot of people about an awful lot of things.”

Donald Sutherland Has Long Career Far Beyond His ‘MASH’ Movie Role

Since we’re talking about Donald Sutherland here, it’s worth noting his turn in Animal House. He played a teacher named Dave Jennings who was interested in Katy, played by Karen Allen. Of course, John Belushi and Tim Matheson were among the other actors in the cast. Years before this movie, though, Sutherland starred in a couple of big-cast war movies in The Dirty Dozen and Kelly’s Heroes.

Sutherland played Vernon Pinkley in The Dirty Dozen, which was set in World War II. Kelly’s Heroes would find him playing Sergeant Oddball. Sutherland was also in that big-movie flick starring Clint Eastwood in the lead role. Carroll O’Connor would star as Sergeant Colt just a bit before becoming known for All in the Family. Another crossover from both movies as stars go would include Telly Savalas. He, of course, would go on to find fame as Lt. Theo Kojak on Kojak.

Let’s move up the movie food chain for this amazing actor. In the 2012 flick The Hunger Games, Sutherland would play President Coriolanus Snow. When it came to the Oliver Stone-directed JFK along with Kevin Costner, he played X. As you can tell, Sutherland isn’t an actor who could be typecast as one specific character. He also has a famous son, Kiefer Sutherland of 24 fame. Here’s wishing Donald Sutherland a very happy birthday.

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