Throughout the 11-season run of the classic TV series M*A*S*H, Alan Alda’s Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce found his way into the hearts of fans all over the country – as well as those of many, many female characters. With his good looks, quick wit, and unrelenting charm, Hawkeye romanced any 4077 personnel who would have him.
In the TV series, the never-ending string of trysts is a hallmark of the beloved Hawkeye character. The book and film versions of Hawkeye, however, look a little different. In the book, MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, as well as the movie, M*A*S*H, Hawkeye Pierce is a married man. But even these versions of Hawkeye differ in the extreme.
The written version of Hawkeye is faithful to his wife. Though he provides advice to those pursuing affairs, he refrained from committing one himself. The film version of Hawkeye, though also married, isn’t nearly as chaste. He cheats on his wife multiple times throughout the movie, blaming the distance from his wife and the stress of his career for his extramarital relationships.
In the first episode of the TV series, it appeared as though the writers of M*A*S*H might draw inspiration from the film version of Hawkeye. During the episode, Hawkeye claimed to have a fiancee back home. That storyline, however, was dropped almost immediately in favor of the womanizing Hawkeye we all know and love.
Fan Favorite ‘M*A*S*H’ Character Hawkeye Was Based on a Real Person
Part of the reason why the three versions of Hawkeye vary so wildly across the three forms of M*A*S*H is likely because the original Hawkeye was based on a real person. The author of the book MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors created the Hawkeye character with himself in mind.
H. Richard Hornberger, better known as Richard Hooker, wrote the novel in 1968 using his real-life experience as a MASH surgeon in the Korean war. Now, that isn’t to say there are no differences between the book and reality. First, the novel takes place in the 4077th MASH and Hooker was in the 8055th. Hooker also added a bit of fictional frivolity to lighten an otherwise dreary story.
However, the author’s goal wasn’t to create an entirely false picture of himself or his experience. Not to mention, no one wants to paint themselves in a bad light. Even if Hooker was a bit of a womanizer during the war, he wouldn’t want to broadcast that to the world, let alone his wife.
In 1983, Richard Hooker told Newsweek that he deeply disliked the TV series. Although it looked like the MASH unit he remembered, it was entirely different. Hooker felt the show “trampled on his memories.”