Legendary actor Philip Baker Hall was perhaps best known for his roles in Magnolia and Boogie Nights. The 90-year-old film star, however, had close to 200 acting credits at the time of his death, which he amassed over an incredible 50-year career. And one of those credits is a guest-starring role in the classic TV series M*A*S*H.
Philip Baker Hall got a relatively late start in Hollywood, as his first role didn’t come until the age of 39. A prolific character actor, the bulk of Hall’s early career consisted of single appearances in TV series. Just 7 years after his acting career began, Philip Baker Hall found himself on the set of the hit comedy-drama M*A*S*H. He was cast as Sergeant Hacker in the Season 6 episode “The Light That Failed.”
In the episode, the 4077th tackles the difficult trials of a delivery error in the dead of winter and a near-fatal mistake with a patient. While this is happening, they attempt to solve a murder mystery from a novel that B.J. received in the mail.
And the near-fatal mistake? The patient was none other than Sergeant Hacker, played by Philip Baker Hall! After Charles (David Ogden Stiers) accidentally administers Curare rather than Morphine to Hacker, the young Sergeant goes into full paralysis. Thankfully, Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and B.J. (Mike Farrell) work together to reverse the effects.
Though the main storyline is the conflict between Hawkeye and Charles, Hall plays a crucial role in the episode. His character had stepped on a landmine buried in the snow. This meant that the role not only required faking paralysis but a life-threatening injury as well, a task that called for a talented character actor such as Philip Baker Hall.
Mike Farrell Recalls Filming Final Episode of ‘M*A*S*H’
Six years after Philip Baker Hall’s guest appearance, M*A*S*H reached the end of the line. After 11 wonderful seasons, the series had come to an end. Though they knew they created something special, the M*A*S*H cast were heartbroken to leave each other, as they formed a true family over the years.
Mike Farrell, the actor behind family man, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, recalls filming the series finale as bittersweet. “We knew, ‘I’ll never be in this position again with this character. I’ll never be in this spot again,'” the actor explained in an interview with Studio 10. “BJ is saying ‘goodbye’ to people he loves. Mike is saying ‘goodbye’ to someone he loves.”
Decades after the series came to an end, Mike Farrell still got emotional just thinking about his M*A*S*H friends and family. “Even though we’ll see each other afterward, we know it’s not gonna be the same set of circumstances. It’ll never be this,” he continued tearfully. “The whole thing. The whole thing, as you can see, just remains.”