‘M*A*S*H’: Alan Alda Explained Issues of Show Not Having a Phone Near Set in Early Days of Filming

by Chris Haney
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During filming of the first season of M*A*S*H, the show didn’t even have a telephone on set, which caused some issues according to star Alan Alda.

Alda, who played the character Hawkeye on the hit TV show, spoke to PopEntertainment.com in 2007. He talked about his various jobs within show business, including as an actor, author, playwright, producer and director. He worked in movies, on TV shows, and on stage during his decades-long career.

During the interview, Alda opened up about certain aspects of his work. Additionally, he shared details about his preferences when acting and how he goes about his craft.

M*A*S*H Star Alan Alda Rarely Went Off-Script

As an example, the actor shared his preference for sticking to the script in most cases. He never improvised and would only change a script’s dialogue after asking about it first. Yet that came back to bite him during the early days of M*A*S*H when the show didn’t want to pay for a phone on set.

“Well, I’m from the stage, so that’s the way I look at it. In fact, I’m overly careful about that,” Alda explained to PopEntertainment.com. “There was a time on M*A*S*H when we were out in the mountains, where the outdoor set was, and we had no telephone. We were just on the air for a couple of months, and they didn’t want to put the money in for a telephone. So Wayne Rogers (Trapper) and I were doing this scene, and we get to this line and he says, ‘What do you suppose this means?’ And I said, I don’t know.'”

“We couldn’t call Larry Gelbart and ask him. So we said, ‘This really doesn’t make sense, does it?’ We thought; what should we do? And we said, ‘We’ve got to say it, he wrote it’ – because we were both stage-trained actors,” the M*A*S*H star added.

Alda and Rogers Didn’t Change the Line to Gelbart’s Dismay

The two actors carried on with the script, and read it word for word, even though they had obvious reservations about the line. Alda spoke with M*A*S*H creator and writer Larry Gelbart the next day. Gelbart admitted the confusing line was simply a typo. However, Alda and Rogers took it possibly too seriously and read it as is.

“So the next day I was watching the rushes, and I was next to Larry Gelbart. He said, ‘Why did you say that?’ [I] said, ‘That’s what you wrote.’ And he said, ‘That was a typo.’ So I do take what they write seriously, and I don’t change words in movies. It shocks me how many actors say what they want to say. I sometimes ask for changes, but I don’t just change it,” Alda said of his preference to stick with the script at all times.

The famous M*A*S*H actor’s background in the theater engrained it in him to stay on-script. Although he may ask for changes on occasion, Alda seems stunned by actors who improvise often. It’s likely safe to assume that Alda wasn’t looking to join any improv groups during his lengthy career.

Outsider.com