‘M*A*S*H’ Co-Creator Gene Reynolds Opens Up About ‘Saving and Destroying Lives’ on the Series in 2014 Interview

by Jennifer Shea
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“M*A*S*H” Co-Creator Gene Reynolds was passionate about the futility of war. And that message became the subtext of the show. In a 2014 interview with MeTV, Reynolds opened up about the format of “M*A*S*H” and the implications of building a hospital in the middle of a war zone.

“The format is fantastic – a little hospital where the goal is to save lives,” the “M*A*S*H” co-creator said. “In the middle of a war where the goal is to destroy life. The format is just powerful, overwhelming, touching, funny, whatever. It gave us a wonderful opportunity. So we had the opportunity. And it was done well in the feature film. And we did it well for, what? Ten, eleven years, in television.”

Reynolds died in February of 2020 at the ripe old age of 96. Meanwhile, over the course of its tenure, “M*A*S*H” won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Series and for writing, acting and directing achievements.

‘M*A*S*H’ Co-Creators Traveled to Korea to Research Their Subject Matter

Reynolds’s “M*A*S*H” co-creator, Larry Gelbart, who died in September of 2009, came up with the idea to go to Korea to research what they’d be writing about. (The show is set during the Korean War, though it aired during the Vietnam War.) Reynolds agreed. And so the two set off to interview Americans there.

“It was helpful to see the personalities, to see these outstanding Americans that were—they had been drafted. I mean they were… in the medical corps, but they hadn’t volunteered for Korea,” Reynolds explained. “They were chosen. They were the chosen few.”

It turns out the real-life Hawkeye, Richard Hornberger – whose book, “MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors,” inspired the movie and then the TV show – disliked the TV portrayal of his wartime experiences. According to History.com, Hornberger was a political conservative. He did not share the liberal sentiments of the show’s creators and cast.

Hornberger had bravely flouted Army regulations to pioneer an arterial repair surgery during the war. Still, he was not necessarily trying to write an antiwar book about his experiences. He told Newsweek in 1983 that “M*A*S*H” was accurate in some regards, but that it “tramples on my memories.”

Reynolds Became Known for Socially Conscious Shows

Besides “M*A*S*H,” Reynolds also co-created “Lou Grant,” the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” spinoff set in a Los Angeles newspaper newsroom. Both shows were cutting-edge and socially conscious for their era. “M*A*S*H” won 14 Emmy Awards. “Lou Grant” won 13 Emmy Awards.

Reynolds also served as president of the Directors Guild of America for four years beginning in 1993. The organization released a statement celebrating Reynolds upon his death.

“He was absolutely committed to revitalizing and modernizing the Guild and laying the groundwork for its growth into the future,” former National Executive Director Jay D. Roth said at the time. “He cared deeply about diversity and growing the leadership base of the Guild.”

Outsider.com