‘M*A*S*H’: One of the Stars Played Their Own Mother on the Show

by Matthew Wilson
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One “M*A*S*H” star played two characters on the hit show during its run. They donned a dress to play their own mother on the show.

That actor would be Gary Burghoff, who portrayed Corporal Walter Eugene O’Reilly on the show. During Season Four, Episode 15 “M*A*S*H: Mail Call, Again,” Burghoff dressed in drag to portray Radar’s mother during the episode. Apparently, Radar gets most of his looks from his mother’s side of the family.

That episode gave Burghoff the distinction of being only two actors on the show to appear in drag. The other actor was Jamie Farr, who portrayed Maxwell Q. “Max” Klinger. Klinger often wore dresses throughout “M*A*S*H” in an effort to get a Section Eight discharge.

Gary Burghoff Says Goodbye to “M*A*S*H”

Of course, Burghoff has another distinction as well. The actor was the only one to appear in both the “M*A*S*H” film adaptation and later the TV series as the same character. Burghoff portrayed Radar, who entered the series carrying a teddy bear, for eight seasons.

Radar’s mother factored into the soldier leaving the series. Radar learned that his uncle had died, leaving his mother to struggle to fend for herself. The soldier managed to secure a hardship discharge to return home and help her take care of the family farm. But Radar had trouble saying goodbye to the friends he made, only leaving after he realized they would be okay without him.

In real life, Burghoff left “M*A*S*H” due to problems he was having at home. The actor wanted to be closer to his family and spend time with them. He also felt that the TV series had started to neglect his character and not give him juicy storylines like some of the other actors.

“Gary Burghoff always made me feel sorry for him,” director Charles S. Dubin told Television Academy Foundation. “Because he felt, not neglected, but he felt he wasn’t getting his proper dues. He was having trouble with his wife at the time.”

But like his on-screen character, Burghoff struggled to say goodbye to “M*A*S*H” and the set that had become a big part of his life. At one point during his farewell episode, Burghoff broke into tears when it came to saying goodbye to one of the actors. The actor became so emotional that the director had to shut down production until Burghoff could regain his composure.

“He broke into tears and I had to stop everything for 15 minutes and walk him around the backlot of Fox,” he said.

Outsider.com