Fans of the movie MASH who also watched the hit TV show might have missed a short exchange that explained the absence of a character that was in the movie, but not the sitcom.
Before its 11-season run on television, the MASH film hit the big screen to critical and commercial success. The popular 1970 film became the third-highest-grossing movie that year. In addition, it earned five Academy Award nominations in 1971, including Best Picture. In fact, the movie took home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Riding high off the success of the movie, it was no surprise they adapted the film for television. However, when MASH came to the small screen, only one actor reprised his role from the movie. Gary Burghoff, who played Radar O’Reilly, signed on to continue the role on TV. Other main characters like Hawkeye, Trapper John, and Hot Lips were all replaced.
Furthermore, another main character disappeared from the show entirely. Tom Skerritt played Capt. Augustus Bedford “Duke” Forrest in the movie MASH. Yet the creators of the TV show dropped the character altogether past one short exchange in Season 3.
MASH Character Captain Forrest ‘Gone Over Two Years’
During Episode 8 of Season 3, the M*A*S*H television show referenced its missing MASH movie character. In the episode titled “Life with Father,” a young Korean woman arrives with her baby looking for an American soldier. But she has trouble communicating who she’s looking for since she doesn’t speak any English.
The young woman repeats the word “For-bris” to multiple people stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. At one point, Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Trapper (Wayne Rogers) try to figure out who she’s looking for.
“Forbris, Forbris. There was a Lieutenant Forbes. Tall, thin guy,” Hawkeye says in Episode 8.
“Only dermatologist I ever knew with pimples,” he jokingly added.
“Maybe she’s looking for Captain Forrest,” Trapper says.
“Who?” Hawkeye asks not remembering the name.
“The brain surgeon who fell down a lot,” Trapper explains.
“No, no. He’s been gone over two years,” Hawkeye responds. “He’s got a toy store now.”
So there we have it. Captain Forrest left Korea a couple years ago and returned home to the United States. Duke now owns a toy store and is done with his military career. It took a few seasons, but the writers were able to sneak in an explanation for Forrest’s absence. Even diehard fans may have missed the connection during the brief exchange.