‘M*A*S*H’: Why Did Frank Burns’ Actor Leave the Series Abruptly?

by Joe Rutland
mash-why-did-frank-burns-actor-leave-series-abruptly

Major Frank Burns was always a thorn in the side of leadership on “M*A*S*H” on CBS. Yet that actor left the series quickly. Why?

Larry Linville, who played Burns on the CBS war sitcom, played that character for five seasons. Yet when his contract was up, Linville got offered a two-year contract deal. But he turned it down, according to a Distractify article, because Linville felt he had exhausted Burns’ character.

Ironically, there is no “Bye-Bye Burns” episode at all. Linville’s character appeared in the last episode of the fifth season but was nowhere when the sixth season opened. Linville felt like Burns has no room for growth away from being angry and upset all the time.

Linville went on to appear in stage productions after his time on “M*A*S*H” was done. He appeared in TV shows like “Room 22,” “Bonanza,” and “The Love Boat.” But Linville sadly died on April 10, 2000, at 60 years old. He developed complications from cancer surgery.

Still, the on-screen magic between Linville’s Burns and Loretta Swit’s Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan was something to see. “M*A*S*H” may only have had Linville for five seasons, but his Frank Burns character is still popular with Classic TV fans.

‘M*A*S*H’ Star Loretta Swit Was One Of Two Cast Members In Each Episode

Speaking of Swit, she and another costar appeared in every “M*A*S*H” episode that aired on CBS.

Swit, who played Houlihan as we mentioned earlier, and Alan Alda, who played wise-cracking “Hawkeye” Pierce, were in the show from Day One. Their run ended on the famous series finale, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”

Both actors spoke about the show being on the air during the waning days of the Vietnam War.

“We wanted to reflect the lives of those people who lived through an experience that would rattle anybody,” Alda told The Hollywood Reporter. “There never was a situation like that on television before.”

“We weren’t a commercial for the [Vietnam War],” Swit stressed. “We were dealing with serious issues with people working in insane situations.”

Gary Burghoff Also Left Show Early After Playing ‘Radar’ O’Reilly

“M*A*S*H” definitely held its own during that perilous time of history. But earlier we talked about Linville leaving after five seasons. Another popular star who didn’t make it until the end, either, was Gary Burghoff. You remember him better as “Radar” O’Reilly but Burghoff beat it from the popular show.

He wanted to spend more time with his family.

“Gary Burghoff always made me feel sorry for him,” show director Charles S. Dubin said in an interview with the 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,” Dubin said. Ultimately, his marriage ended to first wife Janet Gayle. Burghoff got married for a second time to Elisabeth Bostom, but that marriage also ended in divorce in 2005. he had three children in both marriages.

Outsider.com