×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

M*A*S*H Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

From 1972 to 1983, "M*A*S*H" ruled the airwaves as a cultural phenomenon. The finale alone was the single most-watched U.S. TV broadcast of all time. It could be one of the funniest shows on TV, and it could be one of the most emotionally devastating. The show changed a lot over its long run — even today, fans are often divided over which era they like the best — but for us, it was always great. And part of that greatness was due to its ensemble cast of vivid, colorful characters portrayed by terrific actors.

A number of "M*A*S*H" stars are still around and even still acting — in particular, Alan Alda had a memorable and moving role in 2019's "Marriage Story" — but the inevitable passing of time means that several beloved cast members of the show are now gone. We wanted to commemorate the "M*A*S*H" actors who are no longer with us, especially if you've been wondering what happened to them.

McLean Stevenson as Henry Blake

Shocking TV deaths have turned into an artform in their own right, but few have ever hit as hard as that of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake. McLean Stevenson's affable and hapless Blake — a great doctor but a tremendously (and hilariously) inept commanding officer — is one of the most lovable characters on "M*A*S*H." His farewell episode — "Abyssinia, Henry" — is great in its own right, but it hits as hard as it does because Stevenson spent three years making Henry funny, flawed, and lovable.

Stevenson hoped to transition from his ensemble role on "M*A*S*H" to lead parts elsewhere, a career move that he ruefully admitted didn't work out as he'd hoped. As he told The Baltimore Sun: "I made the mistake of believing that people were enamored of McLean Stevenson when the person they were enamored of was Henry Blake." He hopped around between pilots, guest-starring roles and short-lived sitcoms for years without finding anything that really struck a chord with him.

He died of a heart attack in 1996. Gary Burghoff — whose Radar O'Reilly had served as Henry's loyal, hyper-competent clerk – told Deseret News, "My personal sense of loss is magnified a thousand times by what this kind, funny gentleman has meant to all those who knew him." We wish we could have seen more of Stevenson over the years, but his work as Henry will definitely live on.

Harry Morgan as Sherman Potter

Before he was cast as the fatherly, folksy Colonel Sherman Potter, Harry Morgan turned up on "M*A*S*H" as the unhinged one-off character General Steele in "The General Flipped at Dawn," one of the show's top comedic episodes. The show had to bring him back, as Jamie Farr explained to NPR, because Harry Morgan was probably the single funniest person in the whole cast. He'd go on to become one of the most endearing, too, with his steady presence as Colonel Potter anchoring the other characters from Season 4 all the way to the finale.

Morgan had a long career, but his work on "M*A*S*H" always held a special place in his heart. According to Reuters, he said, "I don't know if 'M*A*S*H' made me a better actor but I know it made me a better human being." He was happy to reprise the role on "AfterMASH." Even while he was winding down — he'd already had several decades of notable work before "M*A*S*H" aired — he continued to pop up in guest-starring roles in everything from "The Simpsons" to "Murder, She Wrote."

Morgan died peacefully in hospice care at the age of 96, and his "M*A*S*H" colleagues stayed close with him until the end. They remembered him with tremendous affection, as Alan Alda said that Morgan "did not have an unadorable bone in his body" and Mike Farrell called him "a treasure of a person."

Larry Linville as Frank Burns

Frank Burns — or "Ferret Face," if you ask some of his colleagues — is one of the TV characters we all love to hate. Incompetent, bigoted, pathetic, hypocritical, status-obsessed, sniveling, and always delighted by any excuse to spoil everyone else's fun, Frank is just awful ... and a comedic masterpiece. Week after week, Larry Linville – described to the Hollywood Reporter by co-star Gary Burghoff as "the direct opposite of his character" — made Frank a perverse combination of intolerable and delightful. As he explained to The Philadelphia Inquirer (via MeTV), "I pulled out every box in my head marked nerd, moron and slime." It worked: Frank's distinctive giggle alone should turn up in acting classes.

Eventually, Linville felt Frank — too firmly defined as a twerp to really evolve — had run his course, and at the end of Season 5, he chose to bow out. After "M*A*S*H," he racked up numerous guest star appearances on shows like "The Love Boat" and "Murder, She Wrote." While Frank remained his defining onscreen role, Linville also had a successful theater career that included several Broadway performances.

In 2000, Linville died of pneumonia, a long-term complication from cancer and related surgery. His manager Barry Greenberg told The Los Angeles Times: "He was wonderfully refreshing and irreverent but always a very talented and professional guy. He took this cancer thing better than anybody I've ever seen."

Wayne Rogers as 'Trapper' John McIntyre

For the first three seasons of "M*A*S*H," Wayne Rogers' Trapper John served as one of the 4077's top doctors and as Hawkeye's enthusiastic partner in crime. Warm, charming, and always ready with a wisecrack, he helped cement the show's sense of humor and is a key part of what defines its early years. Right from the start, Rogers and Alan Alda had a great onscreen rapport.

Trapper never quite got the character development Rogers wanted for him, especially once Alda's Hawkeye proved so popular with audiences, so Rogers decided to leave the show to seek out new roles. He worked steadily, eventually starring as another doctor on the series "House Calls," and did plenty of guest-star work and TV movies. Rogers liked a challenge, and that eventually extended far beyond the screen: He became a well-regarded and highly successful investor, with a hand in everything from tech companies to real estate to Kleinfeld Bridal (of "Say Yes to the Dress" fame). The Balance estimated his final net worth at approximately $75 million.

Rogers passed away in 2015, due to complications from pneumonia. Alan Alda wrote on Twitter, "He was smart, funny, curious and dedicated. We made a pact to give ["M*A*S*H"] all we had and it bonded us. I loved Wayne. I'll miss him very much."

David Ogden Stiers as Charles Emerson Winchester III

Major Charles Emerson Winchester III — extremely gifted surgeon and extremely snobbish Boston blueblood — was a triumph for the "M*A*S*H" strategy of replacing departed characters with very different counterparts. Like Frank Burns, Charles was a narrative foil for Hawkeye, but in a way that kept things fresh. David Ogden Stiers and the writers kept Winchester nuanced. For all his arrogance and condescension, he had real skills and a real heart ... even if he tried to keep it hidden.

Stiers had a long and storied career. (And not just in acting: He was also a skilled conductor.) In particular, he was the iconic voice of Cogsworth in 1991's "Beauty and the Beast," and he also did prominent voice-work for "Pocahontas," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," and "Lilo & Stitch." There's a bittersweet quality to his Disney voice-work, as excellent as it is: it contributed to his decision to spend most of his life closeted, as he feared Disney wouldn't want to work with an openly gay actor. In 2009, he came out, saying, "I wish to spend my life's twilight being just who I am."

Stiers passed away in 2018 from bladder cancer. Alan Alda reminisced on Twitter about Stiers' ability to skateboard to work before turning into his buttoned-up character, and added — addressing Stiers directly — that he would never forget "how gentle you were, how kind, except when devising the most vicious practical jokes. We love you, David."

William Christopher as Father Francis Mulcahy

Mild-mannered, thoughtful, compassionate, and not above getting riled every now and then, Father Francis Mulcahy wasn't just the 4077's chaplain: He was often its heart, too. He gave the show some great humor: We'll never forget the Father Mulcahy Sound-a-Like contest in "Movie Tonight" or his aghast reaction to finding out his fresh ears of corn had just gotten creamed by the oblivious cook. He also provided some of its best tearjerkers and most sensitive, profound discussions of war — definitely one of the best TV priests of all time.

Christopher returned to again play Mulcahy in the show's spinoff, "AfterMASH." In fact, he was so strongly associated with Father Mulcahy that, in subsequent years, he was repeatedly cast as a priest or chaplain. His final role was Father Tobias on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives." As noted in his New York Times obituary, he also spent years advocating for children with autism and for their families, building off his own experience raising an autistic son. 

Christopher died of cancer in 2012 and was fondly remembered by his former co-stars. Loretta Swit said, "It was the most perfect casting ever known." Alan Alda seconded that, tweeting, "His kind strength, his grace and gentle humor weren't acted. They were Bill."

Allan Arbus as Sidney Freedman

As Dr. Sidney Freedman, a therapist who made semi-regular visits to the 4077 to treat its patients and its staff, Allan Arbus is gentle, funny, warm, and wise: Anyone would be lucky to get to talk to this guy about their problems. Alan Alda even admitted to the New York Times that it was difficult to remember that Arbus didn't actually have Sidney's training: "I was so convinced that he was a psychiatrist I used to sit and talk with him between scenes. After a couple months of [asking him psychiatry questions] I noticed he was giving me these strange looks, like 'How would I know the answer to that?'"

Arbus' real life was as fascinating as his character's, even if it was very different. He had an art background and had worked for years in fashion photography; his wife (until their divorce in 1969) was the famous photographer Diane Arbus. He'd also served as a combat photographer during WWII. His personal history contained plenty of sorrow — Diane Arbus committed suicide in 1971, shortly before "M*A*S*H" began airing — that may have deepened his portrayal of the empathetic Sidney.

Arbus died in 2013 of complications of congestive heart failure. He was 95.

Kellye Nakahara as Nurse Kellye

Most of the nurses on "M*A*S*H" never had significant interaction with the main cast, especially not over multiple episodes and multiple seasons. Kellye Nakahara's Nurse Kellye was a notable exception — her bubbly charisma was too good to keep in the background. Part of her promotion from extra was sheer persistence on her part — as she said in an NPR interview, she would intentionally get in the background of scenes — but part of it was just that Nakahara was so delightful that the writers kept seizing on the chance to have her essentially play herself.

The role made Nakahara important to legions of viewers. "I still get mail," she told NPR. "I have people coming up to me that say, as far as being Asian, you're the first role model that I had of an Asian that wasn't portrayed as an Asian, just as a person."

She continued acting up until 2000 — there's a good chance you'd recognize her as the cook in "Clue" – and then focused on watercolor painting, becoming deeply involved in her local art scene. When she passed away due to cancer in 2020, Alan Alda offered a heartfelt tribute to her: "She was adorable and brilliant in the part [of Kellye]. But you couldn't beat what she was as a person, funnier and warmer and kinder than most people I've known."

Roy Goldman as Roy Goldman

Roy Goldman's character — also named Roy Goldman — was an important part of the background of "M*A*S*H." As an amiable corpsman and orderly, he was another familiar face that made viewers feel like the 4077 was real. Although he was only formally credited about half the time, he appeared in 67 episodes. He contributed a lasting bit of the show's continuity, too, in coining the name for Jeff Maxwell's character Igor.

Before "M*A*S*H," Goldman had been on "Hogan's Heroes," in another background role that often went uncredited. He stopped acting soon after "M*A*S*H" ended, with his last role being in Mel Brooks' 1983 remake of "To Be or Not to Be."

Goldman passed away in 2009. Jeff Maxwell reached out to "M*A*S*H" fans to share the news of Goldman's death, saying, "He was one of the funniest, nicest people on the planet, and I will miss him."

Patricia Stevens as Nurse Baker

Patricia Stevens played Nurse Baker — kind of. She definitely played a nurse, but "M*A*S*H" tended to recycle the names of its nurses: If you pay attention, you'll see an awful lot of Nurse Ables and Nurse Bakers rotate through the camp in particular. IMDb lists Stevens as Baker, Johnson, Able, Brown, and Mitchell ... but as the show went on, she stabilized as Baker, becoming one person to the writers and a recognizable figure to viewers.

While Stevens had other parts over the years — she voiced Velma in several iterations of "Scooby Doo" in the '70s — she eventually transitioned to teaching acting and directing. Her onscreen roles might not have been flashy, but she had a profound effect in the real world. When she died in 2010, her obituary noted that "her true talent and genius both on and off stage was making people at ease through laughter."

Johnny Haymer as Sergeant Zale

Bullish, antagonistic, and hypocritical, Sergeant Zelmo Zale makes a great low-stakes adversary: the other characters don't have to defeat him, they just have to figure out how to live with him. He's particularly a thorn in Klinger's side, but he runs afoul of almost everyone sooner or later. He's undoubtedly irritating — but Johnny Haymer also makes him memorable, giving Zale a boisterous, combative energy. It's always entirely believable that this guy could stir things up.

Haymer is probably best-known for "M*A*S*H," but he was a prolific and hard-working actor, racking up a ton of TV credits for both onscreen roles and voice-work: If you grew up during the '80s, you probably heard him on "Transformers," "Alvin & the Chipmunks," and "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends." He also had a regular role on the quirky sitcom "Madame's Place," where he played butler to a puppet. (Yes, we went and looked up clips to see this for ourselves.)

Haymer died of cancer in 1989.

Edward Winter as Colonel Flagg

Colonel Flagg is one of the best recurring guest stars "M*A*S*H" ever had: a dazzlingly paranoid, relentless, heartless, and hilariously incompetent intelligence agent. His hardened cruelty and obsession with tracking down always nonexistent traitors and Communist spies made him a good antagonist; his over-the-top approaches made him a comedic goldmine. (According to writer Ken Levine, the show had to be careful to control his larger-than-life potency by not bringing him on too often.) It's all tied together with Edward Winter's great, fully committed deadpan approach; through all the insanity, he plays Flagg completely straight.

Winter made such an indelible impression as Flagg that it's probably still what he's best known for, but he was a tremendously prolific and varied actor. After his "M*A*S*H" work, he could be seen on "Dallas," "The A-Team," "Cagney & Lacey," and "Herman's Head" — and for '90s Nickelodeon buffs, heard on both "The Angry Beavers" and "Aaahh!!! Real Monsters." He even made an appearance on "M*A*S*H" spin-off "Trapper John, M.D." He wasn't playing Flagg there ... but then, Flagg was a master of disguise, so who can say for sure?

Winter died in 2001 of complications from Parkinson's disease.

Marcia Strassman as Nurse Margie Cutler

In Season 1 of "M*A*S*H," Nurse Margie Cutler is a heartthrob of the camp: so cute that at one point Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit) even deems her a distraction and decides to send her packing. Despite almost being sent away in her very first episode, amiable Margie hangs around for quite a while as a nurse and a casual date. Actually, it wasn't so casual on her end, as Hawkeye eventually finds out to his alarm — there are bits of Margie's last episode, "Ceasefire," that are just too awkward to watch.

Marcia Strassman had a great career after she left Margie behind. She moved on to a regular role on "Welcome Back, Kotter," as well as a boatload of guest-starring spots — and you might get a particular rush of childhood nostalgia when you recognize her as the mom in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." Offscreen, she also worked for various causes: She took on fundraising efforts for the fight against breast cancer even before she was diagnosed with the disease herself.

Strassman dealt with breast cancer for seven years. She passed away in 2014, receiving numerous tributes from her friends and family.

Herb Voland as Brigadier General Clayton

For the first few seasons of "M*A*S*H," Brigadier General Clayton made semi-regular appearances — at least, that's what it felt like. He was only in seven episodes, but Herb Voland's hearty portrayal is so distinctive that he makes an outsized impression for both the audience and the characters (Hawkeye can even parody him posing for photographs). He's a great catalyst for the other characters, ratcheting up scatter-brained Henry Blake's nerves and showcasing Margaret's cheerful swooning for high-ranking officers. On top of all that, he has presence: simultaneously good-natured and intimidating. Of the show's revolving guest star cast of generals, he was a noted fan favorite.

Herb Voland did plenty of TV work and even the occasional movie — he appeared in "Airplane!", arguably the best spoof of all time — but his work on "M*A*S*H" came towards the end of his career. He died in 1981, at the age of 62.

Mike Henry as Donald Penobscott

Mike Henry may have only appeared in one episode of "M*A*S*H" — Season 6, Episode 10: "The M*A*S*H Olympics" — but his part makes a huge impact. He plays Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott — a role originated by Beeson Carroll in Season 5, Episode 24's "Margaret's Marriage" — and Donald casts a long shadow over the mid-to-late seasons of the show. Despite Margaret's high hopes for their marriage, Donald soon turns out to be untrustworthy, cheap, and unfaithful. Their marital problems and divorce are a big part of Margaret's arc through Seasons 6 and 7, so Mike Henry plays an important role in putting a (new) face to a mostly offscreen character. And Henry does a good job making him both memorable and punchable.

It's fitting that Donald's role in "The M*A*S*H Olympics" involves his physical prowess: Before he was an actor, he was an NFL player, first with the Steelers and later with the Rams. As an actor, Henry specialized in action roles, playing Tarzan in several movies and Junior in the three "Smokey and the Bandit" films.

Regrettably, during his football career, Henry suffered multiple head injuries, leading to Parkinson's disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. These long-term health problems brought his career to an early end in 1988, about a decade after his "M*A*S*H" performance. Henry passed away in 2021, at the age of 84.

Timothy Brown as Captain Oliver Jones

Timothy Brown's character, a neurosurgeon rather inappropriately nicknamed "Spearchucker" Jones, is a complex part of the history of "M*A*S*H." He disappears after a handful of early episodes, but he was significant enough — especially as the only major recurring Black character on the show — that the producers had to explain why he had been written out: The show needed to cut multiple characters for budgetary reasons, and they had reportedly discovered that there were no Black surgeons in mobile hospitals during the Korean War (this was not, in fact, accurate, though the producers may have legitimately believed it). Jones' presence could have meant a lot to viewers in the '70s — even though his nickname, which has racist connotations, was an uncomfortable thing to hear every week — so it's unfortunate that he was written out due to a misconception.

Despite being jettisoned from "M*A*S*H," Brown went on to have a productive career. He played a major role in Robert Altman's "Nashville" and did several Blaxploitation movies; he later worked as a parole officer. And, of course, he still had a lot of well-deserved glory attached to him from his time in the NFL: He's in the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame.

Brown died in 2020, at the age of 82.

John Orchard as 'Ugly John' and Muldoon

John Orchard played two characters on "M*A*S*H": anesthesiologist "Ugly John" and — in a single, significantly later reappearance — the casually corrupt MP Muldoon. Ugly John was a carryover character from Robert Altman's original movie, and during Season 1, he appears often as a supporting character and poker buddy.

The audience appreciated Orchard's work, and MeTV suggests that his reappearance as Muldoon was a gesture towards everyone who missed his presence as Ugly John. If so, the move was a success: "The performance was so memorable, most fans remember Muldoon as well as they do Ugly John." It made for a great send-off and an excellent tribute to an actor we could easily imagine being part of the main cast.

Most of Orchard's acting career predated "M*A*S*H," but he was a guest star staple of genre television in the '60s and '70s. He died in 1995.