He’s one of my earliest childhood crushes, of course. Hawkeye Pierce. I used to watch M*A*S*H with my mother, and indeed my father before he died, and I was always half in love with Hawkeye. I’ve no interest in hashing out how much who I am is based on loving him since childhood and how much I love him because of the kind of person I am. Probably it’s both. But it’s strange, really, that my love of Hawkeye has not really extended to getting into much of anything else he’s done except his books, which are light but entertaining.
“Light but entertaining” incorporates quite a lot of his work, really, except the more maudlin bits. For my money, one of the best M*A*S*H episodes is the one where he thinks he’s got a concussion and spends the entire episode delivering a monologue to a Korean family that doesn’t speak English. There’s not a lot of weight to most of what he says, though there are a few weighty bits in it for all that. “The love, I’ll leave with you” is one of the warmest lines in the entire series, in my opinion, even delivered to someone who, again, has no idea what he’s talking about and maybe just thinks he doesn’t like apples (it’s an apple, right?).
My cousin’s kid, Dyllan Christopher, has actually been in a movie with him, though I don’t think they have any scenes together. They were both in Mad City. (Dyllan’s the little kid who puts his hands on the TV and says, “That’s my daddy.” My aunt, seeing the trailer in the theatre, screamed, “That’s my grandson!”) I don’t remember much about the movie. It’s not bad. They’ve both done better, but they’ve both done worse, too.
Despite his Oscar nomination for The Aviator, I honestly believe that most of Alda’s best work has been on TV. Not just Hawkeye, of course. (Though there’s a lot of impressive Hawkeye stuff, including working out his own issues with his father, actor Robert Alda, who was on the show twice.) He spent five episodes on ER as Dr. Gabriel Lawrence, a brilliant physician who turns out to have Alzheimer’s. His performance in . . . And the Band Played On as Dr. Robert Gallo is delightfully self-centered.
And, really, check out Never Have Your Dog Stuffed. It’s fun. It’s also, it seems, good advice. His dad was learning taxidermy when their family dog died, and he thought young Alan would grieve the dog less if the dog was always around. As I recall, there were nightmares instead, which was not better? You can learn a lot about various funny things about Alan Alda, Robert Alda, people they encountered, Hollywood, and things like that. There’s a second book that I own and haven’t had time to read; I should just give up and make it my purse book, so I’ll read it a bit at a time and get through it.
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