TV Legends: Alan Alda

Alan Alda

For anyone who regularly watched the TV show “M*A*S*H” during its 11 year run, Alan Alda will always be Hawkeye Pierce, the wisecracking, woman-chasing, Martini-swilling Army surgeon who made the Korean War fun. Of course, the real Korean War lasted about three years and ended in a cease-fire; the Hollywood version, however, lasted more than a decade and ended with Alda as one of the highest paid performers on TV. He also won five Emmy Awards for his work on the show, and wrote and directed many of the most acclaimed episodes. For many performers, “M*A*S*H” would be a career (has anyone seen Jamie Farr lately?), but for Alda it was just the warm-up to numerous writing, directing, and acting projects that he’s tackled with elegance and success since “M*A*S*H” went off the air.

Alan Alda was born Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo on January 28, 1936, in New York City. His father was the actor Robert Alda and not surprisingly Alan drifted into show business from an early age. He acted at Fordham University, studied in Europe his junior year, and pursued acting full-time upon graduation. As a young man, he performed on stage both on and off Broadway, as well as on television. His first film role was in “Gone Are the Days” (1963), where he appeared with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. For “Gone,” all three actors reprised their stage roles from the play the film was based on, “Purlie Victorious.” He focused on stage work before starting “M*A*S*H” in 1972, although he did have a notable role in the film “Paper Lion” (1968).

Alda wrote, directed, and acted in a multitude of projects during the last 25 years. He performed all three duties for the hit film “The Four Seasons” (1981), and adapted the project for TV. Other Alda triples include “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” (1979), “Sweet Liberty” (1986), “A New Life” (1988), and “Betsy’s Wedding” (1990). He’s also appeared in several Woody Allen films: “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989), “Manhattan Murder Mystery” (1993), and “Everyone Says I Love You” (1996).

Alda has also been a tireless supporter of many causes and charities. During the 1970’s he campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment and has been involved in supporting animal rights, scientific education, and community theater restoration.

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