Forty years ago, on September 17, 1972, "M*A*S*H" premiered. Here are some answers to a few nagging questions about this iconic TV series.
Where did Hawkeye get his nickname?
According to the book on which the movie and TV series were based, "MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors," by Richard Hooker, Benjamin Franklin Pierce got his nickname from his dad. It came from the main character in the only piece of fiction his father ever read. In James Fenimore Cooper's novel "The Last of the Mohicans," Natty Bumppo is nicknamed Hawkeye. In the film version of "Mohicans," the character of Hawkeye is played by Daniel Day-Lewis.
Was there a real 4077th?
Although there were seven Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals operating during the Korean War, the 4077th is fictional. Hooker, author of the novel "MASH," served in the 8055th MASH. The other actual MASH units were the 8054th, 8063rd, 8076th, 8209th, 8225th, and 8228th.
What does MASH stand for?
MASH stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. These truck-borne facilities were created at the end of World War II but not put into action until the Korean War. They were mobile units that placed surgeons and medical equipment as close to the front lines as possible, providing critical medical care to wounded soldiers in a more timely manner.
Who gave Major Margaret Houlihan her nickname, Hot Lips?
Major Margaret Houlihan got her nickname in the "M*A*S*H" movie during a scene where she and Major Burns were sharing a passionate moment in her tent. Unbeknownst to them, a microphone had been placed under the cot, and their encounter was being broadcast to the entire unit over the loudspeaker. When she said to Frank, "My lips are hot. Kiss my hot lips," a new nickname was born.
Whose voice is it really on the loud speaker?
Although Radar (Gary Burghoff) and Klinger (Jamie Farr) occasionally stepped up to the mic, the voice heard over the PA at the 4077th belonged to one of two actors hired for the gig -- Sal Viscuso and Todd Susman. Both men also made at least one onscreen appearance during the run of the show.
Why is the tent occupied by Hawkeye and Trapper John (and later B.J.) called the Swamp?
The name came from the novel "MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors." Author Richard Hooker wrote, "It became known as The Swamp, partly because it looked like the kind of haunt one might come across in a bog." He also said the name was given to Hawkeye's college digs by his friends, and he adopted it at the 4077th.
Where did the theme song come from?
The music for the "M*A*S*H" theme song was written by Johnny Mandel. The lyrics were written by Mike Altman, the 14-year-old son of the film's director, Robert Altman. It was originally penned for a scene in the movie, where a faux funeral was staged in hopes of talking a suicidal character out of his plans. Two of the men at the unit sang "Suicide Is Painless." An instrumental version of the song was subsequently used as the theme for the TV series. The young Altman went on to make millions in royalties off the song, while his dad was paid just $70,000 for directing the film.
Did Donald Penobscot really exist?
Early in Season 5, Hot Lips went on leave and fell in love with Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscot, much to Frank's chagrin. She agreed to marry him, and for the rest of the season, he was her fiancé in name only. He finally appeared on camera in the season finale, "Margaret's Marriage," and was played by Beeson Carroll. He showed up only one other time, in the Season 6 episode "The M*A*S*H Olympics," but that time he was played by Mike Henry.
Why is Radar's left hand always hidden?
Because Gary Burghoff's left hand has a minor deformity, he went to great lengths to make sure the limb was seldom seen on camera. So Radar is often seen tucking his hands in his pockets, folding his arms, or holding an object like a clipboard.