Jan. 28th, 1936
New York City, New York, USA
Alan Alda's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
As a boy, Alan Alda suffered through polio, developing his sense of humor while bedridden, watching his eccentric family's antics. As a young man he started in comedy with Chicago's Second City troupe, and his first big break came with the Americanized version of the British skit show That Was the Week That Was, in 1964, with David Frost and Buck Henry.
During his stint in the Army, shortly after the Korean war, Alda served as a gunnery officer in Korea. M*A*S*H, of course, was set during the Korean war. As Dr Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H, Alda brought the series a perfect balance of wiseass and gravitas. As the series continued its long run, Alda gained more power behind the scenes, and some critics complained that the series delivered more political statements than laughs in its latter seasons. Over its eleven seasons, M*A*S*H earned numerous Emmy awards, and Alda earned five -- three for acting, one for writing, and one for directing. He is the only artist to win Emmys in all three of these categories. He wrote 20 and directed 32 episodes of M*A*S*H.
Alda has written or directed five feature films, of which the best reviewed was The Seduction of Joe Tynan with Meryl Streep. Playing perfectly off his M*A*S*H role, Alda played a self-obsessed and none-too-funny TV sitcom star in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors. He was the longtime host of Scientific American Frontiers on PBS, and in the last season of TV's The West Wing, Alda played a moderate Republican running for President.
- Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith; pg. 7-8. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
- Suffered from a severe case of polio as a young child. At its worst point he was only able to move his left arm. He was treated by Australian polio expert, nurse 'Elizabeth Kenny (I)' (qv), subject of the movie _Sister Kenny (1946)_ (qv).
- "If you work very, very hard, this is the kind of actor, writer, and director you may turn out to be. And if you work extra hard, this is the kind of person you may turn out to be." - 'James Lipton' (qv), to students at New School University, where Alda gave an interview.
- Best known by the public for his starring role as Chief of Surgery - Dr. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce on _"M*A*S*H" (1972)_ (qv).
- He and 'Loretta Swit' (qv) were the only two to appear in both the pilot episode of _"M*A*S*H" (1972)_ (qv) and in the final show (with the exception of the opening credits, where 'Gary Burghoff' (qv)'s character Radar appears, albeit edited after his departure from the show, and 'Jamie Farr' (qv), who provides the voice of the PA announcer in the pilot episode).
- He did not sign on to play Hawkeye Pierce on _"M*A*S*H" (1972)_ (qv) until 6 hours before filming began on the pilot episode.
- Was one of the actors considered to play President Bartlett on _"The West Wing" (1999)_ (qv). Alda later landed the role of Sen. Arnold Vinick in 2004 on that series.
- Has succeeded 'Donald Sutherland (I)' (qv) in two roles: Hawkeye Pierce in _"M*A*S*H" (1972)_ (qv), and Flan in _Six Degrees of Separation (1993)_ (qv). He played the latter part in an Audio Books recording. During an appearance both made at a ceremony/dinner for 'Queen Elizabeth II' (qv), the two happened to be standing in the reception line next to each other. As they waited for the Queen to make her way down the line, Alda whispered to Sutherland, "Thank you for my life.".