RIP David Ogden Stiers

March 5, 2018

We’ve lost another familiar face from TV days gone by: David Ogden Stiers, who played Col. Charles Emerson Winchester III on “M*A*S*H,” died Saturday at home in Oregon at 75 of bladder cancer. He seldom took part in reunions because he didn’t want to be typecast, having done countless roles on stage and screen, and many voiceovers, including Disney animated films. He also shared his character’s love of classical music: he was associate conductor of the Newport, Oregon, Symphony and guest-conducted orchestras worldwide. His many colleagues recalled him fondly as a nice, funny, humble man and a consummate actor. Probably the best tribute was written by blogger and former “M*A*S*H” writer Ken Levine, who co-wrote the script that introduced Winchester. It’s filled with interesting behind-the-scenes trivia, if you’re one of the many fans of that series.

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It’s sadly ironic that Stiers died the same week that Hollywood was marking the 35th anniversary of the final episode of “M*A*S*H,” “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.” Young people who are used to niche “hits” that barely draw six viewers on Netflix would be stunned to learn that America practically came to a standstill to watch the 2-1/2-hour finale of a show that ran for 11 years, eight years longer than the actual Korean War it was set in.


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In the days before cable and the Internet, the media used to bring us together instead of dividing us. In 1983, 125 million people watched the “M*A*S*H” finale (today’s #1 sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory,” averages about 19 million). Special TV hookups were arranged on Army bases so that troops in Korea could watch it live. It set all kinds of ratings records that still stand, and it remains second only to the 2010 Super Bowl as the most-watched TV broadcast of all time.

The show lives on in reruns, streaming and DVDs, and will likely run forever somewhere, because of the quality writing and performances; it was a period piece that never gets dated; and sadly, the subject of soldiers being wounded in war will probably never go away. If you’re a fan of “M*A*S*H,” the Hollywood Reporter just celebrated the finale’s anniversary with a lengthy, two-part feature interviewing virtually everyone still living who worked on it, in front of or behind the cameras. You’ll find it at the links below.

Part One: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/mash-oral-history-untold-stories-one-tvs-important-shows-1086322

Part Two: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/mash-inside-stories-some-shows-famous-episodes-castings-1088774

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Comments 1-8 of 8

  • William Van Skiver

    03/17/2018 12:37 AM

    I was stationed in Guam at the U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility in the Navy in 1972. Guam had only 1 TV station, KUAM. I had a 7" B/W portable TV I kept with me at my duty station, and there is one memorable comment I recall David Ogden Stiers made on MASH as Charles E. Winchester III, when he consoled a love-struck Radar who had a crush on a new nurse at the 4077. Charles' advice on how to properly approach her was, ....."1st, I would dazzle her with my expertise, then regale her with my rapier wit!" Radar sat there catatonic, mouth agape, almost as if he'd witnessed the second coming. Classic and timeless! RIP David, and to quote Bob Hope, "thanks for the memories."

  • Jim Hancock

    03/13/2018 11:07 AM

    He also appeared in the Perry Mason movies as the prosecuting attorney, Reston.

  • Mackie Braden

    03/12/2018 08:03 PM

    My most sincere regrets to the family of David Ogden Stiers. His talents will be missed.

  • George A. Reynolds, LTC, U.S. Army (Ret.)

    03/09/2018 01:02 PM

    As a Medical Service Corps officer, one of the Army units I served with was the 47th Combat Support Hospital, which had been the 47th MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) before being converted to the CSH configuration. I can remember going to the field at Fort Lewis, Washington and setting up our tents and inflatable shelters, when someone brought a small portable TV, on which we watched M*A*S*H when it was on broadcast television. They plugged the TV into our electrical system in one of the inflatable hospital shelters, and a whole group of us watched the show. (That was in the 1970s when M*A*S*H was airing, and before the coming of cable TV. We used rabbit ears.)

  • George A. Reynolds, LTC, U.S. Army (Ret.)

    03/09/2018 12:37 PM

    As a Medical Service Corps officer, one of the Army units I served with was the 47th Combat Support Hospital, which had been the 47th MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) before being converted to the CSH configuration. I can remember going to the field at Fort Lewis, Washington and setting up our tents and inflatable shelters, when someone brought a small portable TV, on which we watched M*A*S*H when it was on broadcast television. They plugged the TV into our electrical system in one of the inflatable hospital shelters, and a whole group of us watched the show. (That was in the 1970s when M*A*S*H was airing, and before the coming of cable TV. We used rabbit ears.)

  • Lynn Truesdell

    03/08/2018 04:08 AM

    I'm glad you put this notice in your blog. I always thought that David Ogden Spiers was one of the reasons MASH did so well. In addition to the roles and contributions he made in the musical world, I have to mention that one of the best things I remember about him was an audio book I listened to every morning going to work. The book was a novel about the Roman Empire (I don't remember the name) and his interpretation and emotive force behind the word were truly awe inspiring. I will always remember him fondly.

  • bob

    03/06/2018 11:18 AM

    Sadly I didn't know of his passing until I saw mention of it on METV last night. I still have not seen any mention of it on the various internet news sources I follow, except for this particular column. Thanks Mike for telling us about David. And just a silly correction...he play Major Winchester, not Colonel.

  • Bob Ernst

    03/06/2018 11:16 AM

    Sadly I didn't know of his passing until I saw mention of it on METV last night. I still have not seen any mention of it on the various internet news sources I follow, except for this particular column. Thanks Mike for telling us about David. And just a silly correction...he play Major Winchester, not Colonel.