September 27, 1974
Larry Linville wrinkles his brow Major Burns style during an interview in Duluth. (News-Tribune file photo)
M-A-S-H’s Linville enjoys TV service
By James Heffernan of the News-Tribune staff
For a guy who’s never been in the army, Larry Linville certainly knows what it’s like to serve in uniform.
Linville is the actor who plays gung-ho Maj. Frank Burns, the executive officer of the mobile army surgical hospital, better known as "M-A-S-H" on the TV program with that title. He passed through Duluth Thursday on a publicity tour for the situation comedy which is seen here at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays on Channel 3.
His CBS biography says Linville might have become an Air Force jet pilot instead of an actor if he’d been able to pass the physical. That explains why he hasn’t been in the service; he’s probably happy he wasn’t examined by the kind of doctors portrayed on his program.
So it’s Linville’s lot to don fatigues every day to be foiled by the likes of Alan (Hawkeye) Alda and Wayne (Trapper John) Rogers and McLean (Col. Blake) Stevenson. He does have Loretta (Hot Lips) Swit on his side on the program, which has a couple of compensations.
Linville said he’s happy with the part and wouldn’t mind if the show ran for several more years. It is beginning its third season this fall.
Linville attributed the program’s success to high writing and production standards demanded by the producers. He also said there is a lot camaraderie among cast members which contributes to the overall effect.
The actor said a lot of things actors are expected to say on publicity tours – little facts or myths that always make good copy in the minds of publicity people. Among these were:
- "M-A-S-H" was voted "the most authentic medical show" on television by the American Medical Association (AMA). He didn’t discuss how Marcus Welby felt about this.
- No laugh track is allowed during operating room sequences. The series co-star said even on a silly program like "M-A-S-H" an operation is considered too serious a thing to background with electronic laughs. The joking that goes on is normal, he said. All doctors joke verbally during operations to relax their hands.
- Many members of the "M-A-S-H" cast have doctors in the family or at least their families wished they had doctors in the family. Linville said his own grandfather was a physician; McLean Stevenson’s father was a doctor and Robert Alda, Alan’s actor dad, "tried to push Alan into medical school."
- People connected with the show are always on the lookout for people who served in real mobile army surgical hospitals to provide new ideas for stories. Many "M-A-S-H" plots are based on real occurances.
- The role of the transvestite (Cpl. Klinger) played by Jamie Farr isn’t as Farr-fetched as it might seem. Linville said he knew of a World War II bomber pilot who wore eye makeup.
In keeping with the spirit of the show, Linville spent Thursday afternoon visiting hospitals and handing out picture postcards of the "M-A-S-H" cast.
He said they gave completed 18 of 24 segments of the half-hour program for this season and he returns to Hollywood next week to begin filming the final six. After that he gets a few months off, during which time he said he plans to relax.