Why The Original Author Of M*A*S*H Hated Hawkeye (And The Series As A Whole)

The classic Korean War-set sitcom series "M*A*S*H" seems like it's almost universally beloved, but over the years it managed to collect its fair share of high-profile haters. Perhaps the most famous of all is director Robert Altman, who helmed the 1970 movie of the same name but absolutely loathed the television series. He made his dislike of the series very clear and even claimed that he hated everyone involved (which is a little harsh), saying some less-than-flattering things about the show's star, Alan Alda, who played Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce. He wasn't the only person involved with a previous version of "M*A*S*H" to absolutely abhor the dramedy series or even Alda, however, as the author of the book that inspired both the movie and series hated Hawkeye.

In an interview with Newsweek, author Richard Hornberger once said that the series "tramples on my memories" because he wrote the novel "MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors" inspired by his own experiences as a surgeon in the Korean War, but his real disdain was for the show's version of Hawkeye and the man who played him. It's hard to imagine anyone having an issue with Alda, but Hornberger apparently had some serious beef.

A matter of differing ideologies

Altman felt that the show made a mockery of the things that were important in his movie, and Hornberger was much the same. In his obituary for the The New York Times, his son William Hornberger said:

”He liked the movie because he thought it followed his original intent very closely. But my father was a political conservative, and he did not like the liberal tendencies that Alan Alda portrayed Hawkeye Pierce as having. My father didn't write an anti-war book. It was a humorous account of his work, with serious parts thrown in about the awful kind of work it was, and how difficult and challenging it was.”

Fans of Altman's rather cynical film would find less to love with the show's more earnest, silly take on things (a take that was also distinctly anti-war). In fact, the only actor who reprised their role from the "M*A*S*H" movie in the series was Gary Burghoff, who played the company clerk Ensign Walter Eugene "Radar" O'Reilly, and even then his character was pretty different between the two versions. Instead of Donald Sutherland's version of Hawkeye, who hewed closer to Hornberger's vision, people were treated to Alda's much more socially and politically progressive take on the character.

Alda's impact on M*A*S*H

One undeniable fact about the "M*A*S*H" television series is that Alda had a much bigger influence on the series than just portraying Hawkeye as an affable ladies' man with a heart of gold. He was the only cast member to appear in every single episode of "M*A*S*H," and he would get more involved in things behind the scenes as the series went on. Not content to simply act in the show, Alda also wrote and directed a number of episodes and became an integral part of the series' creative team. He even directed the extremely well-received series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," leaving his indelible stamp on "M*A*S*H" forever.

"M*A*S*H" was distinctly anti-war but wasn't always anti-military, with beloved characters like Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) who were career military types and not just called into service like Hawkeye. There weren't really any super politically conservative characters who weren't villains, however, and the most cartoonish of them all was Frank Burns (Larry Linville). Maybe that wasn't right for Hornberger or Altman, but the success and impact of the series prove that it was right for a whole lot of people.