Alan Alda's first role was at six months old — and he stole the show

M*A*S*H wasn't the first time Alan Alda and his father acted together.

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Alan Alda shares a scene with dad Robert Alda on M*A*S*H
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In the M*A*S*H episode "Lend a Hand," Hawkeye butts heads with an older surgeon named Dr. Anthony Borelli. Borelli had shown up in the series a few seasons earlier, and Hawkeye doesn't find him any easier to stomach with his constant advice on everything from how he should be doing surgery to how he should be drinking his scotch.

However, by the end of the episode, they find that they're able to pull together when it matters — like when they both have wrist injuries and successfully treat patients together by each using their one good hand.

Borelli is played by Alan Alda's father, Robert Alda (his half-brother, Antony Alda, also makes a small appearance in this episode.) Robert Alda had a long and rich show business career long before appearing on M*A*S*H with his son, starting in vaudeville and burlesque and winning a Tony Award for his role as the original Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. You may have even seen him on Svengoolie in the 1946 movie with Peter Lorre, The Beast with Five Fingers!

It was Robert who first got Alan into show business — at just six months old. "I brought him onstage in his high chair in a revue we were doing at one of the Catskill resort hotels," Robert Alda told the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. "This was in the '30s when Major Bowes Amateur Hour was the hit of radio. Remember Bowes and the gong that he used to end a bad act?"

"Joey Adams and I were starring in this revue which we called 'Schooldays' — we wore knickers, the chorus girls were in short gingham dresses." Little Alan was hooked on performing from the very start. "We put some things on Alan's tray to play with in case he got bored, including a bell like a desk clerk uses. Alan didn't need them. He seemed engrossed in the show... until the finale when Joey Adams had his big number."

At this point, Alan got the spotlight for the very first time. "As Joey began to sing, he hadn't sung eight bars when Alan began to bang that bell with all his might. The audience roared. It was like Major Bowes' gong. It was the first laugh Alan ever got."

Nearly 45 years later, father and son would make the world laugh again as they argued on M*A*S*H about buttoning coats and drinking scotch on the rocks.

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8 Comments

Caguas1976ca 13 months ago
Hi, my only request is that at the beginning when I sign up was only to watch the A team, and now you don't show this program anymore. Why???
Runeshaper 13 months ago
It’s AWESOME that he got to act along side of his dad 😊
cperrynaples 13 months ago
2 bonus questions: What MeTV star appeared as a baby in one of his father's films? Also, what soap opera did Antony Alda appear on? BTW, the Joey Adams he worked with was a male comedian, not the actress who played the title role in Chasing Amy! However, I would rather have seen her in a schoolgirl dress...LOL!
MrsPhilHarris cperrynaples 13 months ago
🤔 Without looking it up, I’m trying to think who it could be. Is it Ron Howard?
cperrynaples MrsPhilHarris 13 months ago
He did do a few shows before TAGS and his father Rance was an actor, but I was refering to William Hopper from Perry Mason! His father appeared in silent pictures!
MrsPhilHarris cperrynaples 13 months ago
Ahhh I never would have guessed!
LoveMETV22 13 months ago
Interesting story. Alan Alda mentioned the same in an interview he did with Sirius XM Entertainment, from 4 years ago.
Andybandit 13 months ago
That is so nice Alan and Robert Alda were very close.
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