Wayne Rogers never actually signed his M*A*S*H contract

It’s a sneaky move worthy of Trapper John.

M*A*S*H was one of the most popular shows ever to hit the airwaves. It followed the lives of the doctors and nurses at a mobile combat hospital during the Korean War. It lasted eleven seasons — eight years longer than the actual war in Korea.

A big part of the show’s appeal were the fantastic characters. The naïve clerk “Radar” O’Reilly, the no-nonsense nurse Margaret Houlihan and the well-meaning priest Father John Mulcahy are just three of many favorites.

The series was led by Alan Alda as Captain Benjamin Franklin Peirce, better known as Hawkeye. For the first three seasons, Hawkeye’s friend and fellow prankster was Trapper John McIntyre, played by Wayne Rogers. But just like episodes of the show, the comradery and fun among the cast had moments of serious drama.

The duo started as relative equals, sharing screen time and funny bits. Soon, however, Alda took on a more creative role beyond just acting — he started directing episodes as well. The writers gave him more and more of the comedic material with Rogers playing the straight man.

Rogers believed he was playing second fiddle to Alda and no longer wanted to be a part of the show. He quit after the show’s third season. The producers balked and immediately filed a lawsuit. It seemed like a clear-cut case of breach of contract.

But Rogers, much like the character he played, had done something sneaky.

When he was originally cast, he objected to the contract. He thought the "morals clause" was unnecessary and outdated. He started work on the show without ever officially signing the document.

This made it easy to leave the show years later when things didn’t go his way. His relationships with his fellow cast members, including Alda, remained friendly but Rogers ultimately decided to pursue other things.

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Dee48 6 days ago
Alan Alda is grossly overrated. Mike Farrell isn't a versatile actor. The first three seasons were the best, downhill from there.
Utzaake 9 days ago
Reminds me of the 1976 Major League Baseball season between the Peter Seitz decision that overturned the reserve clause and the start of free agency. Many ballplayers that year refused to sign their automatic contract renewals in order to become free agents at season's end.
Marty53 9 days ago
Trapper John was much funnier than Hawkeye. MASH should have worked to keep him. BJ was never the right character to replace him with. There needed to be someone totally different. So the comparison between the Trapper and BJ wouldn't have been there. Maybe a doctor who was of ethnic origin.
Pacificsun 10 days ago
An interesting story. In the day, when such popular stars left a show, it was usually framed as creative differences. Doing so allowed the performer to continue being marketable in their career. Just wondering if not having the signed the contract also gave Wayne Rogers less footing to renegotiate his salary. Quite often money is used to solve a lot of "creative differences" no doubt he wanted compensation for the value he felt (and did) bring to the series, no matter how the story arc (meaning the direction of the storyline) changed. M*A*S*H is indeed a great (and very unique) show!! And was primarily successful because of the ensemble acting!!
madmark1 10 days ago
Mash is a show that’s one of my all-time favorites. I mean who doesn’t like Mash. I prefer the earlier episodes with Trapper in them he was a great actor and probably didn’t get the credit he deserved.And there was the man that everyone loved to hate Frank Burns played by Larry Linville even though because of his personality he was very unlikable but he had exceptional comedic skills kind of like Barney Fife on Andy Griffith Don Knotts who played Barney was a great comedian but likable but what made Frank Burns so funny is he was unlikable in a very funny way if that makes sense. Their comedy styles were very similar but the big difference Barney was a likable character and Frank was the character everyone hated.Mash was a great show for a very good reason and had very talented people.That’s why It stayed on the air for many many years.
MrsPhilHarris madmark1 10 days ago
I like the first three seasons.
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