Discuss: Would McLean Stevenson Have Been a Good Hawkeye?

Monday M*A*S*H Discussions offers fans the opportunity to offer their opinions on a wide variety of topics relating to M*A*S*H. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. My hope is these discussion posts will continue to elicit comments in the weeks and months after they’re initially published. Have a suggestion about something you think might be worth discussing? Let me know and maybe it will become my next Monday M*A*S*H Discussion topic.

HannibalMO suggested today’s topic: Would McLean Stevenson have been a good Hawkeye?

What If…?

I’m guessing HannibalMO has read that McLean Stevenson auditioned for the role of Hawkeye before accepting the role of Henry Blake. Whether or not that’s true, it’s enough to start some wheels spinning. What would Hawkeye Pierce played by McLean Stevenson look like? Personally, I can’t picture Stevenson as Hawkeye, mostly because of the age gap between Stevenson and Alan Alda. When M*A*S*H started in 1972, Stevenson was in his mid-40s while Alda was in his mid-30s.

Could Stevenson have pulled off the womanizing aspect of the Hawkeye character? Henry Blake cheated on his wife but he wasn’t constantly–and shamelessly–hitting on nurses the way Hawkeye did. Had Stevenson played Hawkeye, the character would’ve been older. There’s no way Stevenson could believably play a 35-year-old. And I don’t think viewers would’ve appreciate watching a 45=year-old Hawkeye chasing nurses around the 4077th week after week.

Try to imagine McLean Stevenson, as Hawkeye, playing practical jokes on Frank or insulting Frank during surgery. Can you picture it? I can’t. It’s not that I doubt Stevenson’s acting ability. He could’ve played Hawkeye, both comically and dramatically, but his Hawkeye wouldn’t fit the M*A*S*H we know and love.

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

5 Comments

  • BDOR says:

    No. Mac was made for playing Henry Blake. I’m sure the actor ego in him wanted to play Hawkeye, but he was the perfect Henry Blake.

    Similarly, they tested Wayne Rogers for the Hawkeye role as well, but Wayne felt he was better suited for the more impulsive, happy-go-lucky Trapper – even though the roles could virtually be interchangable.

    As for the age problem . . . well, Hawkeye was, supposedly, supposed to be in his late 20s/early 30s. I know some people complain about his graying hair and all, but honestly, war does things to people physically as well as emotionally and mentally, so I think his graying hair is a lot more realisitc than people might think. I also, I know a guy who’s also in his late 20s/early 30s, and his hair’s gone completely silver already.

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    I thought Stevenson was perfectly cast as Henry Blake. There is no way I see him playing the role of Hawkeye (or Trapper, for that matter). If anything McLean might have been able to put an interesting spin on Frank Burns had he played that character.

  • 007 says:

    It’s basically impossible for me to actually think this one out to the point of seeing it because of how iconic both of the actors and the characters they played are to me.

    As pointed out above, McLean Stevenson was absolutely perfect for the role of Henry Blake, at least the Henry Blake we got on the show. Having read the book, I know the character in the book and movie is a bit different than what we got in the show, but regardless, what we got in the show was absolutely perfect, and nobody could have done it better than McLean. Imagine Alan Alda as Blake?…you can’t.

    Pierce obviously was different from his book and movie counterpart as well, but again, what we got in the show is so iconic, I just can’t picture it any other way.

    Both roles were absolutely perfectly cast, although I honestly can’t determine if I believe that because they actually were, or because they’re so recognizable and iconic to me that I can’t see it any other way.

    Man now I’m getting sad again! Every time I think about McLean Stevenson as Blake or Wayne Rogers as Trapper I get sad and depressed because they were only there for 3 seasons and especially now that they’re both dead. Thanks alot RJ! 🙂

  • BDOR says:

    Another interesting tidbit is that it was the network that first suggested Mac play Henry, in addition to Gary Burghoff playing Radar; those were the only two actors that the network specifically requested.

  • Andrea says:

    Interesting question. I can’t really imagine Mac as anyone but Henry but I think if TV Hawkeye had been more in the vein of move or book Hawkeye (married, father of two, not a lothario but not 100% faithful either) then Mac could have pulled that off.

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