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Celebrating 16 Years Online (1999-2015)

Nurses from the Opening Credits


Introduction

There is a brief scene in the opening credits to M*A*S*H in which a group of five nurses are shown running towards the chopper pad. The identity of these “running nurses” has been a mystery for decades, one that has intrigued and confounded fans of the series. Although they’re in just about every episode, very little is known about these actresses. A handful of episodes during Season Eleven did not include this scene; the opening credits were trimmed down to make room for more commercials and the “running nurses” got the boot.

During the first minutes of the Season One episode “Sticky Wicket” (originally broadcast March 4th, 1973) the camp is seen responding to Radar’s warning that incoming wounded are on their way. Footage that appears to have been shot at the same time as the opening credits is shown, including a few seconds with the “running nurses” bursting out of the nurses quarters. This footage mirrors the scene in the extended opening. Here’s an animated GIF that combines the scene from “Sticky Wicket” with the better known footage from the opening credits:

Footage from Sticky Wicket and the opening credits
Footage from “Sticky Wicket” and the opening credits

Notice how well the two scenes fit together. Four of the nurses are shown wearing their hats in “Sticky Wicket” as they exit the nurses quarters; in the footage from the opening credits, only the two nurses in the back are wearing hats while those in the middle are holding theirs. It’s likely that a lot of extra footage was filmed when the opening credits were being put together. Perhaps “Sticky Wicket” ran short and some of this footage was included to pad out the episode.

Gwen Farrell

According to several messages at the alt.tv.mash newsgroup from M*A*S*H creator Larry Gelbart (see this message and this message, both from 1998, via Google Groups), one of the “running nurses” is Gwen Adair, who went by Gwen Farrell during her time on M*A*S*H.

Gwen Farrell in the Opening Credits Gwen Farrell in Springtime
Left: Gwen Farrell in the Opening Credits; Right: Gwen Farrell in “Springtime”

She is on the far left in the “running nurses” scene and later appeared in dozens of episodes over the course of the series, although she was only credited in nine (see the Same Face, Different Name section for more). Gelbart also stated that four of the five actresses (including Gwen) were in other episodes.

Marcia Gelman

The actress in the middle, who is obscured by Sheila Lauritson at times, appears to be Marcia Gelman, who was credited in the episodes “The Sniper” and “The Incubator” during Season Two.

Marcia Gelman in the Opening Credits Marcia Gelman in The Sniper
Left: Marcia Gelman in the Opening Credits; Right: Marcia Gelman in “The Sniper”
Kathy Denny Fradella

More than anything else, the identity of the brunette at the front of the “running nurses” scene has baffled fans of M*A*S*H for years. In January 2009 I stumbled upon the following question and answer in the “TV Talkback” section of the May 26th, 1978 edition of The Los Angeles Times [1]. Someone wrote in with the following question:

On the opening sequence of MASH there is a brunette nurse out front and running fast toward the chopper pad. Can you tell us who she is? My husband is quite taken with her.
F.R., San Diego

Will you believe this? Even 20th Century-Fox, where the series is filmed, doesn’t know. That opening sequence was filmed seven years ago when the series began. The studio had an “extra call,” with the union supplying several extras for nonspeaking roles in backgrounds scenes. Several girls were picked for that opening scene and instructed to run toward the cameras. After they were paid, that’s all they did that day. So if that brunette is out there in the Hollywoods somewhere, please identify yourself so that F.R.’s hubby will be happy.

Thankfully, about a month later in the April 16th, 1978 edition of the paper, the brunette in question did write in to identify herself [2]. Here’s what she had to say:

I was delighted that someone out there wondered who I was? (TV Talkback, March 26). Yes, I’m the brunette on the opening title shot of “MASH” seen running towards the camera. It was seven years ago that I ran out of that tent toward the helicopter pad at 20th Century-Fox ranch. The producer was Gene Reynolds. He lined up about 20 girls and we literally raced for the job. I had run in high school, so I was more than eager to compete. I’ve since acted in various series, “Kojak,” “Starsky & Hutch” and others. Thanks again, and thanks to F.R., of San Diego, for asking.
Kathy Denny Fradella,
Van Nuys.

During the closing credits to the installment of E! TV Tales focusing on M*A*S*H (originally aired April 21st, 2002) Gene Reynolds explained that while working on the opening credits, each time the sequence with the “running nurses” was filmed, the brunette would invariably wind up in front. Now we know why: they were running for the right to be in the opening credits and Kathy Denny Fradella was a fast runner.

Kathy Denny Fradella in the Opening Credits Kathy Denny Fradella in the Opening Credits
Kathy Denny Fradella in the Opening Credits

In February 2008 Mary sent me an e-mail that suggested actress Michele Lee — famous for her role on the prime time soap Knot’s Landing — might be the brunette in the opening credits to M*A*S*H. Mary heard Ms. Lee say in a television interview years ago that she was the nurse at the front during the opening credits and that she is paid a small amount of royalties for her the use of her image. This contradicts the information from The Los Angeles Times.

Furthermore, on September 8th, 2009 I received an e-mail from none other than Kathy Fradella herself confirming that she was indeed the brunette at the front of the “running nurses.” Here’s what she had to say:

Hello my name is Kathy Fradella (Baker) I am the brunette nurse that runs in the front during the opening credits of mash. I stumbled across your website and thought I would comment, just in case you still thought it was Michele Lee. I worked on the show as an extra the first season. I went on to do stunt work and small bit parts as an actress. I am still living in Southern California. Since Mash I have married and had two children (grown up now).

I am no longer working in the film industry.

I hope this solves the puzzle.

Thank You!
Kathy (Mystery Nurse)

Kathy was also kind enough to send me two pictures of herself with permission to post them:

Kathy Denny Fradella Headshot Kathy Denny Fradella Headshot
Kathy Denny Fradella Headshots

I asked if she had any memories of her time spent on M*A*S*H and she recounted the following:

One memory I do have is how awfully hot it was shooting at the Malibu ranch. It must have been 105 degrees out there in the summer time. With all the army gear on,hats,boots and all we would be miserable. So we would have water fights when we were waiting for the crew to line up the next shot.

Water fights with the likes of Alan Alda and Loretta Swit? Sounds like a fun time.

Sheila Lauritsen

In November 2009, Josh posted in the comments that the blonde nurse running up front is none other than Sheila Lauritsen (you can read more about her in the Same Face, Different Name section). I had wondered if Lauritsen was the blonde in the opening credits but wasn’t certain. Thanks to Josh, now we know for sure. And he should know. Sheila Lauritsen is his mother.

Sheila Lauritsen in the Opening Credits Sheila Lauritsen in Dear Dad...Three
Left: Sheila Lauritsen in the Opening Credits; Right: Sheila Lauritsen in “Dear Dad… Three”
Lori Noel

The nurse on the right in the background with dark hair and a hat was a background extra named Lori Noel Brokamp (known during her time working on M*A*S*H as Lori Noel). She had this to say about her experience in August 2013:

The piece of film in the credits was shot before the first program aired. The director picked several of us to run up the hill towards the fictional helicopter. I ran as hard as I could and was still nearly last. We had to shot [sic] this scene five or six times. None of us received residuals, who knew it would still be aired after all these years.

The MASH show brought in a surgeon as technical adviser that trained us to handle surgical instruments. For some reason, I was really skilled at doing that and I passed instruments to all the television doctors; Marcus Welby, Bold Ones, Emergency, and Medical Center. Thank you MASH!

Years later, I ran into Gary Burgoff in Seattle, Washington at an art show and talked with him about the MASH Show and about his artwork (since I am an artist myself); and never knew he painted. He paints birds.

Sadly, Lori passed away on December 15th, 2014 a few days shy of her 74th birthday.

(Note: This nurse was originally identified as Sandra Hull.)

Lori Noel Brokamp in the Opening Credits Lori Noel in the Opening Credits
Lori Noel in the Opening Credits
Running Nurses in “M*A*S*H — The Pilot”

During the uncut and extended opening credits to the first episode of M*A*S*H (“M*A*S*H – The Pilot,” originally broadcast September 17th, 1972) Lt. Dish, played by Karen Philip, is seen leading a large group of nurses — including Leslie Scorch, played by Linda Meiklejohn — out of the nurses quarters. There appear to be at least eight nurses running out of the nurses quarters, if not more. This scene, and the extended opening sequence as a whole, has been cut from most syndicated airings.

Lt. Dish & Nurses, from M*A*S*H — The Pilot Episode Lt. Dish & Nurses, from M*A*S*H — The Pilot Episode
Lt. Dish & Nurses, from “M*A*S*H — The Pilot Episode”

References:

1 “TV Talkback.” Los Angeles Times. 26 Mar. 1978: N27.
2 “TV Talkback.” Los Angeles Times. 16 Apr. 1978: P4.

Last updated January 18th, 2015

58 Comments

  • Roy says:

    I just started watching Mash again after all these years. I had missed so many episodes due to work at the time. The questions of who these nurses were just happened to pop in my head. Surprise to find out after all these years. Even in reruns it’s still better then many a program on TV today.

    • Martin says:

      For as long as the TV show MASH plays, people will be wondering about the beautiful, athletic running nurse leading the pack, Mrs. Kathy Denny Fradella. Like wow!

  • 'Se says:

    FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!! Ever since M*A*S*H started, I always wondered who the “Running Nurses” were. To this
    date, I’m still watching re-runs of MASH on Memorable Entertainment (ME) Television, and still wondering, but,
    NOT NO MORE. Thanks

  • 'Se says:

    Thanks for my posting. Now, does anybody knows how can I get the whole package of M*A*S*H dvd’s?

  • Samantha Lucas says:

    Who are the Names of the Nurses on mash 4077 series I know hot lips runs the Nurses I just need the reast of them the real Names.

  • John Hayden says:

    Immediately fell in luv 1st time I saw the opening. Always wondered who Kathy was. Many years later, as I served with the Fire Dept., we would frequently comment as we ran to the trucks, or ran to a “code red” that this was like the running nurses from MASH! I guess in a sense it was a little bit of inspiration, typically at the time of day (night) when the streets were empty and quiet and other than those in trouble, no one knew we were out there. Kathy – hope all is well with you and yours.

  • I am a writer/producer and have been in this industry for many years.

    Respectfully, but there is no question but that the nurse in the background with dark hair and a hat (on the left)is not Sandra Hull as stated above.

    Her name in fact is Lori Noel, and she was a screen extra for many years. Today she is retired and her last name is Brokamp.

    You will be pleased to know that, with the exception of gray hair, she looks very much like she did back then.

    Lori was a second mother to me for many yearsand we used to laugh often over her “celebrity appearance” at the front of the M.A.S.H. credits. We even once saw a screen capture on a McDonalds Menu Board.

    I’ll be happy to send you past and present photos of Lori upon request and to put you in touch with her.

    Sincerely yours,

    Tyler St. Mark

  • Ray Dolan says:

    Sorry “nurse Running” ID’d as Shiela Lauritsen, not so. No offense to son who made the claim but the petite Ms. Lauritsen could not be the tall, broad, full faced nurse running. Only thing in common is blond hair. Would very much like to know who the person may be but it is not Ms. Lauritsen. Suspect she may have be a member of the support team (make up or something) who was asked to fill in a spot.

  • WHAT A BUNCH OF GOOD LOOKING NURSE ‘S WHAT A PITY THEY HAD TO BE SPIOLED BY MR ALAN ALDA .
    AFTER TRAPER LEFT THE SHOW I QUIT WARCHING THE THE SORRY. MR ALAN ALDA SHOW

  • sambalsemo says:

    katty you are beatiful I also hav e adaughter named katty and she is also beautiful We are both of itaian heritage. wouol you please mail me an outograhed picture of you thnaks

  • Matthew H. in Boston says:

    I recently watched an episode of Hawaii Five-O. There was a beautiful main character. A fairly tall blonde. I missed her name in the credits, but thought I recognized her from MASH.

    I am in my mid fifties and have never once watched a full episode of MASH.

    I decided to try and find the name of that blonde. I haven’t found her, but did stumble upon this site. Wow, there is something for everyone out in cyberspace! A web site devoted to those sprinting nurses in the opening of each show.

    EVERY time I see MASH coming on, without fail, I stop to watch the beautiful brunette at the head of the pack. I glance at her pretty face (even though it’s very brief and she is stressed from sprinting), but then I admire her perfect hips. (Hey, no other guy here mentioned that.) Even the fabric looks soft on her hips. I love brunettes and I’m a little partial towards Italian girls. I always admired how pretty she is. “Kathy” is one of my favorite names, too. Yep, that girl up front running is a beauty!

    I am an Extra in the Boston area, as well. I hope Kathy reads this. She must have this site in her Favorites and checks-in every now and then.

  • RICHARD WOLFE says:

    I am now happy to find out who the brunette nurse is. She should have been in far more episodes and she sure can run!

  • Adam says:

    Any real MASH fan should’ve recognized Gwen! Not as big a name as Dish, Scortch or Kelly, but still in a lot of episodes.

  • Joe says:

    Thanks for your research.
    After all these years, it’s nice to know the name of the woman I was in love with through my years in college.
    Kathy Denny Fratella.
    I have all 11 seasons on DVD and have seen that particular scene thousands of times.
    Thanks again.

  • Grenville says:

    Like many of the folks who commented on this page I too now watch M*A*S*H nightly as on True Entertainment channel having watched the series years ago and I am so pleased it isn’t just me who wanted to know who the girls were who run at the beginning of each episode. I still get a kick out of watching these shows and now I can say, “hey I know who those girls are”. Thank you for making an old man happy.

  • robin cain says:

    I didn’t have the chance to view Mash due to remote conditions here in Australia when it was prime time, now I can watch it 5 days a week from 6.30 to 7.30 . I love the way you are running toward the helicopter ,tears start running .Hope you are well. Cheers Robin

  • Jim Patterson says:

    I watch Mash every nite. Love the running nurses, especilly Kathy.Really heats up an ole mans blood Good to know ure having a good life.God bless you and yours!

  • It is with deep sadness I inform you that Lori Noel Brokamp (who was the brunette nurse holding her hat on the far right side of the celebrated photo) passed over Monday night, December 15, 2014, 3 days prior to her 74th birthday.
    Lori had been battling brain cancer with extraordinary courage for four years. She was a talented actress, artist, musician, and an awesome mom! She had many wonderful memories of her days as a background player and, in particular, her years performing on M.A.S.H. She was always greatly amused to think that her few seconds running while holding her hat for dear life was perhaps her greatest screen moment.

    • G S says:

      This is sad news. Amazing how people can touch the lives of others in such small but important ways. My sincerest condolences to you and family.

      G.

    • KBR says:

      I had the privilege of meeting Lori and seeing her in action over the last couple years, playing the piano and sketching. I think it’s time that this website change the Sandra Hull credit to Lori (per your comment July 5th, 2013 – although you say on the left in that comment, and on the right this comment).

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