A Salute to George Morgan

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When M*A*S*H premiered on September 17th, 1972, viewers were introduced (per the opening credits) to Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, McLean Stevenson, Larry Linville, Loretta Swit and Gary Burghoff. Guest stars in that first episode included G. Wood as General Hammond, Patrick Adiarte as Ho-Jon, Karen Phillip as Lt. Dish and George Morgan as Father Mulcahy. George Morgan? Who’s that? I thought William Christopher played the good father?

George Morgan as Father Mulcahy in M*A*S*H--The Pilot

George Morgan as Father Mulcahy in “M*A*S*H–The Pilot”

George Morgan (not to be confused with country singer George Morgan) played Father Mulcahy for the first and only time in “M*A*S*H – The Pilot.” When the character resurfaced in the third episode, “Requiem for a Lightweight,” William Christopher had taken over the role. It’s not uncommon for actors who appeared in a pilot episode to be replaced once it has been picked up by a network. In the unaired pilot episode of Gilligan’s Island, for example, the characters played by Tina Louise, Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells do not appear. When the pilot was picked up, however, they were added to the cast.

George Morgan as Father Mulcahy in M*A*S*H--The Pilot

George Morgan as Father Mulcahy in “M*A*S*H–The Pilot”

When CBS picked up M*A*S*H, and the producers were faced with the prospect of a weekly series, they decided to replace George Morgan. I assume, but don’t know for sure, that George Morgan auditioned for the role of Father Mulcahy when the pilot episode was under production, and he obviously got it. (I’ve read that when William Christopher came in to audition for the role, he ignored the material prepared for him and instead improvised a priestly speech. But I can’t find any source for this, be it a newspaper/magazine article or a television interview. Was it something he mentioned during a retrospective or documentary special about M*A*S*H? If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.)

George Morgan didn’t have any lines in “M*A*S*H – The Pilot,” at least none that I’ve managed to catch during numerous viewings. Here’s a breakdown of all the scenes that he appeared in:

  • Prior to the extended opening credits, Father Mulcahy is seen napping in front of his tent. He crosses himself while asleep.
  • During the extended opening credits, Father Mulcahy can briefly be seen in a mass of people including Hawkeye and Lt. Dish.
  • In the O.R., as Hawkeye narrates a letter to his father, Father Mulcahy is seen in the background; Trapper later calls for some “cross action” and Mulcahy comes running.
  • He does not show up again until he is seen waving goodbye to Colonel Blake at the chopper pad.
  • He watches as Hawkeye throws a rock at the loudspeaker after an announcement is made confining everyone to duty the following night, on the order’s of Frank Burns.
  • At Ho-Jon’s party, Father Mulcahy is seen several times in the background.
  • While standing next to Hawkeye, he takes a drink and nearly gags.
  • Finally, when Hawkeye announces that he is the winner of the raffle, Father Mulcahy is shown with an incredulous expression on his face.

Additionally, following the tag scene, when the PA announcer lists off the “personnel assigned to the 4077th mobile army surgical hospital,” George Morgan is the fourth-to-last name. The scene in which Father Mulcahy crosses himself while asleep is repeated as his name is called by the announcer.

George Morgan as Father Mulcahy in M*A*S*H--The Pilot

George Morgan as Father Mulcahy in “M*A*S*H–The Pilot”

Despite only playing the role of Father Mulcahy in one episode, George Morgan can actually be seen in the opening credits to every episode. If you watch closely, he is shown crouching, hat in his hand, next to Radar as Hawkeye runs toward a chopper.

Cowboy Bug Out

Left: “Cowboy”; Right: “Bug Out”

Why was George Morgan replaced? Here’s what series creator/executive producer Larry Gelbart wrote in a May 1999 post to the alt.tv.mash Usenet group:

For reasons having nothing to with that gentleman’s ability, Gene Reynolds and I decided [to] go with Bill Christopher in the role.

And here’s what Gelbart wrote in August of 2002 (I can’t find the original post, but it was quoted in full in a November 2002 post by someone else)

George Morgan is a perfectly fine actor. We wanted someone who had a quirkier personality – one we wouldn’t have to write into the script.

According to his Internet Movie Database entry, George Morgan made only one additional television appearance after “M*A*S*H – The Pilot,” in an episode of ABC’s Wide World Mystery in January of 1973. And he only had a handful of earlier credits, including a pair of episodes of Bonanza and an episode of The Interns (which co-starred Mike Farrell).

It’s impossible to imagine how different M*A*S*H would have been had George Morgan not been replaced by William Christopher. Viewers are obviously used to seeing William Christopher as Father Mulcahy and the thought of anyone else playing him seems strange. Still, part of me wonders how George Morgan would have handled a line like the following:

I’m incensed! I am outraged! Where is your decency, man? Your humanity? I am acrimonious! I am not a man given to physical demonstrations of emotion, but let me tell you, I can be persuaded to violence.

(That’s from “Fallen Idol,” by the way.)

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15 Replies to “Characters Played by More than One Actor”

  1. Mr. Kwang, the bartender at the officer’s club was played by Clyde Kusatsu in “Henry in Love”, and “Officer’s Only” (the character is “Kwang Duk” in the credits, however Hawkeye refers to him as “Mr. Kwang” when ordering a drink, as Korean names are sirname first, followed by a given name) – and also by Leland Sun in “There is nothing like a nurse” (when the character is only “Mr. Kwang” in the credits).

  2. I didn’t like Rosie when Eileen Saki took over the role… her portrayal of Rosie made the character seem like she was trying to act like those stereotypical sharp-tongued, smartassy waitresses you see on TV all the time.

  3. Did anybody notice that in Jeff Maxwell’s only appearance as Igor in Season Six, his dialogue was re-dubbed by Johnny Haymer for some reason?

    1. Haymer also dubbed in the voice of the mustached soldier at the aid station in “Mulcahy’s War”. This always baffled me.

  4. OK, and we all know about the recurring nurses, who have different names but the same faces. But with regards to Nurse Able, and Nurse Baker – I think I have them all identified by episode. There was only ONE occurrence of a Nurse Charlie that I could find – played by Kellye Nakahara in Bulletin Board.

    Nurse Able

    • Gwen Farrell – “Dear Ma”
    • Kelly Nakahara – “A full rich day”
    • Sherry Steffans – “The Late Captain Pierce”, “Dear Mildred”
    • Bobbie Mitchell – “Iron Guts Kelly” and “O.R.”
    • Lois Foraker – “Of Moose and Men” and “Deluge”
    • Judy Farrell – “Out of Sight out of Mind”, “Movie Tonight”, “Post Op”, “Margaret’s Marriage”, “Images”, “Ain’t Love Grand”, “Taking the Fifth”, “Goodbye, Farewell, Amen”
    • Lynette Meddey – “Some 38th Parallels”
    • Phyllis Katz – “Hawkeye get your Gun”
    • Susan Bredhoff – “The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan”

    Nurse Baker

    • Bobbi Mitchell – “PayDay”, “House Arrest”, “Mad Dogs and Servicemen”, “There is nothing like a nurse”
    • Patricia Stevens – “Major Ego”, “Your Hit Parade”, “Patent 4077”, “Fallen Idol”, “Margaret’s Marriage”, “Hawks Nightmare”
    • Jan Jorden – “GFA”, “None like it hot”, “Commander Pierce”, “Baby It’s cold outside”, “Point of View”, “Period of Adjustment”, “Taking the Fifth”, “the Moon is not Blue”, “Hot Lips is back in town”.
    • Linda Kelsey – “The Nurses”
    • Lynette Meddey – “The General flipped at Dawn”
    • Jean Powell – “Cowboy”, “As you were”
    • Lynn Marie Stewart – “The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan” “Lt. Radar O’Reilly”

    Did I miss any?

    (Linda Kelsey is also “uncredited” as Baker in “Our Finest Hour” on IMDB, but I think this is misinformation. If anyone can find here in that episode, I would love to know for sure – Thanks!)

    1. Fun fact: Judy Farrell, who played one nurse or another over several episodes, was the then-wife of Mike Farrell, who played B.J. Hunnicut. Their first child, a girl, Erin Farrell, was the inspiration for the name of Hunnicut’s infant daughter of the same name.

    1. Sorry, but did you read the first part of the article? The theme was “CHARACTERS played by more than one ACTOR”. Got it now? Hope this helps clear things up for you. BTW, the pic of Jeff Maxwell with the cannon… I can almost hear him say, “But sir, the angle!” LOL

  5. There was an actor named Mako that played at least 3 different characters on M*A*S*H. I remember him as an officer who wanted Hawkeye to release a North Korean female spy just so he could torture her. He also played a doctor on the front line when Hawkeye went up to help out. He was also a North Korean officer who was involved in the patient swap where Frank Burns, against orders, took a little gun with him.

  6. The actor Mako also played a soldier who was with a kid that had head trauma. He had Hawkeye at gun point trying to save him. The soldier died and Hawkeye helped bury him using his helmet as a shovel.

  7. Dennis Dugan had two roles in ‘Love and Marriage,’ he was part of a marriage scam in order to earn some extra money. In ‘Strange Bedfellows,’ he plays Colonel Potter’s son-in-law

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