For years someone (or multiple someones) has been selling four scripts said to be unfilmed episodes of M*A*S*H, with the following titles, writers, drafts and dates:
- “Father Hawkeye Knows Best” – Len Kaplan & Frank Ridgeway – 2nd Draft (March 3rd, 1972)
- “Peace is Hell” – Daryl G. Nickens – 1st Draft (November 1st, 1981)
- “The Contract” – Mac Ness – 3rd Draft (July 19th, 1978)
- “Toast to Mildred” – John Charles – 1st Draft (March 1st, 1981)
I haven’t read any of these scripts, so I can’t speak to their quality. A quick search of the Internet Movie Database reveals that Daryl G. Nickens began writing for television in the mid-to-late 1980s for shows like Benson, Webster and A Different World, while Frank Ridgeway is credited as a writer for The Mumbly Cartoon Show and The New Tom & Jerry Show in the mid-1970s as well as later programs. So at the very least these two are real people. I couldn’t find IMDb entries for Len Kaplan, Mac Ness or John Charles but it stands to reason they’re real people as well.
None of the authors of these “unfilmed” scripts are credited with writing an episode of M*A*S*H. So are these actual scripts that could have been filmed but weren’t? It’s possible that instead they’re “spec” scripts, written by aspiring scriptwriters to prove they can successfully write for an existing show, capturing the tone and feel of the characters. In other words, they were never intended to be filmed. Note that the script Daryl G. Nickens is said to have written, “Peace is Hell,” is dated November 1st, 1981. According to his Internet Movie Database entry, his first writing credit is for a 1983 episode of Benson. So “Peace is Hell” could have been a spec script he wrote while he was trying to get a scriptwriting job.
I can’t say with any certainty what these four so-called “unfilmed” scripts are. It’s possible they’re complete fakes. If anyone has purchased an “unfilmed” M*A*S*H script please let me know.
There were scripts written for M*A*S*H, paid for, and then never produced. In an April 2001 post to the alt.tv.mash newsgroup, Larry Gelbart explained that during the first four seasons — his tenure on M*A*S*H — eight scripts were “paid for but never filmed, considered too poor” (read his post here). Quality is one reason a commissioned script may not be filmed. The potential cost of filming a script is another. So is controversy.
One unproduced script, “Hawkeye on the Double,” can be found on the second disc of bonus features released as part of the Martinis and Medicine Collection in 2006 (as well as the standalone Goodbye, Farewell & Amen/bonus discs set released in 2007). Written by Stanley Ralph Ross, the script is a revised final draft dated November 3rd, 1972, meaning it was written for the first season. In Suzy Kalter’s The Complete Book of M*A*S*H, Gene Reynolds states that this was the only script rejected by CBS because it “implied dalliance and we couldn’t do that” . Personally, while the script was amusing, it made Hawkeye appear incredibly cruel, so perhaps its for the best that it was never filmed.
“Hawkeye on the Double” and a number of other unproduced scripts are part of the Gene Reynolds Collection of Television Scripts and Production Material, part of the Performing Arts Special Collections at the Charles E. Young Research Library at the University of California, Los Angeles. Here are all titles for all the unproduced scripts that I found:
“War’s a Grind”
Ronald Rubin & Michael Zagor
Dated February 17th, 1972
“The Fighting 4077th” (Prod. J-341)
Richard M. Powell
Dated August 11th, 1972
“Hawkeye on the Double” (Prod. J-352)
Stanley Ralph Ross
Dated November 3rd, 1972
“Yankees 7 – North Korea 8”
Gary John Markowitz
Dated November 30th, 1973
“Hawkeye, Go Home”
Dated April 20th, 1974
“A Matter of Time”
Allan Katz & Don Reo
Dated March 26th & April 3rd, 1974
Elias Davis & David Pollack
Dated March 22nd, 1974
“The Key” (aka “Hawkeye for the Defense”)
Phil Hahn & Jim Mulligan
Dated May 24th, 1974
Dated July 24th, 1974
“Up the Flagpole”
Dated April 14th, 1976
Notice that both “Hawkeye on the Double” and “The Fighting 4077th” have been given production codes like those used during the first season of M*A*S*H. That could mean they came close to being filmed, although the production codes in question (J-341 and J-352) would mean these would have been the 41st and 52nd episodes of the first season, respectively. The Larry Gelbart Papers, also held at the Performing Arts Special Collections at the Charles E. Young Research Library at the University of California, Los Angeles, includes final draft copy of “The Fighting 4077th”, dated May 26th, 1972, as well as revisions dated June 13th, August 11th and August 14th. All those revisions also suggest that the episode was being prepared for filming before getting tossed out.
It’s possible that some of these unproduced scripts were later retitled and filmed but there’s no way of knowing for sure without reading the scripts themselves. With the exception of the final unproduced script, all of the scripts are from the first four seasons of M*A*S*H and there are nine of them. Larry Gelbart said there were eight, so he was pretty darn close. None of the four “unfilmed” scripts sold on eBay are mentioned in either the Gene Reynolds Collection or the Larry Gelbart Papers, further suggesting that they were never going to be produced.
Are there other unproduced scripts out there? Probably not from the first four seasons but perhaps from later seasons not well represented in the Gene Reynolds Collection. UCLA also has a collection of M*A*S*H scripts from 1972-1982 that were donated by producer Burt Metcalfe in 1985, but no online finding aid is available. I’d love to be able to read some of these unproduced scripts but California is really far away.