Allan Arbus (1918-2013)


Allan Arbus, whose portrayal of psychiatrist Sidney Freedman made him an honorary member of the main cast of M*A*S*H despite only appearing in 12 episodes, passed away on Friday (April 19th) at the age of 95. Arbus made his first appearance in the Season Two episode “Radar’s Report,” where his character was named Milton. Asked to give a Section 8 evaluation of Klinger, Freedman determines he’s a transvestite and a homosexual, a diagnosis Klinger refuses to sign off on.

Allan Arbus in Radar's Report (1973)

Allan Arbus in “Radar’s Report” (1973)

In his next appearance (“Deal Me Out”), the character had been renamed Sidney and was friendly enough with members of the 4077th to be invited to a poker game with Hawkeye, Trapper, Henry, Klinger and Captain Pak (played by Pat Morita). He helped talk down a violent patient (played by John Ritter). His third appearance (“O.R.”) saw him deliver the famous line “Ladies and Gentlemen, take my advice: pull down your pants, and slide on the ice.”

The Season Five episode “Dear Sigmund,” one of two Arbus appeared in that season, was a “letter episode” in which Sidney wrote to Sigmund Freud in an attempt to work through some professional difficulties. It was a showcase for Arbus, allowing him to step to the forefront. A number of times over the course of the series Sidney was brought in to help Hawkeye deal with some deep emotional issues: “Hawk’s Nightmare,” “Bless You Hawkeye” and of course “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.”

With the exception of Season One, Arbus made at least one appearance per season. Here’s a complete list of the episodes he appeared in:

“Radar’s Report” (02×03, September 29th, 1973)
“Deal Me Out” (02×13, December 8th, 1973)
“O.R.” (03×05, October 8th, 1974)
“Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler” (04×09, November 7th, 1975)
“Dear Sigmund” (05×07, November 9th, 1976)
“Hawk’s Nightmare” (05×13, December 21st, 1976)
“War of Nerves” (06×04, October 11th, 1977)
“The Billfold Syndrome” (07×05, October 16th, 1978)
“Goodbye, Cruel World” (08×21, February 11th, 1980)
“Bless You Hawkeye” (09×17, March 16th, 1981)
“Pressure Points” (10×15, February 15th, 1982)
“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” (11×16, February 28th, 1983)

Arbus came to acting late in life. According to the Internet Movie Database, aside from an uncredited role in a 1961 film, his first acting credits came in 1969 when he was 51. Prior to acting, Arbus was a photographer. Some of his early acting. After M*A*S*H ended, Arbus co-starred in a CBS sitcom called The Four Seasons, created by Alan Alda, that lasted just 13 episodes (you read more about the show at Television Obscurities).

Allan Arbus, from the M*A*S*H 30th Anniversary Reunion Special

Allan Arbus, from the M*A*S*H 30th Anniversary Reunion Special

His last acting role was a December 2000 episode of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. In May 2002, Arbus joined the surviving cast and producers for the “M*A*S*H 30th Anniversary Reunion Special” broadcast on FOX. He was one of a number of M*A*S*H veterans on hand to collect the Impact Award for M*A*S*H at the Seventh Annual TV Land Awards in April 2009.

Obituaries can be found at The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Variety.

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