Discuss: Favorite Recurring Nurse

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.

007 suggested today’s topic: Who is your favorite recurring nurse character?

There Is Nothing Like A Nurse

Two months ago, we discussed our favorite non-nurse minor character. I intentionally left nurses out of that topic because I wanted to have a separate discussion just about the nurses on M*A*S*H. I’m sure every fan and many casual viewers have their favorite nurse. I know I do.

Of course, it can be a little difficult to talk about nurses because not all of the recurring or minor nurses seen on M*A*S*H had a name. Or if they did, it was shared by numerous nurses. Some actresses appeared multiple times as the same nurse. Others guest starred in numerous episodes but always as a different character.

For example, Kellye Nakahara is known for playing Nurse Kellye on M*A*S*H. She’s probably the most famous minor character. Yet Nakahara was credited in several episodes as Nurse Able, Nurse Charlie, or Nurse Baker. Eventually, the writers decided to give her character a name and a limited backstory.

Gwen Farrell was as one of the “running nurses” in the opening credits and stayed with the series for its entire run. She was credited as Nurse Butler, Nurse Wilson, Nurse Able, Anesthetist, or simply Nurse. She did receive a single credit (“The Life You Save”) as Gwen.

Then there’s Jennifer Davis. Despite being credited in nine episodes, her nurse character was never once given a name. In all her appearances, she’s credited simply as simply Nurse.

So, feel free to discuss either your favorite recurring nurse character or your favorite actress who played multiple nurse characters. Here’s a list:

  • Kellye (Kellye Nakahara)
  • Margie Cutler (Marcia Strassman)
  • Ginger Ballis (Odessa Cleveland)
  • Leslie Scorch (Linda Meiklejohn)
  • Barbara Bannerman (Bonnie Jones)
  • Lt. Dish (Karen Philipp)
  • Lt. Jones (Barbara Brownell)
  • Nurse Able (Judy Farrell)
  • Nurse Baker (Jan Jorden)
  • Nurse Bigelow (Enid Kent)
  • Nurse Shari (Shari Saba)
  • Nurse Jo Ann (Jo Ann Thompson)
  • Nurse Webster (Deborah Harmon)
  • Nurse Lacey (Rita Wilson)
  • Unnamed Nurse (Jennifer Davis)
  • Various Nurses (Gwen Farrell)
  • Various Nurses (Lois Foraker)
  • Various Nurses (Phyllis Katz)
  • Various Nurses (Sheila Lauritsen)
  • Various Nurses (Lynnette Mettey)
  • Various Nurses (Bobbie Mitchell)
  • Various Nurses (Patricia Stevens)

If I’ve forgotten any nurses or actresses, I apologize.

My favorite recurring nurse has to be Margie Cutler, played by the Marcia Strassman (perhaps better known as Mrs. Kotter on Welcome Back, Kotter). Cutler appears in six episodes during Season 1, beginning with a memorable debut in “Requiem for a Lightweight.” She’s quickly established as a love interest for Hawkeye but she’s more than just another pretty nurse. Margie helps Hawkeye and Trapper with their film in “Yankee Doodle Doctor” and later leads a revolt among the nurses in “Edwina.” She makes her final appearance in “Ceasefire” near the end of Season 1. Margie is never seen nor mentioned again, as is the case with several recurring characters dropped after the first season.

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

4 Comments

  • 007 says:

    You forgot the best recurring nurse of all! Lt. Laurie Bates! Laurie appears in more than half of every episode starting around mid season 6 and going into early season 10. She is called by name and credited a few times as Laurie, such as in “Our Finest Hour” when Hawkeye calls her by name. Her most prominent role is arguably the one in “None Like it Hot” where she is wearing the yellow and white striped blouse in the mess line with Hawkeye.

    Always been fascinated by her on the show more than any other nurse. Not really sure why. She just stood out to me as a background nurse, pretty much always being there for almost 5 seasons.

    As far as nurses who had some kind of active role on the show though, I’d have to go with Leslie Scorch from season 1. Despite the fact she was with a married man and knew it, I just always saw her and Henry as such a cute couple.

    It’s really too bad about those season 1 nurses. There were a lot of good ones. Leslie, Margie, Ginger, Dish, etc. Would have been great if they could keep some more of them around throughout the shows run like they did Kellye, and to a lesser extent, Gwen, just to have more continuity and OG faces around besides the main cast.

  • BDOR says:

    Actually, Jennifer Davis was given a name on the show . . . like Roy Goldman, or Kellye Nakahara, her name was . . . Jennifer Davis. In “Abyssinia, Henry,” as Henry is saying a final farewell during formation, he addresses her as “Jennifer,” and as the camp is bugging out in “The Party,” B.J. refers to her as “Davis.” Similarly, Gwen Farrell was refered to as “Gwen” quite often . . . it’s almost as if the writers either got tired of using the same old “Able,” “Baker,” “Charlie” names and just decided screw it, let the actresses be called by their real names.

    I don’t really know if I have a particular favorite nurse, it seems like just about all of them brought something to the show in their own way. Barbara Bannerman was extraordinarily attractive, I can see why both Hawkeye and Trapper had a thing for her . . . and turns out Bonnie Jones was married to Gene Reynolds at the time; as Judy Farrell was to Mike Farrell; and Jan Jordan was Burt Metcalfe’s wife.

    I really feel like Ginger Bayliss should have stayed beyond the first three seasons: not only was she cute as a button, but she brought a little extra diversity to the nursing staff – it was great the way she told off that racist soldier in “Dear Dad Three,” even pulling rank on him; I could easily see her role increasing on the show overtime, much like Kellye. And Kellye was something pretty special too – she may not have done much most of the time other than show up in the background of any given episode – and without any lines – but there was something about her presence on the show that really made her feel like she was just as much a part of the 4077th family just the same.

    Can’t say much about Able, Baker, Shari, Jennifer, Gwen, or some of the others, other than they provided some familiar faces throughout the run of the show in a sense of establishing a more solid and permanent nursing staff. And finally, Bigelow was perhaps the most interesting one of all of them – she almost seemed like Cutler in a sense, in that she didn’t seem to mind putting up with Hawkeye’s advances, despite his womanizing nature . . . well, for the most part anyway.

  • BecLeo1972 says:

    Bigelow. Smart, funny, skilled, and she didn’t mind Hawkeye’s advances and sense of humor. She interacted well with everyone in camp and wasn’t intimidated by Margaret’s tough exterior or Frank being his usual self. Bigelow had grace under pressure as did Kellye who handled life at the 4077th similarly. They both held themselves with strength and quiet dignity and were great to watch through out their time on the series.

  • David G. says:

    Any nurse that was played by Sheila Lauritsen, She may have (unfortunately) been far too much of a background character. But, if you count the opening credits, she does technically appear in every single episode of the series (along with those other 4 “running nurses”). Only other person to do that was Alan Alda!

    Would be cool if that Hollywood Collectors Show event brought together the still-surviving “running nurses” — along with a bunch of other “M*A*S*H” nurses — for one of their special reunion gatherings for one of those autograph shows there!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.