Nurses of the 4077th: The Running Nurses in 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


100 Replies to “Nurses of the 4077th: The Running Nurses in the Opening Credits”

  1. been smitten with you kathy for evah,,enjoyed findin who ya,ll are ,i STLL want,,my daddy went to scholo with loretta swit,he,s also from passaic NJ,,anyway,,love ya still kathy as i do ALL the ladies from then mmmm (((wolfekisssssss)))

  2. I met Kathy in 1964 when we moved to the “91723”. She was already the Finest Kind(est) all those years ago.She and her sister set me straight as to why the Rolling Stones were better than the Beatles. Never forgot that, or the Fradellas. Nice family.Nice memory!

    1. I was always fond of Sheila Lauritsen. I always look for her in the background of early episodes. Did she do any other acting? Can gneral info of her be found anywhere. Tell her she has a fan. 🙂

    2. Hey Josh,
      Good to see you here. I knew Sheila in college and she has always been a beautiful blonde and is so today. Tell her hello when you see her and that I am marrying my high school sweetheart. She will get a kick out of that I am sure.
      Happy Holidays,
      Greg Erkins

  3. I have admired the leading running nurse on the Mash program for years. Always wondered who she is and is she still alive. Thanks, Lowell Stuessy

  4. The nurse in the background on the right – dark hair with hat, was my mother, Sandra Hull. She was an unnamed extra. She also did some lighting work for Raquel Welch and Margo Thomas. She is no longer in the business.

  5. Josh, thanks for the info on your Mother. For years I have wondered who the blonde was. I never realized she was Sheila Lauritsen who was also in “The Incubator” episode. Is your Mother still acting as I have never seen her in anything else. My wife and I are big M.A.S.H. fans.

  6. I was hoping that Kathy Fradella would leave her email address (or other) so that I could ask her for an autograph. I am an avid MASH memorabilia collector, and would be HONORED to have her autograph!

    Thank you, Kathy!

    Mike

      1. Kathy, THANK YOU! I sent you an email this afternoon. I was surprised to see your response, as I had checked a few times since I posted. Many thanks!

        Mike

      2. i kathy i loved watching mash i didnt know u were an actor on my name is jerry from colorado hopefully we can chat some day maybe

      3. i would love to here about your experience on mash sometime if u dont mind going back through ur memories

      4. The internet is amazing!!! Ever since I’ve gotten MeTV and been watching M*A*S*H I’ve been wondering if I could find those running ladies from the show. Especially Kathy because she looks so good running – like she’s really moving.

        I finally googled and found this site. Good to know!!!!

  7. I went to college with Karen Phillip at University of Redlands. She was an outstanding performer and friend, was a singer with Brasil ’66 and could, by the way, knit incredible sweaters.

    1. Hi Russ

      I too went to UR with Karen and remember her for filling sweaters more than knitting them.

      http://www.myspace.com/karenphilipp/comments

      http://members.dobie.net/pages/area-2279/page-1/sexy-karen-philipp-new-picture.html

      She went on to marry movie producer Pat Proft, with whom she had a son. They currently reside in Minnesota.

      Philipp was born in Salina, Kansas.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Philipp

      Just thought you might like to have some info about our classmate.

    1. You have a good fanbase here in India too. You are like the Nurse in “V-J Day in Times Square” – Identity much sought after. Nice to put a name to the face.

      God Bless.

    2. How did you work with Loretta Swit was she work you hard and was she ruff on you and every nurses to.and mean to did she work every nurses hard.to she was bossie and rode and pursh you Lady’s around what rank are you in mash and what nurses did you play in mash. Samantha Lucas

  8. I grew up watching MASH on UK TV and always wondered who the stunning, athletic brunette was in the opening titles.
    I’m now watching MASH reruns on satellite and still wondered who the nurse was. I thought I bet it is somewhere on the net and thankfully found this site, so thanks to those who did the research.
    I saw Kathy’s e-mail address here and sent a brief e-mail to thank her for appearing in the opening credits. She sent me an e-mail back the same day (which made my day). I was surprised that I got an e-mail, if I’d known she would reply I would have asked a few questions. However at the grand old age of 44 I’d never sent fan mail before and didn’t want to bother her too much.
    Perhaps taking the time out to reply to people about something that happened nearly 40 years ago (with no financial incentive for her) is the sign of true star quality!
    If anyone wants a graphic on screen definition of determination and striving to be first, Kathy running, is it.
    I hope if there are any MASH 40th anniversary programmes or articles produced someone remembers to include Kathy as I’d love to hear what she has to say and what she looks like now.

  9. I have ALWAYS wondered who the beautiful woman running in front was! When MASH is on I always pause what I’m doing to watch her run.

    Nice to know the name of a real beauty!!

    Hi Kathy, I am a fan, always will be!

  10. Hi, I’m writing from Stockholm, Sweden.

    This morning I read an article in the biggest Swedish newspaper about a Swedish woman in her 40’s that had discovered how nice fitness is after a life without it. Now she has lost 12 kilos in 1½ year and she said (my translation): “You know that woman that runs in the intro of Mash, she that looks so strong and cool. I dreamed about being her when I was young, but I never thought it would be possible. Now I have run the half marathon and soon I’m about to do orientation in the mountains-I’m just like her!”

    So Kathy is still inspiring, worldwide 🙂

    (the aricle, so you believe me, if you know swedish: http://www.dn.se/livsstil/jag-blev-kvinnan-jag-dromde-om-att-vara)

  11. Have a set of 4 MASH tall drinking glasses with the pictures of the characters on them. Would you know where I might find someone who is interested in purchasing them?

  12. the running nurses, particularly the lead set the tone for my mash… with their intensity to help these soldiers set the underlying tone that this was real war with real wounded and dying. without the intensity it would have been a farce and too close too home.

  13. Tonight while sitting and watching reruns of MASH on TV I decided to Google the cast lineup. The first thing that came up was this fantastic photo of the nurses running for the chopper pad in the opening credits.

    I always have to take a cold shower after watching that scene. I’m betting I’m not the only guy out there who fell in love with Kathy Fradella when they first ever saw her. They are all beautiful……..Kathy was just faster. And she makes your eyes happy!!

  14. My wife and I were just watching a rerun of MASH and I told her to watch the beginning of the show because there’s a beautiful girl that’s shown running toward the helicopter that I had fallen in love with when I was a young fan of the show. I had asked around over the years and nobody could tell me who she was. After watching this rerun I decided maybe now that it’s been so long ago that her identity might be found on google.com so I went to the computer and sure enough the first hit I found this site and there she was…Kathy Denny Fradella. Oh well Kathy my love it just wasn’t meant to be I guess. Maybe I’ll catch you in the next life. lol

    Greg

  15. Does anyone know if any of the red robes worn by alan alda in mash is available for sale?
    I have a 20 year old grandson deployed to the “bad place” overseas. he thinks it would be too cool if he could get a robe like
    hawkeyes. thanks much.

    1. I have also been looking for that red robe for my husband who wants one. I thought I’d design a pattern for it and sew it myself. If you sew, you could probably make one. It looks like red brushed corderoy, and partly a basic collar shirt design with a partial pleat in the back, without cuffs, loose fitting, long, with pockets, and with a cord strung around the collar, and of course an emblem. I’ll let you know if it turns out. Let me know too if you find one.

  16. Every time I watched the original “MASH” and even now the reruns of “MASH” the first thing that has rolled out of my mouth for years is “I wonder who the brunette nurse running in the front is??” Today my wife sent me this link and I have to say that now I can say when watching is “God, Kathy is GORGEOUS” – I’m glad to hear that Kathy is married and has children, I know she has a very lucky husband and after reading a bit about Kathy I find that she seems to be everything I thought she’d be, which I always felt she just had to be, how could any man not fall in Love with Kathy — I’ve been happily married to the same woman for 44 years, but my grandson sometime would ask if I didn’t marry his grandmother who would I want to meet and marry, I always would say, the brunette nurse that is running at the beginning of MASH and if she called me today, I’d be gone (ha, just kidding, maybe), no, still in love with my wife — Glad the puzzle has been solved, mystery woman identified –Thanks much for the info —

  17. Kathy I am a retired male Army Nurse and every time I see you ladies run; I still tiink of being in the MASH, CASH, and EVAC hospitals. The facial expressions and the tone of that sprint communicates all. This triage image remains a reality today for any mass cal event. May I have an autograft please. I will email you my request.

    Thank you

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