Wayne Roger passed away on December 31st of complication from pneumonia. Wayne Rogers isn’t the cultural icon as is David Bowie or Alan Rickman (another post later) but for someone like me who has been watch M*A*S*H my entire life, the death of Wayne Rogers hits me at the same level as someone like Leonard Nimoy.
As a fan of M*A*S*H, I am a huge fan of the character of Trapper John McIntyre. I also have to admit that I also absolutely loved Eliot Gould in the role in the movie. I felt bad for Wayne Rogers in that the producers really never allowed the actor to bring the character of Trapper to his full potential and they actually went out of their way to strip the character of the credentials that made the character who he was.
Trapper John had a darker side to him that we didn’t see in the other characters including Hawkeye. My favorite scenes and episodes where when they showed this dark side. It was a short scene when Trapper was writing home to his daughter Becky for her 13th birthday. He was relating a story about he saved the life a soldier who had hypothermia and Frank had pronounced dead. When the flashback scene was done and they came back to Trapper in the officer’s club by a phonograph. In a fit of rage, he slams down on the skipping record.
In my opinion my favorite Trapper Scene was in Radar’s Report. A North Korean soldier broke a bottle of blood in the O.R. near Trappers patient contaminating the field. The soldier wound up with an infection and eventually died from it. Trapper, in a fit of possessed anger went over to where the North Korean soldier was being held and he stood in a trance staring at the blood that the wounded prisoner was getting. While Trapper never moves we can infer that the implication was that he was thinking of killing the North Korean in retribution. Hawkeye comes in and stops him. (I almost think they filmed this in a way that made this Hawkeye’s scene, but that could be because they did that in almost every other case in those first years)
There were other instances where the genius of Trapper comes through, but again, it was not nearly enough. There is a double edge here. If we didn’t lose Trapper, we never would have gotten BJ. BJ’s relationship with Hawkeye was very different. It was more mature. Every time there was a change to the cast, for better or worse, it was more mature. Blake/Potter and Frank/Charles being the other substitutions.
I really would have liked to have seen where they would have brought the show if Wayne Rogers had stayed on. As much as you have to respect Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds, I wish they treated Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers, as well as their respective characters with equal respect. This isn’t to bash Alan Alda or Hawkeye in the slightest, but it would have definitely been a very different show if the relationship of those character more closely matched the movie. I think it would have made those first few years a little better.