Larry Linville, ‘M*A*S*H’ Star, Dies at 60
Larry Linville, best known for his portrayal of the sniveling Maj. Frank Burns on the CBS TV show “M*A*S*H,” died Monday in New York at age 60.
Linville suffered from cancer and had a lung removed in 1998 after a malignant tumor was discovered. Longtime manager Barry M. Greenberg of Los Angeles said Linville was hospitalized Sunday and died of complications of pneumonia.
Linville was a native of Ojai, and had been living in New York.
“He was wonderfully refreshing and irreverent but always a very talented and professional guy,” Greenberg said. “He took this cancer thing better than anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Linville was part of a breakout cast that made “M*A*S*H” one of the longest-running shows on TV. He starred with Alan Alda, Gary Burghoff, Loretta Swit and Wayne Rogers as part of an ensemble that launched the show in 1972, following the hit movie of the same name.
The show, at times with comedy, at times with stark political commentary, detailed life at the 4077th Mobil Army Surgical Hospital, where Linville was a whiny, military stickler smitten with “Hotlips” Houlihan, the head nurse (played by Swit).
Much of the show’s early action revolved around the antics of tent mates Burns, Hawkeye Pierce (played by Alda) and Trapper John McIntyre (Rogers). But the show also took on serious topics of war and bloodshed, often seemingly more relevant to the Vietnam War than the conflict in Korea.
Three years ago when the U.S. military closed the mobile hospital in South Korea that inspired the movie, Linville and other cast members attended the ceremony, as an Army band played the TV show’s theme song.
“It’s humbling to be here,” Linville said of the real unit, where doctors sometimes operated on more than a 150 patients a day. “We were like a plastic representation of the real people--and these are the real people.”
The show, filmed in Southern California, touched a chord with its mix of humanity and mayhem.
“I think it was popular because it placed people visibly in positions we are in every day--being asked to do something without the resources, being asked to do a task that seems hopeless,” David Ogden Stiers, who played the wealthy and pompous Maj. Winchester, once said.
The series ended in 1983 but still is being shown in reruns.
“You’ve been stupid in 100 languages,” the show’s writer-producer, Larry Gelbart, told Linville at the reception following the South Korea ceremony.
Linville left “M*A*S*H” after the fifth season. He went on to guest star on numerous TV series and had roles in “Grandpa Goes to Washington,” “Checking In” and “Paper Dolls.”
Linville, who died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, is survived by his wife, Deborah Linville.