As part of a tremendously talented ensemble cast on MAS*H, David Ogden Stiers was the sort of actor who demonstrated through wit and complete commitment that there was always room for a sharp new talent. As supporting character Maj. Charles Winchester III, the actor showed that he was one of those industry enigmas who proved with grace that there truly is no role too small to shine. His co-stars, colleagues and close friends on the show recognized this and mourn the loss of this rare talent who passed away on March 3.
MAS*H co-star Loretta Swit released a statement saying, “It is 𝕕𝕖𝕧𝕒𝕤𝕥𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘, always, to lose one of us. He was an extraordinary person, a gifted actor, phenomenal musician, and my sweet, dear shy friend, who 𝕜𝕚𝕕𝕕𝕚𝕟𝕘𝕝𝕪 called me Letitia. Working with him was an adventure. He was exceptional. I’m 𝕙𝕦𝕣𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘. We all are.”
On Twitter, another MAS*H co-star weighed in. Alan Alda shared this heartfelt remembrance: “David Ogden Stiers. I remember how you skateboarded to work every day down busy L.A. streets. How, once you glided into Stage 9, you were Winchester to your core. How gentle you were, how kind, except when devising the most vicious practical jokes. We love you, David. Goodbye.”
MASH writer Kevin Levine shares a story in his blog about how The Mary Tyler Moore Show helped MASH producers discover Stiers. “I first met David in 1976 when he guest-starred in an episode of The Tony Randall Show that my partner, David Isaacs, and I wrote. He played a radio talk show host named Robert W. Cleaver. He was naturally hilarious. That same year he also guested on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and MAS*H executive producer Burt Metcalfe had seen him and was impressed.”
You probably remember Stiers as Mel Price on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, because he was the stammering t-t-tough guy at the top of WJM who Lou Grant had to answer to because Stiers’ character couldn’t handle the p-p-pressure of working in the studio. In his first appearance in the episode “Look at Us, We’re Walking,” Lou and Mary Richards show up in Price’s office to ask for a raise, and Stiers is masterful, stealing the spotlight from the show’s two biggest stars, with an effective stutter and hilarious hand gestures.
Perhaps the person closest to Stiers in show business, though, was his agent, Mitchell Stubbs, who released this statement: “My dear friend and client of 30 years is gone. David had wisdom and talent in so many different areas. I wish people could know the beautiful heart that he had. His friends and family knew, as he told us so.”