As Trapper John McIntyre alongside Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce, Wayne Rogers brought mischief, martinis and surgery to millions in the 1970s every week on M.A.S.H. The army surgeon was one of the most beloved characters – and half of one of the most beloved duos – in TV history, although the actor appeared in only the first three of the show’s 11 seasons.
The two skilled doctors blew off steam between operations, pulling pranks, wooing nurses and tormenting their uptight tent-mate Frank Burns, with an endless supply of booze and one-liners at the ready. In one classic moment, Trapper reaches out as though he’s checking for rain and says, “Hmm, feels like it’s going to martini,” as Hawkeye passes him a drink. And in another line that typified the show’s ethos, Trapper answers a question with, “How should I know? I dropped out of school to become a doctor.”
McIntyre was on M.A.S.H. from 1972 to 1975, in the part played by Elliott Gould in Robert Altman’s original film version. He became one of many original cast members to leave the hugely popular show that ran until 1983, when its final episode attracted 125m viewers in the US. He was initially considered for Alda’s character, but preferred Trapper’s sunnier disposition to Hawkeye’s darkly acerbic personality.
The characters were essentially equals when the show began, but it increasingly focused on Alda, which was a factor in Rogers’ departure. Rogers also later recalled that the producers wanted to impose a contract that included “an old-fashioned morals clause. It said that, in the eyes of the studio, if you behaved in an immoral fashion, they have the right to suspend you. Well, nobody defined an ‘immoral fashion,’ as it were – so it was at the whim of whoever ran the studio.” Mike Farrell replaced Rogers as Hawkeye’s new colleague, Captain BJ Hunnicut, while Pernell Roberts played the title role in the 1980s spin-off Trapper John, M.D.
An Alabama native and Princeton University graduate, Rogers had parts on many short-lived shows early in his career, specialising in westerns like Law of the Plainsman and Stagecoach West. He had a bit part in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, which starred Paul Newman.
In the years after M.A.S.H. Rogers returned regularly to television, including a recurring role in the early 1990s in Murder, She Wrote, but moved beyond acting to see serious success later in life as a money manager and investor. In 1988 and 1990 he appeared as an expert witness before the House Judiciary Committee to speak in favour of maintaining the Glass-Steagall banking laws of the 1930s. In recent years he was a regular panellist on the Fox News stocks investment programme Cashin’ In.