Wayne Rogers, "M*A*S*H" Star and Theatre Producer, Dies at 82

Obituaries   Wayne Rogers, "M*A*S*H" Star and Theatre Producer, Dies at 82
 
Wayne Rogers, the actor best known for playing the madcap war surgeon Captain "Trapper" John McIntyre on the long-running television comedy "M*A*S*H," died Dec. 31 in Los Angeles. He was 82.
Wayne Rogers
Wayne Rogers

Mr. Rogers played sidekick to Alan Alda’s Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce in the Korean War-set drama, the two surgeons fighting off the horrors of long sessions of "meatball surgery" on soldiers through anti-establishment tomfoolery and dry, lethal martinis produced by a homemade still they kept in their tent. (The role of Trapper was played by Elliott Gould in the film of "M*A*S*H.")

The show, an immediate hit, made Mr. Rogers, then nearly 40, a star. Up until that time, he had put in yeoman work on television shows, mainly Westerns such as "Gunsmoke," "Gomer Pyle," "Johnny Ringo," "Stagecoach West" and "The F.B.I," with the occasional supporting role in film, most notably as a chain-gang convict in the classic "Cool Hand Luke" from 1967.

The actor left "M*A*S*H" after three seasons, when the show was at the height of its popularity. During a contract dispute, he expressed unhappiness at the growing role of Alda on the show, at the expense of his character. The writers addressed the actor's exit by having Trapper John disappear one day, having received his papers to return home, without having said goodbye to Hawkeye.

Mr. Rogers’ post-"M*A*S*H" career was varied. He continued to work in television, and found a certain measure of fame in a second sitcom, the hospital-set "House Calls," which ran from 1979 to 1982. The performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination in 1981.

He also ventured into theatre producing. Beginning in 1981, he had a short, somewhat successful career producing plays on Broadway, as Wayne M. Rogers. His first venture, the play Einstein and the Polar Bear, did not run, closing almost immediately. But he had a critical hit with Jules Fieffer’s searing drama Grown Ups and a popular hit with Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs. He also produced a female version of Simon’s The Odd Couple in 1985 and a 1982 revival of Simon’s musical Little Me. His co-producer on these ventures was veteran producer Emanuel Azenberg. Mr. Rogers also developed a career as an investor and money manager. He appeared on the Fox show "Cashin’ In" as a panelist.

William Wayne McMillan Rogers III was born in Birmingham, AL, on April 7, 1933. He attended Princeton University, intent on becoming a lawyer, and switched direction after attending a theatre rehearsal in Brooklyn in 1955.

He is survived by his second wife, the former Amy Hirsh; and a son, Bill, and a daughter, Laura, from a previous marriage to Mitzi McWhorter.

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