Frank Burns of M*A*S*H

Also a total caricature, but I always liked Colonel Flagg when he showed up.

I don’t think I’ve watched MASH for a long time (at least a decade :blush:)

Frank was very one dimensional, as I can remember. Even Margaret evolved into a good friend to Hawkeye by the end of the series. Frank was written (and I guess acted) in a very negative one dimensional way.

Someone compared him to Archie Bunker. I disagree.

Carrol O’Connor was able to give us a bigoted character, but his bigotry was due to extreme ignorance, not malice on Archie’s part. He was very complex character. The episode when he and Michael are locked in the storage room revealed such a difficult abusive childhood for Archie.

Dr. Sidney Freedman was an interesting character.

I think my favorite episode was when they had ribs sent from the place in Chicago (I think it was Chicago?), and as soon as the ribs arrived, the choppers came in w/ patients and they had to leave the ribs.

I also liked BJ’s anniversary when they surprised him with a video of his family.

They even ridiculed Frank in the last 30 min episode.

Yes, he was the convenient whipping boy for their liberal angst. Pathetic when you think about it, isn’t it?

After reading this thread, I looked up Larry Linville on imdb. I hadn’t known he had died from cancer in 2000. He won a scholarship and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

The term “ferret face” had been coined by Linville’s own brother when they were kids.

Some other info from IMDB:

Linville and actor David Ogden Stiers, who’d played Major Winchester, were both VIP guests at the ceremonial closing of the last active MAS*H unit in Korea, in the 1990s. Ironically, Stiers had replaced Linville on the show, and neither they nor their characters had ever met - but Winchester’s last comment in the last regular episode had been about Major Burns.

Contrary to his much-maligned character Frank Burns, Linville was actually well-liked by his “MAS*H” (1972) cast-mates. He and Gary Burghoff were close friends off the show; Burghoff described Linville as a “renaissance man” who knew about the intricacies of the Egyptian pyramids and who once even built and flew his own airplane. Alan Alda also remembered Linville fondly, after his death.

Chose not to renew his “MAS*H” (1972) contract because “I felt I had done everything possible with the character” of Frank Burns. Said later that the fifth season (his last) had been hardest for him, since Frank no longer had Loretta Swit’s character Hot Lips on his side, leaving him to bear the brunt of the insults alone. Even stopped attending dailies, because Linville was tired of seeing his character as the butt of so many jokes.

Personal Quotes:

(when asked whom he’d based his infamous Frank Burns character on) “Every idiot I’ve ever known.”

[on contracting cancer]: “I was scared. It wasn’t like drinking. You could give up the bottle. You can’t give up the big C.”

[about Frank Burns] Some people have said ‘Why didn’t the role progress? Why didn’t he become more understanding, more humane, more compassionate, more sensitive?’ I said ‘What did you want him to be, Alan Alda?’

[about playing Frank Burns] On the one side he was just kind of silly and stupid and on the other side you have the danger of being very repulsive and ugly so you must balance that so that it is believable enough to serve the comedy.

Kind of sad he was so typecast. I also remember him as the medical examiner opposite Darren McGavin in the 1st made-for-tv movie version of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER.

I loved the psychiatrist as well.

The anniversary episode was always one of my favourites, as was “Best of Enemies” wherein Hawkeye was accosted by a North Korea soldier to help his dying friend. The young man died, but the surviving North Korean let Hawkeye go. He ended up helping the man to dig his friend’s grave.

Another great is the one where the people back home get together and have a party, toasting their loved ones not with them.

I actually like all the later seasons after Frank Burns’ character left. They were much funnier, and better written then. No one was the butt monkey for anyone else!


Funnies Col. Flagg line: “You’re dumb, soldier, really dumb, but you’ve met your match in me.”


The thing that always bugged me about the Adam’s Ribs episodes is that even though the choppers came, they could have gnoshed at least one rib on the way to scrub up AND they could have put the ribs back in the fridge and saved them for later. :shrug:

Frank was a riot. That character was portrayed brilliantly by the actor Linville.

lol @ Col. Flagg too. :smiley:

As far as I’m concerned (and my DVD collection reflects it) MASH ended at episode 72, Abyssinia, Henry. After that it became the Alan Alda Weekly Whinefest. They really should have seriously retitled the show because it really was a different show.
As for Frank Burns. The character was actually merged from two different characters in the book. Robert Duvall played him to perfection in the film. Linville’s verson was toned down considerably from the book and film, removing his more psychotic elements.
That said, Linville was a brilliant actor and probably the most experienced cast member in the early days of the series, far more than Alda.

The character of Burns does appear in the MAS*H novel. He only appears in one chapter though.

He appears in the novel. What I meant was the Frank Burns in the film is a combo of Frank and another character in the book whose name escapes me.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit