Wayne Rogers, only played the role of Trapper John McIntyre in the 1970’s “M.A.S.H.,” alongside Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce for three years, but it made such an impression that his character was spun off in the 1980’s. Sadly, the actor who brought mischief, martinis and meatball surgery to the masses every week on “M.A.S.H.,” has died.
The actor was surrounded by family when he died Thursday in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia at age 82.
Rogers’ army surgeon Trapper John was one of the most beloved characters — and half of one of the most beloved duos — in TV history, despite the actor’s appearing in only the first three of the show’s 11 seasons on CBS.
The two skilled doctors, Hawkeye and Trapper, blew off steam between surgeries pulling pranks, romancing nurses and tormenting their tent-mate Frank Burns, with a seemingly 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 promptly 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, becoming one of many original cast members to leave the wildly popular show that went on until 1983. He was initially considered for Alda’s character, but he preferred Trapper’s sunnier disposition to Hawkeye’s darkly acerbic personality.
The characters were basically equals when the show began, but it increasingly focused on Alda, which was a factor in Rogers’ departure.
Two other actors played Trapper in other incarnations. Elliot Gould played the same character in the “M.A.S.H.” feature film that preceded the TV show, and Pernell Roberts played the title character in the 1980s spinoff drama “Trapper John, M.D.”
An Alabama native and Princeton University graduate, Rogers had parts on many short-lived shows early in his career, specializing in westerns like “Law of the Plainsman” and “Stagecoach West.” He had a bit part in the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke” with Paul Newman.
Rogers went on to star in two other series, “City of Angels” and “House Calls,” for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe award in 1979. He portrayed the noted lawyer and civil rights activist Morris Dees in the acclaimed 1996 movie “Ghosts of Mississippi.”
He 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 favor of maintaining the Glass-Steagall banking laws of the 1930s.
Later in his life, Rogers was chairman of Wayne M. Rogers & Co., an investment strategy firm; chief executive of the convenience store chain Stop-N-Save; and chairman of Kleinfeld Bridal, one of the world’s largest wedding dress vendors. He frequently appeared on Fox Business Network‘s “Cashin’ In” and served as national chairman of the Easter Seals campaign.
Rogers was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and graduated from Princeton University with a degree in history. He served as a navigator in the Navy before becoming an actor in New York in the 1950s. According to a 2010 profile in Kleinfeld’s in-house magazine, Kleinfeld Manhattan, one of his roommates in the early years was Peter Falk.
Rogers was also a successful theatrical producer, with producer credits for the original Broadway runs of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Biloxi Blues” and of the 1985 revival of “The Odd Couple.”
Rogers is survived by his wife Amy, two children, Bill and Laura, and four grandchildren.