Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Potter's P*O*V

Here’s the Potter scene from POV. But the reason this scene was so special was not the words but the superb performance by Harry Morgan.



Rich is LYING in bed writing a letter to his parents. He writes the date then “Dear Mom and Dad.” Potter steps INTO view and sits down next to Rich.

Howdy, Texas. (re letter) Be sure to remind them to clean up your room. You’re going home soon…Now that you’ve got that pad, we can finally have a talk. Which part of the Lone Star you hail from?

Rich scribbles “San Antonio” then hands the pad to Potter.

(handing the pad back) You don’t say. Took my medical training at Fort Sam Houston. Good ‘ole San Antone. A bowl of chili down there would keep you alive for days.

Nurse Baker walks up.

Uh, Colonel you forgot to sign this chart.

I didn’t forget. I’ll sign it on the way out. Now shoo!

Rich quickly scribbles “you okay?” on the pad and hands it to Potter, who reads it, then looks at Rich.

I guess it shows, huh?

Rich SHAKES his head yes.

It’s Mildred, my wife back home. Lovely gal. We’ve been married thirty-five years as of last Saturday. Every anniversary, no matter where I am, I manage to call her. Tell her how much I…well, you know. This year…This year I clean forgot. My thoughts are so filled with this damn war that I forgot her on our most important day. I just can’t forgive myself for missing it.

Rich scribbles “call her” on the pad, hands it to Potter, who reads.

I’d like to, son. Even picked up the phone about twenty times. But there’s just no excuse my forgetting. I don’t know what to say to her.

Potter is a little misty-eyed. Hawkeye ENTERS and approaches Rich’s bed.

Evening, boys.

Potter gets up and moves by Hawkeye.

Excuse me, Pierce.

(calling after him) Colonel?

Potter ignores him and EXITS. As Hawkeye walks away, Rich rattles the pad to get his attention. Hawkeye turns to him. Rich beckons him over.

What? What is it?

Rich scribbles “Forgot his anniversary,” and hands it to Hawkeye.

Oh, so that’s what’s been getting under Dr. Jekyll’s hide.

Charles ENTERS holding a book.

All right, Pierce, admit it. You broke into my footlocker and read through my personal diary, didn’t you, Swine?

Charles, in all the times I’ve broken into your footlocker, I never looked at your diary.

Then who drew these faces in the margins?

It’s dry reading. You need illustrations.


Unknown said...

I just saw this episode in the last few months when they replay it on Fox at 1pm. I remembered seeing it as a kid, too, I think. It's an episode you can't pull yourself away from.

Cool thing is, I couldn't pull myself away from reading the script here either. Hell, I was getting all emotional reading it, as if I had never even seen the episode before.

So well done. Thanks for posting these excerpts.

Anonymous said...

You guys -- and all the writers on M*A*S*H, I might add -- did such a wonderful job of delineating the characters with all their pesonality quirks and flaws and feelings and behavior patterns, as well as telling the story without ever having to resort to the type of "in your face" comedy or straightforward exposition that's so prevalent these days. In just the few short lines of dialogue and direction you posted here, Ken, we learn so much about the characters, that if we were watching this episode, we could have picked the story up from this scene and known what it was about.

Great writing!

Beth Ciotta said...

What Tom Quigley said.

I got chills reading this. Could envision the episode, that scene, in my head as I read. Haven't seen it in forever, but I remember THAT well. My coffee maker (which I treasure), for a DVD box set of M*A*S*H. Do they even offer that? Off to check at Amazon...

Anonymous said...

What I like about this episode -- in contrast to similar efforts that would follow in the final few seasons -- is there's a sense of subtitly here that was also present in the earlier experimental episodes by Gelbart that for some reason was lost in the last few years. You're not being hit over the head with the idea that this is anything more than a routine war injury handled by the 4077th, and the actors aren't over-emoting as would be common in the final seasons, as if the audience won't grasp the concept unless spoken to loudly and deliberatively. Good work.

Blondie said...

By just reading it I can see the scene in my head.
I love this episode because you get to see the characters not for who they are trying to be, but for who they are. They are not interacting with Rich, but he is observing them, for better or worse. Potter's devotion to Mildred has always touched me.
Oh and Beth, the 1st 10 seasons ARE on DVD, and I have them. I know Tower Recored is having a huge TV DVD sale right now; if you have them in your area, check them out.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful scene. Dumb question:

Why is "walks by" in lowercase (Nurse Baker's action) while "ENTERS" is in uppercase (Charles' action).

Laurie Kilmartin

Anonymous said...

MASH, quite frankly, is a "How to."

Thanks Ken. Reading that, you can hear that low and resonant quiver in Potter's voice.

Network TV today, as Potter would say is, "Horse hocky."


Anonymous said...

>Why is "walks by" in lowercase (Nurse Baker's action) while "ENTERS" is in uppercase (Charles' action).<

My guess is the capitalized directions are major stage directions that involve the camera itself ("Rich LYING," "Rich SHAKES his head") or happenings within camera range ("ENTER," "EXIT," "steps INTO view"), whereas the others are for actions from characters that are *already* in camera range ("Potter hands the pad back"). Nurse Baker may already be in camera view when she has to walk up to Potter.

Beth Ciotta said...

Unfortunately, Cookinblonde, I don't have a Tower Records near by. However, I did hop over to and they have several seasons of M*A*S*H avail Thanks!

Anonymous said...

In September 1994 I wrote and registered a film treatment entitled SNAKES. Synopsis: Poisonous snakes are freed from a crate on a passenger airplane while in flight over an ocean. The pilot is soon bitten and dies. Ultimately, the copilot, the flight attendant, and the passengers must join forces to destroy the snakes and safely land the plane. It was pitched as "JAWS" on an airplane. Snakes on a Plane? I later turned it into a screenplay, registered May 1998. A letter from New Line Cinema's attorneys told me in essence that if I make a claim, they'll huff and puff til they blow my house down. Who and where is David Daleassandro? Has anyone seen his screenplay? Did he file a lawsuit against Saturday Night Live over the February 1998 skit, The Cobra? New Line's attorneys wrote me on 1/14/05 that Snakes on a Plane originated with a screenplay written by Daleassandro. If this is so, why did he have to go to WGA to receive a credit? And the name change (Pacific Air Flight 121) was after I sent New Line proof of the pitch for SNAKES: "JAWS" on an airplane. Snakes on a Plane? ? ?

Tom Dougherty said...

This blog is really going to move the units! I'm heading out to Tower to pick up a couple of seasons. Any suggestions on which seasons I should start with, that is to say, which ones are your favorites?

Anonymous said...

Every time I read this (I can't stop I've read it three times) O want to go watch M*A*S*H. Yhanks and I agree with the others, you could post a M*A*S*H blog and it would be read and enjoyed by all... Thanks Jaime

Anonymous said...

I don't know what happened but on my end there were no typos. Sorry to all the spellers out there:)

Blondie said...

Hey Tom, Start with the beginning, season 1. As much as I love Col. Potter; Henry Blake's inept leadership was some of the best stuff this show ever had to offer.