Monday, May 30, 2016

Radar as explained by Gary Burghoff

In honor of Memorial Day I felt I should have a military theme as we pay homage to those before  us who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy (and often take for granted).  
Reader Michael Rafferty submitted a Friday question.  Here's the question and the answer from the man himself, Gary Burghoff.  My EXTREME thanks to Gary for his time and very illuminating response. 

On MASH, first season, Gary Burghoff played Radar pretty much the same as he did in the movie version. But,over time, Radar was softened and became more gentle and naive. Was this a decision of Burghoff or was this a creative decision of Larry Gelbart et al.?

Here's Gary's answer:

In the original feature film MASH, I created Radar as a lone, darker and somewhat sardonic character; kind of a shadowy figure. I continued these qualities for a short time (review the Pilot) until I realized that the TV MASH characters were developing in a different direction from the film characters. It became a group of sophisticated, highly educated Doctors (and one head nurse) who would rather be anywhere else and who understood the nature of the "hell hole" they were stuck in.

With Gelbart's help, I began to mold Radar into more Innocent, naive character as contrast to the other characters, so that while the others might deplore the immorality and shame of war (from an intellectual and judgmental viewpoint), Radar could just REACT from a position of total innocence. This made RADAR super ACTIVE, free and very interesting on a primary "gut" level, which at times delivered the horror of war (as well as the dark humor we became known for) in an effective, universal way that anyone could understand.

Larry, in one interview, was quoted as saying that Radar was his favorite character to write for. I think he liked the fact that the character lacked guile and he could write from his own honest "child's-self" as apposed to having to create "clever" intellectual hyperbole.

ACTING IS RE-ACTING. LARRY gave Radar "permission" to REACT IN SPADES!! in a free, delightful and direct manner. Once these decisions were made, RADAR became PURE JOY to play!! God bless Larry Gelbart and his talented writers such as your most excellent SELF!

I hope this helps.

Love "Ya~ Gary

Love ya, too.  And P.S., Radar was one of my favorite characters to write as well.  It was a true honor to pen the "Goodbye Radar" episodes.  


Ralph C. said...

Thanks to Gary for answering that question, which wasn't mine but was a great question, anyway. :-) I liked both "versions" of Radar. I echo your sentiments for the brave men and women who served in the past, whom presently serve, and those who will dedicate their lives in every tomorrow that will come. Thank you all.

VincentS said...

Thanks, Ken. And thank you Mr. Burghoff for giving us such a memorable character.

dandy_lio said...

I love Radar, I think he was a wonderful character. It's funny - I've introduced MASH to a lot of people, and no matter their personality or sense of humour, ever single one of them were absolutely smitten with Radar.

Years ago I did a really large graffiti of Gary as Radar (about a story high). It was left for a couple weeks, and other graffiti artists kept adding hearts and Radar quotes and teddy bears to the image. Normally, when an artist puts something on the wall, other graffiti artists tend to leave it alone - it's considered a bit tacky to paint over someone else's canvas. But this was different - the love for Radar was too much - and the wall was filled up with so many wonderful Radar-related things.

Fittingly, the last thing someone scrawled up there was 'Goodbye, Radar' and then the next day the city painted over it. It was a really lovely thing. I think I sent Gary a graffiti portrait some time ago. Can't remember if I did or not.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Wonderful and happy surprise this morning to see this!
Always loved RADAR...because he was 'naive' but he was also more thoughtful, more caring, and he understand more about human relations than all the others. He could always tell when someone needed something simple (like the 'random' call from their wife, father or mother).
The show was still great after he left, but if Hawkeye was the soul of the 4077, then RADAR was its heart, and it never was the same.

John Hammes said...

... we pay homage to those before us who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy (and often take for granted).

- Ken Levine

To use the words of Jack Soo (who, in real life understood the nightmare of war) " ... very well put ..." .

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I know this one's a repost, but it's still enjoyable to read regardless of that. I know a lot of people complain about how Radar "deevolved" into the innocent and naive farm boy, but that's the character I related to, because that's the kind of kid I was when I was younger: naive and sheltered, with no knowledge of the facts of life or anything, and becoming the subject of ribbing from my peers because of it (I was even on the receiving end of the same virginity question Radar was presented with and didn't know how to answer).

Igor said...

Outstanding. I've read many answers from actors to this sort of question, "Tell me about your character," but nothing as concise and clear (and did I say "concise". And "clear") as this. In Berghoff's answer he owns Radar, yet Gelbart gets his full due. Thanks.

B.A. said...

At the time Radar's harsh "Let's go" sign-off seemed too childishly "mature" to ring true for me, but I've heard plenty of scratchy voiced real-life heroes since. They all can't have William Conrad's ringing authority.

Richard said...

As someone from both the television and sports worlds, any comments on the new TBS E League show? I taped it out of curiosity, and after skimming through the first 15-20 minutes I can't fathom who would possibly want to watch this. Or who would possibly think this is a good thing to put on TV.

There have been plenty of shows where I'm well aware that it might not be for me, but this is one show where I have no idea who this WOULD be for. From the production and stage values it seems a good chunk of money was spent on this - I have no idea who thought that was a good idea.

Probably the same person shepherding Sleepy Hollow.

Richard (Milwaukee, WI)

Dennis Wilson said...

I'd like to see a similar account on the transformation of the Margaret Houlihan character.

Anonymous said...

Radar may have been naïve, but he was the smartest person in the camp! His ability to 'read' any person was one of his best qualities.

Pam, St. Louis

Igor said...

Ugh. As I commend Gary Burghoff I misspell his name. I need to go back to copy & paste. Sorry.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Gary's mumbo-jumbo free answer about his approach to Radar is nothing less than refreshing, interesting and, in just a few short words, deeply revealing.

And Gary is one of the nicest creatures on the planet. I'm honored to have been a part of his work.

Johnny Walker said...

Lovely post. Thanks to Gary for writing it and Ken for contacting him in the first place.