Wayne Rogers, Trapper John on TV's 'M*A*S*H', dies at 82

Thu Dec 31, 2015 11:45pm EST
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By Will Dunham

Wayne Rogers, the actor who played wisecracking U.S. Army surgeon "Trapper" John McIntyre in the acclaimed Korean War television series "M*A*S*H" before leaving after three seasons in a contract dispute, died on Thursday. He was 82.

Rogers, who later forged a successful career as a financial analyst, investor and businessman, died in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia his publicist, Rona Menashe, told Reuters.

An Alabama native and Princeton University graduate with a degree in history, Rogers achieved his big break after years of lesser roles by being cast to co-star with Alan Alda in "M*A*S*H," which debuted on the CBS network in 1972.

The series, which was inspired by Robert Altman's hit 1970 movie "MASH" and combined situation comedy with dramatic elements, was set in a mobile Army surgical hospital unit during the 1950-53 Korean War.

It initially focused both on Alda's character, Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce, and fellow Army captain and surgeon "Trapper" John, played by Rogers. But Rogers became frustrated as the plots began to give more attention to the increasingly popular Alda at his character's expense.

Rogers left "M*A*S*H" in a contract dispute after the third of the show's 11 seasons, departing at about the same time as McLean Stevenson, another original cast member. Rogers said he had no contract and the producers wanted to impose one that included, among other things, "an old-fashioned morals clause."

"It said that, in the eyes of the studio, if you behaved in an immoral fashion, they have the right to suspend you. Well, nobody defined an 'immoral fashion,' as it were - so it was at the whim of whoever ran the studio," Rogers said in a 2012 radio interview.

Rogers said he told them that "some of these things I'm not going to agree to," and that they responded: "We'll, we're a hit show. If you don't agree, tough, goodbye."   Continued...

Actor Wayne Rogers' star is unveiled at the Hollywood Walk of Fame December 13, 2005. REUTERS/Phil McCarten