Alan Alda Discusses M * A*S*H Moment That 'Shocked the Audience' for Show's 50th Anniversary

·2-min read
Alan Alda MASH
Alan Alda MASH

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Alan Alda on M*A*S*H

Alan Alda is reflecting on one of the most emotional scenes to ever air on M*A*S*H.

The Golden Globe winner, 86, recalled the unexpected death of Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) as a moment that "shocked the audience" while reminiscing about the show for its 50th anniversary with The New York Times.

"[Co-creator Larry Gelbart] showed me the scene. I think [it was] the morning of the shoot. I knew, but nobody else knew. He wanted to get everybody's first-time reactions," Alda said. "And it really affected [costar] Gary Burghoff on camera. I think everybody was grateful for the shock."

RELATED: Alan Alda Has No Intention of Letting Parkinson's Slow Him Down: 'My Life Hasn't Changed Much'

The episode "Abyssinia, Henry" aired on March 18, 1975, ending with Radar (Burghoff) announcing to the team that Col. Blake's plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan.

"It shocked the audience, too. I had a letter from a man who complained that he had to console his 10-year-old son, who was sobbing. But it was one of the ways for the adults in the audience to realize that another aspect of war is that things happen that you don't expect," Alda added.

Alan Alda
Alan Alda

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

M*A*S*H ran for 11 seasons on CBS from 1972 to 1983, adapted from the 1970 movie of the same name. It followed a team of doctors and medical support staff working at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea during the Korean War.

"Aside from really good writing and good acting and good directing, the element that really sinks in with an audience is that, as frivolous as some of the stories are, underneath it is an awareness that real people lived through these experiences, and that we tried to respect what they went through," Alda explained. "I think that seeps into the unconscious of the audience."

Alda, who revealed his diagnosis with Parkinson's disease in 2018, previously told PEOPLE the disease isn't slowing him down.

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"I'm busy," he said in 2019. "I do occasionally do nothing and sit around. But I believe in doing everything in moderation, including moderation. So far it's working."

"My life hasn't changed much. I just applied my curiosity to it. I'm constantly reading and trying to figure out the best approaches. So far it's really interesting. I think it's helped me understand a little better that everybody has something they're coping with," Alda added.