On M*A*S*H, Rosie’s Bar was designed as tribute to Rose’s Bar, a waterhole that soldiers really did frequent in Seoul during the Korean War.
Portraying scenes in Rosie’s Bar on the series required just as much authenticity as the rest of the show, but hardly anyone ever talks about how much effort M*A*S*H put into recreating Rosie’s Bar.
In 1979, The Detroit Free Press provided a rare look behind the scenes of the seventh season episode “A Night at Rosie’s.”
In the episode, Hawkeye refuses to leave Rosie’s as an act of protest, drawing the entire cast into the bar.
To make this episode, the actor who played Rosie, Eileen Saki, was the first one called to set. She arrived at 7:30 a.m. for makeup.
Thirty minutes later Alan Alda and Jamie Farr arrived for wardrobe.
Setting up the scene, M*A*S*H director Burt Metcalfe kept distractedly eating from a bowl of pretzels in the bar, and if you pay close attention watching the episode, you’ll notice the bowl gets emptier and emptier due to this nervous snacking.
While the bar setting and lighting was finishing up, actors Alda, Farr, Saki, and guest star Joshua Bryant huddled, going over lines. This huddle session lasted almost an hour and helped the cast tweak their comedic timing of lines and physical comedy, like one suggestion to Saki to keep her hands busy.
Once filming started, nothing could prepare the cast for the grueling day at Rosie’s, though. There was so much going on in these scenes, it was easy for something to go wrong each take.
There’s a point in the episode where Alda calls for Rosie to bring another drink and Rosie cracks a joke, “Everybody’s drinking; anybody paying?”
Alda flubbed his next line, and Metcalfe called cut, then nervously ate some pretzels.
Another time Saki was moving too fast and shattered a beer bottle.
The pretzel bowl got hit hard again, as Metcalfe stopped to restage the shot.
Other disruptions to shooting included some pesky coins that Klinger had in his kneecaps. They kept falling out at the wrong time and ruining the take.
With salty snacks to get him through it, Metcalfe would just call, “Okay, let’s try it again.”
This stop-and-go stretched on all day, with shooting on “A Night at Rosie’s” actually stretching into the night and filming ending at 8 p.m.
For Rosie actor Eileen Saki, that “night” at Rosie’s took more than a 12-hour day!
At this point in M*A*S*H’s run, opportunities to watch episodes be filmed were the hottest tickets at 20th Century studios. M*A*S*H filming drew more tourists than even Charlie’s Angels.
But this 1979 reporter’s trip to watch “A Night at Rosie’s” being filmed provides a rare glimpse behind the scenes of Rosie’s Bar, preserving the memory of how much effort the cast and crew put into getting these scenes right.
And because M*A*S*H chose to incorporate Rosie’s Bar as a recurring setting, the show helped preserve the memory of the actual Rose’s Bar, which some say otherwise would’ve faded from memory forever.