Burt Metcalfe, Longtime ‘M*A*S*H’ Producer, Dead at 87

Burt Metcalfe, who played an integral part in producing throughout all 11 seasons of the classic TV show MASH, has died. Metcalfe was 87 years old. The Hollywood Reporter indicates that Metcalfe died on Wednesday in Los Angeles of natural causes. His wife of 43 years, actress Jan Jorden, made the announcement. Jorden played Nurse Baker in a recurring role on MASH.

At one time, Metcalfe also was an actor. He played Lord Byron, a surfer, in the 1959 movie Gidget opposite Sandra Dee and James Darren. He also appeared during the first season of the CBS series The Twilight Zone. Metcalfe also had a starring role in the 1961-62 sitcom Father of the Bride. But he made his mark behind the camera with the famed CBS TV series.

Burt Metcalfe Would Become Showrunner On ‘M*A*S*H’

In fact, he would be a producer for all but five episodes of the show’s 256 that ran between 1972-83. Metcalfe would be the showrunner for its final six seasons on CBS. But Metcalfe’s involvement would include directing 31 episodes, writing three of them, and acting in one. He received seven Emmy nominations for the Outstanding Comedy Series. But he never did win an Emmy.

Metcalfe talked about the show in an interview one time. He said that M*A*S*H “is not your typical military sitcom, and I think there has always been that dedication and that kind of aspiration to doing something above the norm. And fortunately, the chemistry of the people involved, the writers, actors, producers, directors, has been of the caliber that has allowed this to happen, where everybody just had a pride in what they were doing.”

He was born Burton Denis Metcalfe on March 19, 1935, in Saskatoon, Canada. Most of his youth was spent in Montreal. Metcalfe would move to Los Angeles in 1949, where he studied theater. Metcalfe would graduate in 1955. In another interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the longtime producer was offering his thoughts on if the show could be replicated in today’s TV landscape.

“I’d like M*A*S*H to be remembered for its statement about war, though sadly we’ve learned nothing,” Metcalfe said. “It’s life. It’s not all perfect and hopefully never all that sad. That we could portray that is very gratifying.” Once Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds would leave the show, Reynolds would add his directing touch to the series. Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye Pierce on there, would direct episodes, too. M*A*S*H might have started out as a laugh-a-minute sitcom, but its tone changed in later seasons. You still had the humor there but different subjects found their way into the show. Metcalfe’s contributions to the show will not be forgotten.

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