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television and movie actor best known for playing "Hawkeye" in M*A*S*H
Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo was born in New York City on January 28, 1936, the son of actor Robert Alda and Joan Brown, a former Miss New York. (The family name "Alda" is a combination of ALphonso and D'Abruzzo.) As a young child he suffered from a bad case of polio that at one point left him unable to move anything but his left arm.
Alda graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor of Science in English degree in 1956. During his junior year he studied at the Sorbonne, during which time he acted in a play in Rome and performed with his father on television in Amsterdam. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve, but went AWOL every weekend to see the girl he would eventually marry.
Alda began his acting career in the 1950's as a member of the Compass Players comedy revue.
Originally reluctant to take on the role, Alda did not sign on to play Hawkeye Pierce until six hours before filming began on the pilot episode, but he went on to star in the show throughout its eleven-year run (1972-1983).
To show the horrors of war in a television sit-com, Alda had it written into his contract that one scene of every episode must take place in the operating room while surgery occurred.
Rather than uproot his family from New Jersey, Alda commuted from Los Angeles to his home every weekend during the show's run.
Alan, his father, and his half-brother Anthony appeared together in the episode "Lend a Hand" during season eight. Alan and his father had previously appeared in "The Consultant" in season three.
He was the only actor to appear in every episode. He and Loretta Swit were the only cast members to appear in both the pilot and final episodes.
He wrote (or co-wrote) 20 episodes, and directed 30 episodes.
The West Wing
Alda was one of the actors considered to play President Bartlett, but the role ultimately went to Martin Sheen. In 2004 he was cast for the role of Senator Arnold Vinick. He made his premiere in the role in the sixth season's eighth episode "In the Room," and was added to the opening credits with the thirteenth episode, "King Corn;" he continued in the role until the show's conclusion in 2006.
Other Television Appearances
Made frequent appearances on the 1968 revival of What's My Line?, as well as on the 1972 revival of I've Got a Secret.
Guest starred five times on ER, playing Dr. Gabriel Lawrence.
Played Dr. Robert Gallo in the controversial 1993 AIDS TV movie And the Band Played On.
Other TV roles include:
Gone Are the Days (1963)
Honors and Awards
Academy Awards (Oscars)
American Movie (Marquee) Awards
Directors Guild of America, USA
Alda was the first person to win Emmy Awards for acting, writing, and directing for the same series (M*A*S*H).
Golden Apple Awards
Golden Globes, USA
Hasty Pudding Theatricals, USA
National Board of Review, USA
New York Film Critics Circle
People's Choice Awards
TV Land Awards
Writers Guild of America, USA
Alan and Arlene Alda have been married since March 15, 1957. They have three children -- Eve, Elizabeth and Beatrice.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of M*A*S*H, Richard Hooker, the author of the novel on which the movie and series were based, did not care for the series. He was particularly unhappy with Alda's portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce. Hooker, a Republican, had based Hawkeye on himself, whereas Alda made Hawkeye a liberal.
Alda is a strong and vocal supporter of women's rights. In 1976, the Boston Globe dubbed him "the quintessential Honorary Woman: a feminist icon" for his activism on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment.
His autobiography, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed--and Other Things Learned, was published in 2005.
This page was last updated on 02/10/2017.