The above title is a quote I heard from Alan Alda, the actor most famous for playing Dr. Hawkeye Pierce in the long running TV show “MASH” about doctors and nurses during the Korean conflict. His interviewer liked it so much he commented. Alda coined this phrase when he was sixteen, “Moderation in all things, including moderation.”
His point is it is more than OK to do things in moderation, but there are occasions when a person needs to take a leap of faith and go for it. This comes from an actor who remains quite busy with various podcasts he hosts and acting roles. Plus, he is a very charitable person.
Alda was more than just the weekly doctor with a huge heart, surgical brain, skilled hands and appetite for making out with the nurses. He had a long list of movies and shows he did during and after his MASH work. I recall a couple of movies off the top of my head.
He and Ellen Burstyn turned a Neil Simon play into a wonderful movie called “Same Time Next Year.” The premise is the two meet and continue to meet up once a year at this beautiful inn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They confide in each other and speak of problems and love they have their spouses. Seeing Burstyn change her attire and attitudes each year is what makes the movie sing, while Alda plays more of a straight man.
Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno and a wonderful cast join Alda for a very funny movie called “Four Seasons.” These three couples decide they are going to take four vacations (bad idea) together in one year. The humor heightens when one of the couples separates and the husband brings a young girlfriend to the next vacation. Like with Burstyn, seeing Alda and Burnett together is a treat, as very few people can rival the character acting of Carol Burnett.
A third movie I liked a lot was not a comedy, but a drama called “The Seduction of Senator Joe Tynan.” He played with Meryl Streep in this one, so there seems to be a pattern of his acting in movies with very talented leading ladies. Streep plays an intern who falls for the married Senator played by Alda. The premise is the rise and fall of a Senator do to his tryst.
There are of course several other movies he starred in or played key roles in. He even played the antagonist in some of the movies. That took some getting used to. He was much more enjoyable to watch when he could pull for him, even though he would make us cringe being smart-ass.
MASH was one of my favorite shows, playing each Saturday night in one of the best comedy line-ups ever. Ironically, the final show of the night was “The Carol Burnett Show” which is fitting that the two stars would play in a very funny movie together. What is also fascinating about MASH is the parade of future stars that came through the show, either for a few seasons or one or two episodes.
I recall having a crush on Blythe Danner, the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, and a good actress in her own right, as she played a love interest. I also recall Marcia Strassman, who would go on to play in the sit-com “Welcome Back Kotter,” as another one of Alda’s love interests. I also remember Brian Dennehy, Edward Hermann, Ed Begley, Jr., Ron Howard, Patrick Swayze, Lawrence Fishburne, et all who played for an episode, most often as a wounded soldier, either mentally or physically or both.
What made the show popular went beyond the actors. The writers scoured documents about a wartime hospital in Korea and actually pulled some episodes out of those files. The one I remember vividly is when a wounded soldier had an unexploded shell in his chest, which was a true incident.
So, let me know what you think of Alda and his work on MASH and elsewhere.