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Alan Alda

Alan Alda

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Also Known As: Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo Died:
Born: January 28, 1936 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: actor, screenwriter, director, gas station clown, cab driver

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Though a successful stage and film actor, Alan Alda made his most lasting impact playing Hawkeye Pierce, the suave, but goofy surgeon fond of homemade martinis and chasing after nurses on the classic television series "M*A*S*H" (CBS, 1972-1983). Because of his long, successful stint on what many considered the greatest show of all time, Alda managed to branch out of acting into writing and directing, becoming the only creative personality to have won Emmy awards in all three categories. Prior to "M*A*S*H," Alda was an acclaimed actor on stage and in films, making notable performances in "Purlie Victorious" (1961-62), "The Apple Tree" (1966-67) and "Paper Lion" (1968). After directing the last episode of "M*A*S*H," the most watched series finale in history, Alda went on to a fair amount of success, both in front of and behind the camera, directing and starring in "The Four Seasons" (1981), "Sweet Liberty" (1986) and "A New Life" (1988). As his career marched on, however, Alda took a back seat in his later years, comfortably shifting from leading man to crafty supporting player. He delivered strong, acclaimed performances in "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989) and "And the Band Played On" (HBO, 1993),...

Though a successful stage and film actor, Alan Alda made his most lasting impact playing Hawkeye Pierce, the suave, but goofy surgeon fond of homemade martinis and chasing after nurses on the classic television series "M*A*S*H" (CBS, 1972-1983). Because of his long, successful stint on what many considered the greatest show of all time, Alda managed to branch out of acting into writing and directing, becoming the only creative personality to have won Emmy awards in all three categories. Prior to "M*A*S*H," Alda was an acclaimed actor on stage and in films, making notable performances in "Purlie Victorious" (1961-62), "The Apple Tree" (1966-67) and "Paper Lion" (1968). After directing the last episode of "M*A*S*H," the most watched series finale in history, Alda went on to a fair amount of success, both in front of and behind the camera, directing and starring in "The Four Seasons" (1981), "Sweet Liberty" (1986) and "A New Life" (1988). As his career marched on, however, Alda took a back seat in his later years, comfortably shifting from leading man to crafty supporting player. He delivered strong, acclaimed performances in "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989) and "And the Band Played On" (HBO, 1993), both of which turned his nice guy persona on its head. By the time he won an Emmy for playing a republican presidential candidate on "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006), Alda was revered for being one of the most accomplished and versatile actors in the business.

Born Jan. 28, 1936 in New York City, NY, Alda was raised by his father, Robert, an actor and singer best known for playing George Gershwin in "Rhapsody in Blue" (1945), and his mother, Joan, a former Miss New York who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, which plagued the household with constant tension and occasional violence. When he was a toddler, Alda's father worked in burlesque, giving him the opportunity to watch strippers, comics and chorus girls from the wings. At age seven, Alda suffered from a bout with polio, which at the time had no cure â¿¿ either one died or, like the then current president, FDR, became paralyzed. But doctors were able to alleviate the condition with an intense regiment of hot towels, heat packs and deep massage, an excruciatingly painful process that was developed by Sister Elizabeth Kenny, a nurse from Africa who traveled the United States teaching the method two years before Alda contracted the disease. Thankfully, the youth suffered no residual effects after the successful treatment.

Because of his early exposure to show business, it was only a matter of time until Alda tried his own hand in that arena. When he was 15, Alda performed Abbot and Costello-style routines with his dad at the famed GI hangout, The Hollywood Canteen. Two years later, he made his theatrical debut starring in a summer stock production of "Charley's Aunt" in Barnesville, PA. After graduating high school, he attended medical school at Fordham University, but switched to English once he accepted the fact that becoming a doctor was his father's dream, not his. During his junior year at Fordham, Alda traveled to Europe, where he acted with his father on stage in Rome and on television in Amsterdam. Back in the States, he attended the Cleveland Playhouse on a Ford Foundation grant, where he studied improvisational acting with Paul Sills. Alda continued his training at The Compass in Hyannisport, MA, before joining The Second City improv troupe in Chicago. Though he made his New York stage debut as an understudy in "The Hot Corner" (1956), Alda became known for his performance as Charlie Cotchipee in the Broadway production of "Purlie Victorious" (1961-62).

Alda made his film debut with "Gone Are the Days" (1963), then had his television series debut on the pioneering political satire show "That Was the Week That Was" (NBC, 1964). Returning to the New York stage, Alda had his first lead, starring opposite Diana Sands in the two-character hit "The Owl and the Pussycat" (1964-65), which he followed with a Tony-nominated performance in the musical "The Apple Tree" (1966-67). On the big screen, Alda starred in "Paper Lion" (1968), playing George Plimpton, the real-life journalist who became an honorary quarterback for the Detroit Lions in an unsuccessful and painful fashion. Alda went on to star in several more films, playing a man looking to avoid the military draft by marrying a pregnant woman (Marlo Thomas) in "Jenny" (1969) and one of four American soldiers stranded on a deserted island during World War II in John Frankenheimer's mediocre comedy, "The Extraordinary Seaman" (1969). After starring in the offbeat thriller, "The Mephisto Waltz" (1971), Alda played a college professor convicted of manslaughter who is adjusting to life in prison in the gripping drama "The Glass House" (1972).

In 1972, Alda landed the role that changed his fame and fortune forever, playing the goofy, hooch-drinking, nurse-chasing surgeon Hawkeye Pierce on the acclaimed TV version of the successful Robert Altman film, "M*A*S*H" (CBS, 1972-1983), a searing comedy-drama about the wild antics of the medical staff at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. Though his character started off the series as a carefree anti-authoritarian whose favorite pastime â¿¿ besides bedding nurses â¿¿ was getting under the skin of tent-mate Frank Burns (Larry Linville), Hawkeye slowly evolved into a man of conscience and morality in a world gone insane, reflecting the political leanings of the actor, though some fans who loved the amiable goofball decried the change. The change was largely steered by Alda himself; over the years, he gained more and more control over the creative direction of the series as several writers and producers left. By the final season, Alda had become a writer and director, as well as the central star of the show, earning an astounding 21 Emmy nominations for all three categories. In the end, Alda won five Emmy Awards, becoming the only person ever to win for acting, writing and directing, and was the only series regular to appear in all 251 episodes. Perhaps most significantly, Alda directed the famed series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," which lived on as the single-most watched episode in television history.

During his success on "M*A*S*H," Alda continued with outside projects, co-directing and co-starring opposite Carol Burnett in an adaptation of the Broadway comedy "6 Rms Riv Vu" (CBS, 1974), for which he earned an Emmy nod for his performance. Alda picked up yet another Emmy nomination, playing convicted killer Caryl Chessman in the made-for-television movie "Kill Me if You Can" (NBC, 1977). Back on the big screen, Alda starred in "Same Time, Next Year" (1978), a warm comedy-drama in which he played a married man who shares a weekend getaway once a year with a housewife (Ellen Burstyn) for a quarter century, through which the audience witnesses the ever-changing attitude of America. After appearing in the ensemble cast of the amusing Neil Simon comedy "California Suite" (1978), Alda made an assured feature screenwriting debut with " The Seduction of Joe Tynan " (1979), a political drama that featured Alda as the titular U.S. Senator juggling relationships with his Southern mistress (Meryl Streep) and his long-suffering wife (Barbara Harris). Though not as searing as other political films of the decade, "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" was nonetheless a well-intentioned indictment of a system gone wrong.

Throughout the 1980s, Alda wrote, directed and starred in a series of genteel comedies of variable quality which depicted the foibles of American bourgeois life, starting with "The Four Seasons" (1981), a bittersweet comedy-of-manners about the trials and tribulations of a group of middle-aged friends over the course of a year. Thanks to a strong ensemble cast that also included Carol Burnett, "The Four Seasons" was a commercial and critical success. After "M*A*S*H" took its final bow in 1983, Alda tried to revamp "The Four Seasons" (CBS, 1983-84) for television, which failed to catch on with audiences, leading to an abbreviated first season. Returning to the big screen, Alda directed his second feature, "Sweet Liberty" (1986), a light satirical comedy about a college professor (Alda) whose historical novel about the American Revolution gets the Hollywood treatment, much to his dismay and frustration. He next directed "A New Life" (1988) and played a recent divorcee who finds new love with a younger doctor (Veronica Hamel), while his ex-wife (Ann-Margret) falls in and out with a sculptor (John Shea). Veering from his nice guy image, Alda received rave reviews for his performance as a sleazy, egotistical television director in Woody Allen's masterpiece, "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989).

After directing and starring in "Betsy's Wedding" (1990), a mediocre family comedy about a middle class father (Alda) forced to ask his mobster brother-in-law (Joe Pesci) to help pay for his daughter's overblown wedding, Alda retreated from directing features to focus squarely on acting, though his capacity as a leading man was diminished by the 1990s. His work on stage also continued, notably as the star of Neil Simon's mild farce "Jake's Women" (1992), a role which earned him a Tony Award nomination, and which he later recreated for the 1996 television adaptation. Meanwhile, he gave another strong performance as an unsympathetic character, playing controversial National Institute of Health official Dr. Robert Gallo in acclaimed expose of the AIDS crisis, "And the Band Played On" (HBO, 1993), for which he earned an Emmy nod for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special. Following another collaboration with Woody Allen on "Manhattan Murder Mystery" (1993), he played an unrepentant advertising executive responsible for five deaths on a white-water rafting expedition in "White Mile" (HBO, 1994). After a forgettable turn in "Canadian Bacon" (1995), playing the bumbling President of the United States who starts a new Cold War with Canada, Alda received more kudos for his pairing with Lily Tomlin as the aging hippie parents of Ben Stiller in David O Russell's comedy, "Flirting With Disaster" (1996).

By the second half of the 1990s, Alda had become secure playing a variety of supporting roles, while allowing other younger actors to take the lead. He once again joined forces with Woody Allen to co-star in the director's musical romantic comedy, "Everyone Says I Love You" (1997). In "Murder at 1600" (1997), an ill-received political thriller involving murder at the White House, Alda played Alvin Jordan, a benevolent National Security Advisor who helps a Washington D.C. detective (Wesley Snipes) investigate the case when no one else will. As television news anchor Kevin Hollander in "Mad City" (1997), Alda aided the firing of an investigative journalist (Dustin Hoffman) from the network after an altercation. He then appeared as literary agent Sidney Miller in the Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy "The Object of My Affection" (1998), directed by Nicholas Hytner. After playing Mel Gibson's boss in the box office hit "What Women Want" (2000), he returned to television and earned more Emmy nominations â¿¿ his 29th and 30th â¿¿ for a recurring role as a prominent physician in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease on "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) and as a hard-nosed talent agent in Showtime's "Club Land" (2001).

Back on the big screen, Alda shined opposite Leonard DiCaprio in "The Aviator" (2004), Martin Scorsese's epic biography about Howard Hughes (DiCaprio). Alda played Ralph Owen Brewster, the bought-and-sold chairman of a Senate committee dedicated to publicly ruining the maverick airline tycoon. Going against his nice guy persona, Alda played the corrupt Senator with typical charm and ease, earning the praise of critics and a nomination for an Academy Award. That same year, he joined the cast of "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006) playing the former Republican senator of California and presidential candidate, Arnold Vinick, who ran against and lost to Democratic congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits). Alda was nominated for two Emmy awards for his portrayal of the so-called maverick Republican, earning a statue for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2006.

In a return to the stage, Alda delivered a Tony Award-caliber performance in a Broadway revival of David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross," playing down-and-out salesman Shelley "The Machine" Levene. In "Resurrecting the Champ" (2007), Alda played a stubborn newspaper editor who refuses to take a struggling reporter (Josh Hartnett) off the boxing beat, then starred opposite Matthew Broderick in the independent comedy about memory loss, "Diminished Capacity" (2008). On the small screen, he earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his portrayal of Jack Donaghy's (Alec Baldwin) ailing biological father in the season three finale of "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-2013). Back in features, Alda played a scheming billionaire who becomes the target of revenge by a motley crew of apartment building employees in the caper comedy from Brett Ratner "Tower Heist" (2011). That same year, he had a widely praised guest starring role on "The Big C" (Showtime, 2010- ), playing a doctor with a new method of treatment Cathy (Laura Linney) hopes to use.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Betsy's Wedding (1990) Director
2.
  New Life, A (1988) Director
3.
  Sweet Liberty (1986) Director
4.
  The Four Seasons (1981) Director
5.
  Hickey vs. Anybody (1976) Creator
6.
  Hickey vs. Anybody (1976) Director
7.
  6 Rms Riv Vu (1974) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 Bridge of Spies (2015)
4.
 Wanderlust (2012)
5.
 Tower Heist (2011)
6.
 Flash of Genius (2008)
7.
8.
10.
 The Aviator (2004) Senator Ralph Owen Brewster
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1951:
Performed Abbott-and-Costello-style comic sketches with his father at the Hollywood Canteen
1953:
Made theatrical debut at age 17, starring in "Charley's Aunt" in summer stock in Barnesville, PA
1955:
While in Europe studying abroad, performed with father on stage in the Rome production of "Room Service"
1956:
Made New York stage debut as an understudy in "The Hot Corner"
1961:
Co-starred in "Purlie Victorious" on Broadway
1963:
Film acting debut in "Gone Are the Days"; repeating his role from the Broadway production "Purlie Victorious"
1963:
Appeared in the Broadway play "Fair Game for Lovers"
1964:
First leading role on Broadway in "The Owl and the Pussycat"
1964:
Cast as a series regular on the NBC political and social satire program "That Was the Week That Was"
1967:
Starred in the Broadway musical "The Apple Tree"; earned a Tony Award nomination
1968:
Portrayed George Plimpton in the biopic "Paper Lion"
1972:
TV-movie debut in "The Glass House" (ABC)
1972:
Breakthrough role of Capt. Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce in the TV adaptation of the 1970 film "M*A*S*H" (CBS); wrote 13 episodes and directed 32, including the show's 1983 two-and-a-half hour series finale "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"; earned 25 Emmy nominations for acting, writing and directing and 11 Golden Globe nominations
1974:
Co-directed and co-starred (with Carol Burnett) in the TV adaptation of the Broadway comedy "6 Rms Riv Vu" (CBS); earned an Emmy nomination for Best Actor
1975:
Created and wrote pilot for the CBS sitcom "We'll Get By"; also executive produced
1977:
Portrayed convicted killer Caryl Chessman in the NBC TV-movie "Kill Me If You Can"; earned an Emmy nomination
1978:
Teamed with Ellen Burstyn in Robert Mulligan's feature adaptation of "Same Time, Next Year"
1979:
Feature screenwriting debut, "The Seduction of Joe Tynan"; also starred as the titular politician
1981:
Feature directing debut (also scripted) the ensemble "The Four Seasons"; again collaborated with Burnett who played his onscreen spouse
1984:
Executive produced the short-lived CBS sitcom "The Four Seasons" based film; also appeared in pilot
1986:
Directed and wrote second film, "Sweet Liberty"
1988:
Helmed third film (also wrote and starred), "A New Life"
1989:
Received critical acclaim for the role of an egotistical director in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors"
1990:
Wrote and directed "Betsey's Wedding"; also co-starred
1991:
Made London stage debut as the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town"
1992:
Returned to Broadway as star of Neil Simon's play "Jake's Women"
1993:
Portrayed scientist Robert Gallo in the acclaimed TV-movie "And the Band Played On" (HBO); received Emmy nomination
1993:
Hosted the PBS series "Scientific American Frontiers"
1993:
Teamed again with Woody Allen for "Manhattan Murder Mystery"
1994:
Offered an uncharacteristically nasty turn in the based-on-fact drama "White Mile" (HBO)
1996:
Reprised stage role in CBS TV adaptation of "Neil Simon's 'Jake's Women'"
1996:
Made third film with Woody Allen, the romantic musical comedy "Everyone Says I Love You"
1997:
Appeared in Costa-Gavras' "Mad City" opposite Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta
1998:
Played Jennifer Aniston's brother-in-law in "The Object of My Affection"
1998:
Returned to Broadway, co-starring with Alfred Molina and Victor Garber in "Art"
1999:
Had a recurring role on NBC's "ER" as a prominent surgeon in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease; earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor
2001:
Played lead role of physicist Richard Feynman in the L.A. stage production of "Q.E.D."; reprised role in NYC
2001:
Received 30th career Emmy nomination for the Showtime movie "Club Land"
2001:
Portrayed defense attorney Ernie Goodman in the Showtime original movie "The Killing Yard"
2004:
Cast as Senator Ralph Owen Brewster in Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" based on the life of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor
2004:
Joined the cast of NBC's White House drama "The West Wing" playing a Republican from California with presidential aspirations; earned Emmy (2005) and SAG (2006) nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
2005:
Starred in Joe Mantello's revival of David Mamet's play "Glengarry Glen Ross"; earned a Tony nomination for his role
2005:
Published his memoir <i>Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned</i>
2007:
Co-starred in the boxing film "Resurrecting the Champ"
2009:
Earned an Emmy nomination for his guest starring role on NBC's "30 Rock" as Milton Greene, Jack's biological father
2011:
Guest starred on Showtime's "The Big C"
2011:
Teamed with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy in the ensemble comedy "Tower Heist"
2012:
Re-teamed with "The Object of My Affection" co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd in "Wanderlust"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Archbishop Stepinac High School: White Plains , New York -
Cleveland Playhouse: Cleveland , Ohio -
Fordham University: Bronx , New York - 1956

Notes

Alda received the Ford Foundation Grant after college graduation which enabled Alda to perform with the Cleveland Playhouse (1958-59).

"Alan is a closet intellectual. He's a bright guy with a an inquiring mind." --"M*A*S*H*" co-star Wayne Rogers quoted in TV Guide, October 23, 1999.

Asked about a return to weekly series, Alda told Amy Amatanangelo of the Boston Herald (October 14, 1999): "Television has been kind and generous to me, but the idea of going in every day, it is hard to picture."

About writing, directing and starring in projects, Alda told Blake Green of Newsday (March 1, 1998): "... I wouldn't ever want to do all three of those things together again. I think I know better now. I probably shortchanged myself a couple of times. I think I began fooling myself in 'M*A*S*H*' [where he first tried his hand at wearing three caps]. The characters and the environment were already created. When you make a movie, you have to start from scratch, create a whole world."

"I'm very happy I've done something that gives people pleasure still after all these years. Not that they remember: that they still see it. But for me, as a personal experience for me, it's as though it happened to somebody else." --Alda to The New York Times, May 18, 1994.

"I was never comfortable being as famous as I was. ...

"I never was as wonderful a person as everybody said I was. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that it's too bad that I'm not as wonderful a person as people say I am, because the world could use a few good people like that." --Alan Alda quoted in The New York Times, May 18, 1994.

Received honorary degrees from Fordham University (1978); Drew University (1979); Columbia University (1979); Connecticut University (1980); and Kenyon College (1982).

On October 18, 2003, Alda underwent an emergency appendectomy, a day after checking into he Regional Hospital in La Serena, 300 miles north of the capital of Santiago, complaining of severe abdominal pains

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Arlene Alda. Photographer, musician, artist, author. Was a clarinetist with Leopold Stokowski and Houston Symphony when they met artist; married in 1957.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Robert Alda. Actor, singer. Born on February 26, 1914; died on May 3, 1986; perhaps best known for starring as George Gershwin in the biopic "Rhapsody in Blue" and for playing Nathan Detroit in the original 1950 Broadway production of "Guys and Dolls".
mother:
Joan Alda.
brother:
Antony Alda. Actor. Son of Robert Alda; born in France; studied at Juilliard in NYC and at Notre Dame International in Rome; was regular on the NBC serial, "Days of Our Lives".
daughter:
Eve Alda.
daughter:
Elizabeth Alda. Appeared in father's film, "The Four Seasons" (1981).
daughter:
Beatrice Alda. Appeared in father's films, "The Four Seasons" (1981) and "A New Life" (1988).
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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