Monday, August 16, 2010

So I Wasn't the Only One

The only one who couldn't stand Alan Alda in M.A.S.H.

He has become a cliche, but I am glad to know the real Hawkeye, the man who wrote the book, also could not stand Alda.

H. Richard Hornberger's house, on the beautiful coast of Maine, is up for auction.

He died in 1997.

He was actually in the 8055 and got skunked on the movie rights for a few hundred bucks, wouldn't sign the book again.

It's funny that Altman would also harbor harsh feelings. The idea that Altman's 14 year old kid wrote "Suicide is Painless" is very cool, I wonder what became of him.

We see clearly the artistic liberal upset at his lack of compensation. Liberals are about art, not money, maaaaan...We also see the artist, one Mr. Hornberger, angry that the direction and intent of his creation has been misappropriated.

I know who I would have respected, and it is not the liberal conceited Altman, even if Hornberger liked his production.

I respect Hornberger, and will get a copy of the book, it must be much better than my memories of M.A.S.H.

Dr. Hornberger modeled the character of Capt. Benjamin Franklin (Hawkeye) Pierce after himself, his son said. Partly for that reason, he disliked the television series and almost never watched it.

''He liked the movie because he thought it followed his original intent very closely,'' William Hornberger said. ''But my father was a political conservative, and he did not like the liberal tendencies that Alan Alda portrayed Hawkeye Pierce as having.''

''My father didn't write an anti-war book,'' he added. ''It was a humorous account of his work, with serious parts thrown in about the awful kind of work it was, and how difficult and challenging it was.''

From Salon:

But Altman was to make his name, if not a lot of money, with his next project -- the phenomenally successful Korean War romp "MASH" (1970). The Ring Lardner Jr. screenplay had been making the rounds for some time, and 15 directors -- including Stanley Kubrick and Sidney Lumet -- had passed on the adaptation of the novel by 'Richard Hooker' (a pseudonym for authors H. Richard Hornberger and William Heinz) by the time Altman got his hands on it and saw his chance. For a flat fee of $75,000 with no percentage of the gross, he signed on to the 20th Century Fox project.

"MASH" introduced audiences, in the most accessible way possible, to the Altman style -- ensemble acting, episodic storytelling, zoom lenses and overlapping dialogue. It also fed them all of the major characteristics of an Altman film: rabid anti-authoritarianism, anti-militarism, black humor (the blackest), sacrilege, delight in decadence, adolescent sexual escapades, hypocrisy revealed and casual drug use.

The movie made stars out of its two leads, Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland; started a running story line the TV series "M*A*S*H" would milk for years; and put a giant bulge in Fox's corporate wallet. "MASH" cost a measly $3.5 million to make, but according to Peter Biskind's account of the late '60s and '70s in Hollywood, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood," the film "pulled in $36.7 million ... putting it third for 1970 behind 'Love Story' and 'Airport.'" And that's not counting the loads of cash made from the TV series.

Altman, of course, didn't see any of that money. And he would often complain that his son Michael, who at the age of 14 wrote the film's popular theme song, "Suicide is Painless," made more than he did off of "MASH." But Altman got what he really hungered for: acclaim as an artist. The film struck a chord both with the youth culture and the burgeoning anti-Vietnam War sentiment in the United States and abroad. At Cannes, "MASH" was awarded the Palm d'Or for best film. And it received five Academy Award nominations, including best picture and best director, though it won only one: best screenplay -- for which Lardner got the Oscar.

It's hard to overstate the importance of "MASH" to Altman's career. At 45, he was older than the Young Turks then kicking new life into old Hollywood. But overnight he became leader of the pack, universally hailed as a genius, an auteur, a demon filmmaker and an iconoclast. He took the brass ring and ran with it -- sometimes making bizarre but fascinating failures like "Brewster McCloud" (1970), "California Split" (1974) or "Buffalo Bill and the Indians" (1976), and with other projects crafting literature on-screen in films such as "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" (1971), "The Long Goodbye" (1973), "Nashville" (1975) and "Three Women" (1977). Even his over-the-top 1978 farce "A Wedding" and 1979's often reviled sci-fi thriller "Quintet," though flawed in their own ways, reveal the idiosyncratic brilliance of their creator.

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