... I am very much against using films for propaganda purposes. I hate it when I see it in films. I just like to poke around in real human experience and let people come to some kind of understanding that doesn't have to do with learning lessons, or the way you should vote. That's all so minor compared to what you can get out of a really good film.
Alan Alda in a 1998 interview with P.O.V., a Danish journal of film studies
Alphonso D'Abruzzo Jr. was born in New York in 1936. He is the son of actor Robert Alda and the brother of not-quite-so-famous actor Antony Alda, both of whom had guest appearances alongside Alan in M*A*S*H. His mother, Joan Brown, once won the Miss New York pageant. Since 1957, Alda has been married to Arlene Alda (maiden name Weiss), a photographer and author of children's books. The couple has three daughters.
Alda was introduced to the theater at age 16. During his junior year at New York's Fordham University, he studied in Europe, where he performed both on stage in Rome and on Dutch television with his father.
After college, Alda performed on stage and on television. "Second City" in New York and "Compass" at Hyannisport made for improvisational training. He also became a regular on That Was the Week That Was. Several performances on Broadway gained him critical acclaim, notably The Owl and the Pussycat. He was also nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in The Apple Tree.
His movie debut was Gone Are the Days, where Alda played the role of Charlie, which he had already played on Broadway in Purlie Victorious. During the hiatus between the 6th and 7th seasons of M*A*S*H, he had the time to play in three movies.
Alda commuted between LA and New Jersey every weekend while playing Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H, not knowing for how long it would be running and avoiding to uproot his family. By 1980 he earned a reported $200,000 a week from the series, where he also started directing. During the 11 years it kept running, it also won him five Emmys (out of 21 nominations).
Alda's big screen debut as a director was The Four Seasons, about the midlife crisis and friendships of a group of couples, which won a Bodil Award (danish movie critics' award) in 1981 for best non-european movie. He also wrote the script and played one of the leading roles.
Alda is also responsible for some delightful performances in Woody Allen movies, the first of which were Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993). Allen was basically the first director to cast Alda for roles that were not necessarily good-natured and kind. But he wouldn't be the last, and in the moving 1993 telefeature And the Band Played On (1993), Alda plays an immensely egocentric and rather sleazy doctor.
The doctor role keeps coming back to Alda, and in 1999-2000 he starred in Michael Crichton's hospital drama ER - where he also had the chance to make references to the lessons in medicine he picked up during the war (i.e. M*A*S*H).
The actor is known for his political involvement and feminist attitudes. In 1976, he was appointed as member of the National Commission for the Observance of the International Women's Year, where he actually co-chaired the Equal Rights Amendment Committee. And in 1982, he was co-chair with Betty Ford of the National ERA Countdown Campaign. In 1985, Alda became a member of the Board of the Museum of Broadcasting.
On the big screen, Alda has mainly been seen in minor roles in later years, starring in the quite sweet, but insignificant The Object of My Affection and the braindead What Women Want. He also works on Broadway, recently starring in QED. Alda is also the regular host of the PBS science documentary series Scientific American Frontiers, currently on its 12th season.
Filmography as actor, director and writer from imdb.com (through 2001):
The Killing Yard (2001) (TV)- Ernie Goodman
Club Land (2001) (TV) - Willie Walters
The Killing Yard (2001) (TV) - Ernie Goodman
"Influences" (2000) TV Series - Himself
What Women Want (2000) - Dan Wanamaker
Keepers of the Frame (1999) - Himself
"ER" (1994) TV Series - Dr. Gabriel "Gabe" Lawrence (1999)
CBS: The First 50 Years (1998) (TV)
The Object of My Affection (1998) - Sidney Miller
Mad City (1997) - Kevin Hollander
Murder at 1600 (1997) - Alvin Jordan, National Security Advisor
Everyone Says I Love You (1996) - Bob
Flirting with Disaster (1996) - Richard Schlichting
Jake's Women (1995) (TV) - Jake
Canadian Bacon (1995) - President of the USA
White Mile (1994) (TV) - Dan Cutler
And the Band Played On (1993) (TV) - Dr. Robert Gallo
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) - Ted
Whispers in the Dark (1992) - Leo Green
Memories of M*A*S*H (1991) (TV) - Himself/Captain Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce
"Scientific American Frontiers" (1990) TV Series - Host
Betsy's Wedding (1990) - Eddie Hopper dw
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) - Lester
A New Life (1988) - Steve dw
Sweet Liberty (1986) - Michael Burgess dw
M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (1983) (TV) - Captain Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce dw
The Four Seasons (1981) - Jack Burroughs dw
The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979) - Joe Tynan w
Same Time, Next Year (1978) - George
California Suite (1978) - Bill Warren
Kill Me If You Can (1977) (TV) - Caryl W. Chessman
"We'll Get By" (1975) TV Series (creator - only w, no acting)
Free to Be... You & Me (1974) (voice) - Various characters
Isn't It Shocking? (1973) (TV) - Sheriff Dan Barnes
Playmates (1972) (TV) - Marshall Barnett
M*A*S*H (1972) TV Series - Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, Chief Surgeon dw
To Kill a Clown (1972) - Major Evelyn Ritchie
The Glass House (1972) (TV) - Jonathan Paige
The Mephisto Waltz (1971) - Myles Clarkson
The Moonshine War (1970) - John W. (Son) Martin
The Extraordinary Seaman (1969) - Morton Krim
Jenny (1969) - Delano
Paper Lion (1968) - George Plimpton
"What's My Line?" (1968) TV Series (uncredited) - Guest Panelist
"That Was the Week That Was" (1964) TV Series - Himself
Gone Are the Days! (1963) - Charlie Cotchipee
"Secret File, U.S.A." (1955) TV Series