Wayne Rogers Dies: ‘M.A.S.H.’s Trapper John Was 82
Actor and entrepreneur Wayne Rogers, best known for playing Captain “Trapper” John McIntyre from 1972-1975 on the long-running CBS dramedy M.A.S.H. has died today following complications from pneumonia. His publicist confirmed the news to Deadline: he was 82.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1933, he was a graduate of The Webb School in Tennessee and earned a history degree from Princeton, then served in the US Navy before embarking on his career as an actor. Acting on both television and film, among his early roles he played Slim Davis on the soap Search for Tomorrow in 1959, appeared on Odds Against Tomorrow in 1960, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. Rogers also co-starred on the ABC Western drama Stagecoach West as Luke Perry from 1960-1961.
Other early roles include appearances on The Invaders, The F.B.I., Gunsmoke, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Death Valley Days, and The Fugitive. Rogers also had a small supporting role in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke.
He was of course most famous for his three-year stint as “Trapper” John on M.A.S.H., an adaptation of Robert Altman’s hit 1970 film based on the book by Richard Hooker. Originally intending to audition for the role of Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, Rogers found that character too cynical and instead opted for the character whose outlook he considered sunnier. He was known to have enjoyed his time on the series, and became close friends with co-star Alan Alda, but was dissatisfied after Alda’s Hawkeye became the center of the show at, he felt, the expense of his own role, and chose to leave after the third season.
Rogers was the second of three actors to play the character. Elliott Gould originated the role in Altman’s film, and Pernell Roberts famously portrayed him for seven seasons on CBS’ Trapper John, M.D..
Following M.A.S.H., Rogers continued to work steadily. In 1975, he played an FBI agent on the 1975 TV movie Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan, he starred in the short lived NBC series City of Angels, he starred on the CBS series House Calls, as well as the miniseries Chiefs. He also guest starred five times on Murder, She Wrote.
Among his other television and film roles, he co-starred in the TV film I Dream of Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later, the 1981 film The Hot Touch, and later he played Civil Rights attorney Morris Dees in Rob Reiner’s Ghosts of Mississippi.
“His humor, honesty, knowledge and caring.. not to mention talent.. made him a very special guy and friend. One of the proudest experiences of my career was arranging, at his request, for him to appear in 1988 and again in 1990 as expert witness on the House of Representatives investigative hearing into the possible repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act preventing banks from non-banking activities,” said publicist Dick Guttman. “The word about his testimony moved out very quickly throughout the Capitol, and when we lunched in the Senate dining room, he was table-hopped by a who’s-who of Senators and Congressmen. Wayne, a banker, said it was a prescription for disaster. Pro repeal advocates on the panel argued that these were permitted in Japan and that, as result, eight of the ten most successful banks in the world were Japanese. Wayne predicted correcting the resultant problems those banks would experience. He definitely was a key factor in preventing the repeal. Unfortunately, the repeal prevailed a dozen years later, and we had to live the consequences. Here was a banker arguing regulation of banks. That was Wayne, clear-headed and persuasive in his knowledge.”
Later in life Rogers became well known as a business investor, having started doing so knowing that his income as an actor was not necessarily reliable long term. He eventually earned a sizable income from real estate and other ventures, penning the book Make Your Own Rules about his experiences, and was a regular panelist on the Fox Business Network show Cashin’ In. He also served on the Board of Directors of the electronics components manufacturer Vishay Intertechnology, Inc., and as the head of Wayne Rogers & Co., a stock trading investment corporation.
He is survived by his wife Amy Hirsh, whom he married in 1988.