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Alan Alda (born January 28, 1936) is an American actor, director and screenwriter. He is known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series M*A*S*H. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was viewed as the archetypal sympathetic male, though in recent years, he has appeared in roles that counter that image.

Family and early life

Alda was born Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo in The Bronxmarker, New York Citymarker. His father, Robert Alda (born Alphonso Giovanni Roberto D'Abruzzo), was an actor and singer, and his mother, Joan Brown, was a former Miss New York. Alda is of Italian and Irish descent. His adopted surname, "Alda," is a portmanteau of ALphonso and D'Abruzzo. When Alda was seven years old he contracted polio. To combat the disease, his parents administered a painful treatment regimen developed by Sister Elizabeth Kenny that consisted of applying hot woolen blankets to his limbs and stretching his muscles. This allowed him to recover from most effects of the disease. Later, Alda attended Archbishop Stepinac High Schoolmarker in White Plains, New Yorkmarker. In 1956 he received his bachelor's degree from Fordham College of Fordham Universitymarker in the Bronx, where he was a student staff member of its FM radio station, WFUVmarker. During his junior year, he studied in Parismarker, acted in a play in Romemarker and performed with his father on television in Amsterdammarker. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve and served a six-month tour of duty as a gunnery officer in Koreamarker following the Korean War. A year after graduation, he married Arlene Weiss, with whom he has three daughters, Eve, Elizabeth, and Beatrice. He also has seven grandchildren, two of whom are aspiring actors. The Aldas have been longtime residents of Leonia, New Jerseymarker.

Career

Early acting

Alda began his career in the 1950s as a member of the Compass Players comedy revue. In 1966, he starred in the musical The Apple Tree on Broadwaymarker; he was nominated for the Tony award as Best Actor in a Musical for that role.

Alda made his Hollywood acting debut as a supporting player in Gone are the Days!—a film version of the highly successful Broadway play Purlie Victorious, which co-starred veteran actors Ruby Dee and her husband Ossie Davis. Other film roles would follow, such as his portrayal of author, humorist, and actor George Plimpton in the film Paper Lion as well as The Extraordinary Seaman (1969) and the occult-murder-suspense thriller The Mephisto Waltz, with actress Jacqueline Bisset. During this time, Alda frequently appeared as a panelist on the 1968 revival of What's My Line?. He also appeared as a panelist on I've Got a Secret during its 1972 syndication revival.

M*A*S*H Series (1972–1983)

In early 1972 Alda auditioned for and was selected to play the role of "Hawkeye Pierce" in the TV adaptation of the 1970 film MASH. He was nominated for 21 Emmy Awards, and won five. He took part in writing 19 episodes, including the finale, and directed 32. When he won his first Emmy Award for writing, he was so happy that he performed a cartwheel before running up to the stage to accept the award. He was also the first person to win Emmy Awards for acting, writing and directing for the same series. Richard Hooker, who wrote the novel on which M*A*S*H was based, did not like Alan Alda's portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce (Hooker, a Republican, had based Hawkeye on himself, whereas Alda took the character in a more left-wing direction). Alda also directed the show's 1983 2½ hour series finale "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" which remains the single most-watched episode of any TV series. Alda is the only series regular to appear in all 251 episodes.

As more and more of the original series writers left the series, Alda gained more control and by the final seasons he had become project and creative consultant. Under his watch, M*A*S*H more openly addressed political issues. As a result, the 11 years of M*A*S*H are generally split into two eras: the Larry Gelbart/Gene Reynolds "comedy" years (1972-1977), and the Alan Alda "dramatic" years (1977-1983).

After M*A*S*H

Alda's prominence in the enormously successful M*A*S*H gave him a platform to speak out on political topics, and he has been a strong and vocal supporter of women's rights and the Feminist Movement. He co-chaired, with former First Lady Betty Ford, the ERA Countdown campaign. In 1976, the Boston Globe dubbed him "the quintessential Honorary Woman: a feminist icon" for his activism on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. As a liberal activist he has been a target for some political and social conservatives.

Alan Alda has also played Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman in the play QED, which has only one other character. Although Peter Parnell wrote the play, Alda both produced and inspired it. Alda has also appeared frequently in the films of Woody Allen, and he was a guest star five times on ER, playing Dr. Kerry Weaver's mentor, Gabriel Lawrence. During the later episodes, it was revealed that Dr. Lawrence was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Alda also had a co-starring role as Dr. Robert Gallo in the 1993 TV movie And the Band Played On.

During M*A*S*H's run and continuing through the 1980s, Alda embarked on a successful career as a writer and director, with the ensemble dramedy The Four Seasons being perhaps his most notable hit. Betsy's Wedding is his last directing credit to date. After M*A*S*H, Alda took on a series of roles that either parodied or directly contradicted his "nice guy" image. His role as a pompous celebrity television producer in Crimes and Misdemeanors was widely seen as a self-parody, although Alda denied this.

Later roles

Alan Alda at the 1994 Emmys.
In 1995, he starred as the President in Michael Moore's political satire/comedy film Canadian Bacon. Around this time, rumours circulated that Alda was considering running for the United States Senate in New Jerseymarker, but he denied this. In 1996, Alda played Henry Ford in Camping With Henry and Tom, based on the book by Mark St. Germain. Beginning in 2004, Alda was a regular cast member on the NBC program The West Wing, portraying Republican U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful Arnold Vinick, until the show's conclusion in May 2006. He made his premiere in the sixth season's eighth episode, "In The Room," and was added to the opening credits with the thirteenth episode, "King Corn." In August 2006, Alda won an Emmy for his portrayal of Arnold Vinick in the final season of The West Wing.

In 2004, Alda portrayed conservative Maine Senator Owen Brewster in Martin Scorsese's Academy-Award winning film The Aviator, in which he co-starred with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Throughout his career, Alda has received 31 Emmy Award nominations and two Tony Award nominations, and has won seven People's Choice Awards, six Golden Globe awards, and three Directors Guild of Americamarker awards. However, it was not until 2004, after a long distinguished acting career, that Alda received his first Academy Award nomination, for his role in The Aviator.

Alda also wrote several of the stories and poems that appeared in Marlo Thomas's Free to Be... You and Me television show.

Alda starred in the original Broadway production of the play 'Art', which opened on March 1, 1998, at the Royale Theatre. The play won the Tony Award for best original play.

In the spring of 2005, Alda starred as Shelly Levene in the Tony Award-winning Broadwaymarker revival of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play.

Charitable work, other interests

Alda has done extensive charity work. He helped narrate a 2005 St. Jude's Children's Hospitalmarker produced one-hour special TV show Fighting for Life. He and his wife, Arlene, are also close friends of Marlo Thomas, who is very active in fund raising for the hospital her father founded. The special featured Ben Bowen as one of six patients being treated for childhood cancer at Saint Jude.

In 2005, Alda published his first round of memoirs, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned. Among other stories, he recalls his intestines becoming strangulated while on location in Chilemarker for his PBS show Scientific American Frontiers, during which he mildly surprised a young doctor with his understanding of medical procedures, which he had learned from M*A*S*H. He also talks about his mother's battle with schizophrenia. The title comes from an incident in his childhood, when Alda was distraught about his dog dying and his well-meaning father had the animal stuffed. Alda was horrified by the results, and took from this that sometimes we have to accept things as they are, rather than desperately and fruitlessly trying to change them.

In 2006, Alda contributed his voice to a part in the audio book of Max Brooks' World War Z. In this book, he voiced Arthur Sinclair Jr., the director of the United States Government's fictional "Department of Strategic Resources (DeStRes)".

His second memoir, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, weaves together advice from public speeches he has given with personal recollections about his life and beliefs.

Alda also has an avid interest in cosmology, and participated in BBC coverage of the opening of the Large Hadron Collidermarker, at CERNmarker, Genevamarker, in September 2008.

Alda has been an activist for feminism for many years.

Personal beliefs and other views

In the above-mentioned memoir, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, Alda candidly describes how briefly, at one time in his life he realized that he had begun thinking like an agnostic or atheist, although he had been raised as a Catholic:

Speaking further on agnosticism, Alda goes on to say: Alda made these comments in an interview for the 2008 question section of the Edge Foundation website.

Awards and nominations

Awards
  • Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2006, for his portrayal of Senator & Presidential candidate Arnold Vinick in The West Wing
  • Emmy Award for "Outstanding writing in a comedy" in 1979.
  • Tony Award for "Best Play" in 1998 for Art.
  • Tony Award for "Best Featured Actor" in 2005 for Glengarry Glen Ross.
  • For contributions to the television industries, Alan Alda was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker.
Nominations

  • Alda received his first nomination for an Academy Award for his supporting role as Senator Ralph Owen Brewster in Martin Scorsese's film The Aviator.


Filmography

Film



Television



Stage

  • The Apple Tree (1966)
  • Art (1998)
  • Glengarry Glen Ross (2005)


Voice acting

  • World War Z (2006) (voice of Director Arthur Sinclair Jr.)


Bibliography



References

External links




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