David Ogden Stiers

by Arnold Nelson

     I first became aware of David when he appeared on M*A*S*H in the beginning the seventh season. He played an arrogant, pompous, Boston blue blood who was sent to the mass 4077 because a superior officer got mad when David beat them at cribbage, and the officer owed him a lot of money. He played the character Charles Emerson Winchester III. He played the part perfectly, at first he tried everything he could to get back to Tokyo General. Pulling every string he could pull, but to no avail. He was stuck there, and he hated it. He tried to make lives of everybody around him miserable. In the beginning. Hawkeye tried to call him Charlie. Charles got all upset and said my name is Charles so after that everybody called him Charles. A few times he was called Chuck , he didn't like it, but he let that go by.

     In one of the first episodes David was in. They were in a session in O R Hawkeye yelled at him hurry up, Charles we have a lot of people waiting. Charles answered back I do one thing at a time. I do it well then I go on to the next thing. Then Col. Potter said Charles hurried it up a little, this is meatball surgery. We don't have time to be neat, just patch them up. We have a lot of soldiers to take care of.

     In some of the episodes Charles was seen relaxing in the swap and playing his orchestra music and movie his hands like he was directing it. What I found out recently was David was a conductor. He conducted several orchestras. Also, Charles was seen playing tuba, very badly. This was done to annoy Hawkeye and BJ, another thing I found out recently is David is an accomplished tuba player.

    Every once in a while. Charles was allowed to show his soft side. In one episode, there's a soldier being teased by other soldiers because he stuttered. Charles heard it. He put a stop to it very quickly. At the end of the show, we find out why. Charles was always getting care packages and tapes from home, in the last scene he is listening to a tape from home. The tape was from his sister Anoria , who was also a stutterer. Those care packages that Charles was getting from home contain all kinds of high-class stuff like caviar and oysters.

      Charles kept all that stuff for himself, except for one time Klinger was going around trying to collect food for a Christmas party for the local orphanage. Charles donated a little tin of oysters. Another episode, Charles ordered a whole bunch of chocolate bars. He gave them to the local orphanage to continue the Winchester tradition of giving candy to needy kids at Christmas time. When they had their annual party for the orphans Charles saw a soldier eating a candy bar, he recognized it as one that he gave the orphanage. Then he found out the kids never got the candy. It was sold on the black market. Charles was very upset. He went and found the man that ran the orphanage and really chewed him out. Charles said. How dare you take the candy I gave you and sell it on the black market. The candy was for the orphans, it is a Winchester tradition.

     After Charles quit ranting and raving the man quietly said Major that was a very generous gift you gave us, and we really appreciate it. And yes, I did sell it on the black market. I could have given it to the kids. They would have enjoyed the chocolate for one day. But the money I got for the chocolate. I spend it on food for the kids. They were able to eat for several days. I'm sorry I broke your family's tradition, but I felt it was more important for them to have food to eat.

     When the man finish talking you could just see all that hate and rage slip out of Charles. When Charles got his foot out of his mouth he turned to the man and said it seems that I owe you apology. I was only thinking about the Winchester tradition. I was not thinking about the orphans, you are right. The kids need to have the meal before they had their desert.

     One other M*A*S*H episode I want to touch on. A soldier came in with his right arm destroyed. The soldier was very distraught because he was a piano player and with his right arm the way it was. He didn't think he would ever the play again . This touched Charles deeply. Charles had heard about a piano player with one arm who commissioned a composer to write music for the piano which could be played with one hand. Charles sent home for copies of that music then he gave them to the young soldier.

    He told the soldier you have so much talent, you can play piano. I'd love to play the piano, but I have no talent for it, you do. Don't let that talent go to waste, and he told the story about the piano player with one arm. Then he handed the soldier the music. At the and the episode. The soldier was sitting there at the piano , trying to place the music Charles got for him.

    M*A*S*H has to be one of the best series of all time, because of characters like Charles, Hawkeye, Bj., Radar, Hot Lips, Col Potter and Klinger.

    Just before David took the role of Charles. He played another role that was completely different from Charles. There was a TV movie called (Circle of Children). David played a man named Dan Franklin, Dan Franklin was a teacher at a school for emotionally disturbed children. I saw this movie after M*A*S*H went off the air. I could not believe one man could play two such diverse characters and do it so exceptionally well. Dan Franklin was a man who had so much love, understanding and patience for his kids, it was just amazing. David Ogden Stiers will turned 70 this year. His birthday is on Halloween. This man is still going strong. And I'm still a big fan of his.

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