Although he is perhaps best known as Hawkeye from TV’s M*A*S*H, Alan Alda is one of Hollywood’s more versatile actors, moving effortlessly from movies to TV to stage and back. Alda has proven himself as a director, screenwriter and book author as well.
Alan Alda was born in 1936 as Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo in New York City. The surname Alda was an inheritance from his actor father, Robert (born Alphonso Giovanni Giuseppe Roberto D’Abruzzo), who used the surname professionally. Alda’s acting career began in summer stock at age 16, and later grew to theatre and TV in Europe during his junior year in college. After graduating from Fordham University in 1956, he served six months in Korea as a member of the Army Reserve.
Upon his return to the States, Alda continued stage and TV work. His first film role came in 1963, with Gone Are the Days!, but his first starring role was six years later, when he played George Plimpton in an adaptation of the journalist’s book Paper Lion. His performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer – Male.
Alda starred in M*A*S*H, the TV adaptation of Robert Altman’s 1970 film, from 1972 to 1983, also writing and directing several episodes (and receiving most of his 32 Emmy nominations). He wore multiple hats for some of his film productions too; making his screenwriting debut in 1979, with The Seduction of Joe Tynan, and doing double duty as writer and director for The Four Seasons.
Post-M*A*S*H, Alda wrote, directed, and starred in three films, and was featured in three of Woody Allen’s movies. Since 1990 (Betsy’s Wedding), he has concentrated on acting, adding to his stage and TV honors and receiving his first Academy Award nomination in 2005 for The Aviator. He scored an acting trifecta that year, also receiving an Emmy nomination for The West Wing and a Tony nomination for Glengarry Glen Ross.
Alda has written two memoirs, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, and Other Things I’ve Learned and Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. He has been married to his wife Arlene, a photographer and children’s book writer, since 1957.
See Movie Rewind’s interview with Alan Alda here.