Alan Alda

Alan Alda

born on 28/1/1936 in New York City, NY, United States

Alan Alda

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Alan Alda

Alda in December 2008
Born January 28 1936
Bronx, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Fordham University
Occupation Actor, author, activist, director, screenwriter
Spouse(s) Arlene Alda (1957present)

Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo (born January 28, 1936), better known as Alan Alda, is an American actor, director, screenwriter, and author. A six-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner, he is best known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series M*A*S*H. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Journalism and a member of the advisory board of The Center for Communicating Science.[1]

In 1996, Alda was ranked #41 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.[2]

Family and early life

Alda was born Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo in The Bronx, New York City. His father, Robert Alda (born Alphonso Giuseppe Giovanni Roberto D'Abruzzo), was an actor and singer, and his mother, Joan Browne, was a former showgirl. Alda is of Italian and Irish descent.[3] His adopted surname, "Alda," is a portmanteau of ALphonso and D'Abruzzo. When Alda was seven years old, he contracted Poliomyelitis. 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.[4] Alda attended Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York.[5] In 1956, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in English from Fordham College of Fordham University in the Bronx, where he was a student staff member of its FM radio station, WFUV. Alda's half-brother, Antony Alda, was born the same year and would also become an actor.

During Alan Alda's junior year, he studied in Paris, acted in a play in Rome, and performed with his father on television in Amsterdam. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve, and served a six-month tour of duty as a gunnery officer.[6] 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 Jersey.[7] Alda frequented Sol & Sol deli on Palisade Avenue in the nearby town of Englewood, New Jerseya fact mirrored in his character's daydream about eating whitefish from the establishment, in an episode of M*A*S*H in which Hawkeye sustains a head injury.[8]


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 Broadway; 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 (1968),[5] 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 (197283)

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.[5] 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 Alda's portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce (Hooker, a Republican, had based Hawkeye on himself, whereas Alda and the show's writers 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 television series.[5] Alda is the only series regular to appear in all 251 episodes.[9]

Alda commuted from Los Angeles to his home in New Jersey every weekend for 11 years while starring in M*A*S*H.[10] His wife and daughters lived in New Jersey, and he did not want to uproot his family to L.A., especially because he did not know how long the show would last.

Alan Alda, father Robert Alda, and half-brother Antony Alda appeared together in an episode of M*A*S*H, "Lend a Hand", during Season 8. Robert had previously appeared in "The Consultant" in Season 3.

As more and more of the original series writers left the series, Alda gained more control, and by the final seasons he had become a producer 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).

In his 1981 autobiography, Jackie Cooper (who directed several early episodes) wrote that Alda concealed a lot of hostility beneath the surface, and that the two of them barely spoke to each other by the time Coopers directing of M*A*S*H ended.[11]

During his M*A*S*H years, Alda made several game-show appearances, most notably in The $10,000 Pyramid and as a frequent panelist on To Tell the Truth.


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.[5] 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 and often progressive activist, he has been a target for some political and social conservatives.

Alda played Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman in the play QED, which had 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 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 was 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.[5] His role as a pompous celebrity television producer in Crimes and Misdemeanors was widely seen as a self-parody, although Alda has denied this.

Recent work

In 1995, he starred as the President in Michael Moore's political satire/comedy film Canadian Bacon. Around this time, rumors circulated that Alda was considering running for the United States Senate in New Jersey, 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 candidate 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 America 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 Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The play won the Tony Award for best original play.

Alda also had a part in the 2000 romantic comedy What Women Want, as the CEO of the advertising firm where the main characters worked.

In the spring of 2005, Alda starred as Shelly Levene in the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Throughout 2009 and 2010, he appeared in three episodes of 30 Rock as Milton Greene, the biological father of Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).

In 2011, Alda was scheduled to guest star on Law & Order: LA, portraying former police and naval officer John Winters, the father of the former main character Rex Winters. It is unknown if he filmed his role before the series was redesigned and Rex Winters written off.

Charitable work and other interests

Alda has done extensive charity work. He helped narrate a 2005 St. Jude's Children's Hospital produced one-hour special TV show Fighting for Life.[12] 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. Alda and Marlo Thomas had also worked together in the early 70s on a critically acclaimed children's album entitled Free to Be You and Me, which featured Alda, Thomas and a number of other well-known character actors. This project remains one of the earliest public signs of his support of women's rights.

In 2005, Alda published his first round of memoirs, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned.[10] Among other stories, he recalls his intestines becoming strangulated while on location in Chile 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 Collider, at CERN, Geneva, in September 2008.[13]

Alda has been an activist for feminism for many years.[14]

Religious views

In the 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 Roman Catholic:

For a while in my teens, I was sure I had it. It was about getting to heaven. If heaven existed and lasted forever, then a mere lifetime spent scrupulously following orders was a small investment for an infinite payoff. One day, though, I realized I was no longer a believer, and realizing that, I couldnt go back. Not that I lost the urge to pray. Occasionally, even after I stopped believing, I might send off a quick memo to the Master of the Universe, usually on a matter needing urgent attention, like Oh, God, dont let us crash. These were automatic expulsions of words, brief SOS messages from the base of my brain. They were similar to the short prayers that were admired by the church in my Catholic boyhood, which they called ejaculations. I always liked the idea that you could shorten your time in purgatory with each ejaculation; what boy wouldnt find that a comforting idea? But my effort to keep the plane in the air by talking to God didnt mean I suddenly was overcome with belief, only that I was scared. Whether Id wake up in heaven someday or not, whatever meaning I found would have to occur first on this end of eternity.
Speaking further on agnosticism, Alda goes on to say:
I still don't like the word agnostic. It's too fancy. I'm simply not a believer. But, as simple as this notion is, it confuses some people. Someone wrote a Wikipedia entry about me, identifying me as an atheist because I'd said in a book I wrote that I wasn't a believer. I guess in a world uncomfortable with uncertainty, an unbeliever must be an atheist, and possibly an infidel. This gets us back to that most pressing of human questions: why do people worry so much about other people's holding beliefs other than their own?
Alda made these comments in an interview for the 2008 question section of the Edge Foundation website.[15]

Awards and nominations

  • 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 Lead Actor in a Comedy Series" in 1980
  • Emmy Award for "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Comedy-Variety or Music Series" in 1979
  • Emmy Award for "Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series" in 1977
  • Emmy Award for "Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series" in 1972
  • Emmy Award for "Actor of the Year Series" in 1972
  • Golden Globe for "Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series Musical/Comedy" in 1983
  • Golden Globe for "Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series Musical/Comedy" in 1982
  • Golden Globe for "Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series Musical/Comedy" in 1981
  • Golden Globe for "Best TV Actor Musical/Comedy" in 1980
  • Golden Globe for "Best TV Actor Musical/Comedy" in 1976
  • Golden Globe for "Best TV Actor Musical/Comedy" in 1975
  • DGA Award for "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series" in 1983
  • DGA Award for "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series" in 1982
  • DGA Award for "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series" in 1977
  • Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Ensemble Performance" in 2005 for Glengarry Glen Ross.
  • For contributions to the television industries, Alan Alda was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[16]
  • Became Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006[17]


  • The audiobook version of Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself was nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the category of Best Spoken Word Album.
  • Alda received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor his role as Senator Ralph Owen Brewster in Martin Scorsese's film The Aviator.



  • Gone Are the Days! (1963)
  • Paper Lion (1968)
  • The Extraordinary Seaman (1969)
  • Jenny (1970)
  • The Moonshine War (1970)
  • The Mephisto Waltz (1971)
  • To Kill a Clown (1972)
  • Kill Me If You Can (1977)
  • Same Time, Next Year (1978)
  • California Suite (1978)
  • The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979)
  • The Four Seasons (1981)
  • Sweet Liberty (1986)
  • A New Life (1988)
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
  • Betsy's Wedding (1990)
  • Whispers in the Dark (1992)
  • Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
  • Canadian Bacon (1995)
  • Flirting with Disaster (1996)
  • Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
  • Murder at 1600 (1997)
  • Mad City (1997)
  • The Object of My Affection (1998)
  • Keepers of the Frame (1999)
  • What Women Want (2000)
  • The Aviator (2004)
  • Resurrecting the Champ (2007)
  • Diminished Capacity (2008)
  • Flash of Genius (2008)
  • Nothing But the Truth (2008)
  • Wanderlust (2011)
  • Tower Heist (2011)


  • The Phil Silvers Show (1958)
  • Naked City (1962)
  • The Doctors and the Nurses (1963)
  • Route 66 (1963)
  • East Side/West Side (1963)
  • The Trials of O'Brien (1963)
  • That Was The Week That Was (1964-1965)
  • Where's Everett (1966) (pilot)
  • Coronet Blue (1967)
  • Premiere (1968)
  • Story Theatre (1971)
  • Class of '55 (1972)
  • The Glass House (1972)
  • M*A*S*H (1972-1983)
  • Playmates (1972)
  • Isn't It Shocking? (1973)
  • Free to Be... You and Me (1974)
  • 6 Rms Riv Vu (1974)
  • Kill Me If You Can (1977)
  • The Four Seasons (TV pilot) 1984
  • And the Band Played On (1993)
  • Scientific American Frontiers (1993-2005)
  • White Mile (1994)
  • Jake's Women (1996)
  • ER (1999)
  • Club Land (2001)
  • The Killing Yard (2001)
  • The West Wing (2004-2006)
  • 30 Rock (2009-2011)
  • The Human Spark (2010)
  • Law & Order: Los Angeles (2011)
  • The Big C (2011)


  • Only in America (1959)
  • Purlie Victorious (1961)
  • A Whisper in God's Ear (1962)
  • Fair Game for Lovers (1964)
  • Cafe Crown (1964)
  • The Owl and The Pussycat (1965)
  • The Apple Tree (1966)
  • Jake's Women (1992)
  • Art (1998)
  • QED (2001)
  • The Play What I Wrote (2003)
  • Glengarry Glen Ross (2005)

Voice acting

  • Free To Be You And Me (1972) (various performances)
  • World War Z (2006) (voice of Director Arthur Sinclair Jr.)


  • Alda, Alan (2006). Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, London: Hutchinson.
  • Alda, Alan (2007). Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, New York: Random House.


  1. [1] Press Release from Stony Brook University
  2. (1996). "Special Collectors' Issue: 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time". TV Guide (December 14-20).
  3. Berk, Philip, A question of roots, The Jerusalem Post, December 11, 1998. URL accessed on December 10, 2007.
  4. Smiley, Tavis, Alan Alda, PBS, December 2, 2004. URL accessed on May 2, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Stated on Inside the Actors Studio, 2000
  6. Military People : Alan Alda. After graduation, Alda joined the U.S. Army Reserve and served a six-month tour of duty in Korea.
  7. Kolbert, Elizabeth (May 18, 1994). At Lunch With: Alan Alda; Hawkeye Turns Mean, Sensitively. The New York Times. Retrieved on November 24, 2007. Ever since M*A*S*H, Alda has split his time between the East Coast, where he has houses in the Hamptons and Leonia, New Jersey, and the West, where he owns a house in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles.
  8. Kingergan, Ashley (Sept 27, 2010). Noted Englewood deli closes after 60-plus years. The Record. Retrieved on September 27, 2010. Perhaps the greatest tribute to the deli came from the 1970s television show M*A*S*H. Hawkeye, one of the main characters in M*A*S*H*, daydreams about whitefish from Sol & Sol after sustaining a head injury.
  9. Hawkeye Trivia and Quotes. Retrieved on 2011-05-17.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Alda, Alan (2006). Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned, New York: Random House.
  11. Jackie Cooper, Please Dont Shoot My Dog, Page 290, William Morrow & Company, 1981
  12. Saint Jude Children's Hospital, Web Editor (December 1, 2005). "Saint Jude TV Fighting For Life".
  13. Big Bang Day: Physics Rocks. BBC Web Site (September 10, 2008). Retrieved on September 10, 2008.
  14. Alda, Alan: U.S. Actor. The Museum of Broadcast Communications.
  15. (2008). "THE WORLD QUESTION CENTER 2008 page 8".
  16. Hollywood Walk of Fame database.
  17. Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved on April 14, 2011.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Alan Alda Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Alan Alda

  • Alan Alda at All Movie Guide
  • Alan Alda at the Internet Movie Database
  • Alan Alda at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Alan Alda at the Internet off-Broadway Database
  • Bio on Scientific American Frontiers
  • Military Service
  • Alan Alda Discusses Science, Improv and Richard Feynman at USC's Annenberg School
  • Interview with Alda on NPR's Fresh Air (September 21, 2005)
  • Alan Alda's Charity Work
  • Performance Working in the Theatre seminar video at American Theatre, April 1992
  • Alan Alda Interview at Archive of American Television
This page was last modified 24.12.2011 06:33:22

This article uses material from the article Alan Alda from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.