Hawkeye Pierce

Hawkeye Pierce

MASH character

hair=Black (graying)
home=Crabapple Cove, Maine, USA
film=Donald Sutherland
tv=Alan Alda
last="Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"

Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce is a fictional character and lead protagonist in the "M*A*S*H" novels, film, and television series. The character was played by Donald Sutherland in the film and by Alan Alda on television.He is the only character to appear in every single episode of "M*A*S*H".

About the character

Born and raised in Crabapple Cove, Maine, Hawkeye is (according to the TV series) the son of Dr. Benjamin Pierce. According to the novels, his father is “Big Benjy” Pierce, a lobster fisherman. In some later episodes of the TV series his father was named Dr. Daniel Pierce. Hawkeye attended Androscoggin College, where he played football and intercepted a Hail Mary pass thrown by Dartmouth quarterback John McIntyre. After his medical residency in Boston, Hawkeye is drafted into the U.S. Army Medical Corps and called to serve at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M*A*S*H) during the Korean War. Between long, intense sessions of treating critically wounded patients, he makes the best of his life in an isolated Army camp with heavy drinking, carousing, and pulling pranks on the people around him, especially the unpleasantly stiff and callous Major Frank Burns and Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan.

"Hawkeye" nickname

The novel established that Pierce’s nickname of "Hawkeye" was given to him by his father. It comes from the novel "The Last of the Mohicans", which Pierce, in Hooker's book, claimed was "the only book my old man ever read." [Hornberger, Richard. "M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors", William Morrow, 1968, p. 12] , as well as in the TV episode, "A Full Rich Day".

In "Where There's a Will", an episode of the TV series in which Hawkeye believed himself to be in mortal danger due to heavy enemy shelling, he made out a will and left Colonel Sherman T. Potter (whom Hawkeye stated was like a father) the edition of "The Last of the Mohicans" that his father had given him. “It was his favorite book,” Hawkeye wrote in the will.

Changes in the character

Although the Robert Altman film followed Hooker’s book somewhat in structure, much of the dialogue was improvised and thus departed even from Ring Lardner, Jr.’s screenplay. The screenplay itself departed from the book in a number of details (e.g., Frank Burns becoming a major instead of a captain, and also combined with the novel's Major Hobson, the zealously religious officer that Pierce and bunkmate Duke Forrest got removed from their tent and, subsequently, the camp), but on the whole, the main characters and mood were left intact.

Perhaps the biggest change in Hawkeye’s characterization from the book, to the big screen and finally to the small screen comes in his marital status. The Hawkeye of the book is married to Evelyn Pierce with children (according to the sequels) and faithful while in Korea (as far as the reader is concerned). He offers several doctors love advice, "Jeeter" Carroll for example, extolling the virtues of extramarital sex but never partaking himself. The film version of Hawkeye is still married, but gives himself more moral leeway, arguing that he is far from home, no one is ever going to know, and it will reduce stress for both involved.

Finally, the film’s Hawkeye was transformed into the womanizing and single Hawkeye of the TV series. In the pilot episode, however, Hawkeye told Lieutenant Dish that he was engaged, and in a later first-season episode he broke up with several women, when he believed the war had ended, by telling them that he was married, although it was revealed at the end of the episode that he was lying. In a third season episode a nurse claims that Hawkeye is married. Hawkeye asks her who told her that, to which she replies, that he was the one to have originally made the claim. In 4/23, Hawkeye does admit to having had a "de facto" common law relationship (before the Korean War) with a nurse.

Richard Hooker, who wrote the book on which the show (and the film version) was based, noted that Hawkeye was far more liberal in the TV show (in one of the sequel books, Hawkeye facetiously makes reference to "kicking the bejesus out of lefties just to stay in shape").

In the original novel and film, Hawkeye is given to frequently uttering "finest kind" as a catchphrase, and throughout the latter, he produces a distinctive whistle (which is appropriated by Radar O'Reilly at the film's end). The whistle does not carry into the television program, however, Hawkeye in the first episodes of season one and two does use the phrase, "Finest Kind," referring to their homemade gin (in the season 4 episode, "Dear Peggy", the term refers to Hawkeye himself). In "The Interview" the phrase is used to refer to the entire staff of the 4077th. The phrase is not used often and is more of a hat tip towards the movie and novel.

Hawkeye in the television series

The television version of Hawkeye proved to be a somewhat different character. While his professional and social lives were much the same, he also gradually evolved into a man of conscience trying to maintain some humanity and decency in the insane world into which he has been thrust, sometimes to the point of trying to force his own sense of moral superiority onto others. This was to a large extent due to actor Alan Alda’s influence, as he infused the character with some of his political ideals and morals.

Developed for television by Larry Gelbart, the series departed in some respects radically from the film and book. The character of Duke Forrest was dropped altogether, and Hawkeye became the center of the M*A*S*H unit’s medical activity as well as the dramatic center of the series itself. In the book and the film, Hawkeye had played football in college (Androscoggin College, based on Hornberger’s "alma mater" Bowdoin College); in the series, Alda’s Hawkeye was hardly the football champ type and even seemed proud of it and reveled in it, while his cohort Trapper (Wayne Rogers) could be seen playing football in several episodes, and later Mike Farrell's B.J. could be seen lifting himself up by his arms from a metal pole post, thus suggesting this Hawkeye's friends were more physically durable than him. Alda's Pierce seemed to resemble Groucho Marx, with his quick wit and “madcap” antics, sometimes even affecting a Groucho-like schtick.

Hawkeye's marital status was also different on television than it had been in the books. In general, Gelbart tried to make the series less deliberately offensive for audiences than the film while nevertheless retaining some of its anarchic spirit. In one episode Hawkeye does admit to a "de facto" common law relationship with a nurse for a year after he graduated from medical school. Also, in early episodes, Hawkeye tells his father, Daniel Pierce, in a letter to say hello to his mother and sister, and in another episode his sister sends him a sweater she had knitted; however, in later episodes, he says he is an only child and his mother died when he was young. There are also references, in the Season 1 episodes “Dear Dad” and “Ceasefire”, to Pierce's father living in Vermont, and in the Season 4 episode “The Late Captain Pierce” Hawkeye tells B.J. that they merely have "a summer cottage" in Crabapple Cove, but all other references, including in the book and film, are to Hawkeye being from Maine. Most episodes refer to the senior Pierce as a physician, but in at least one episode, B.J. addresses him over the telephone as "Mr. Pierce". In addition, when Hawkeye is writing to his father in one episode, he explains medical terms he would not have to explain to a doctor.

Also in a bit of "turn-about-is-fair-play", Hawkeye was twice placed in command of the 4077th, the first of which he afterwards remarked how truly difficult the burden of command was for Blake, Potter and even Burns, to which Margaret Houlihan replied, "If only Frank Burns could see you now." The third time Col. Potter left, however, Hawkeye seemed reluctant about taking the reins and relinquished control to Major Winchester.

While Hawkeye is decidedly unmilitary and eschews the trappings of the service, he has been known, rarely, to render a salute, on two occasions to Radar, first when Radar got a Purple Heart, the second when he was departing the unit. He also joined his fellow MASHers in a salute to Father Mulcahy following Mulcahy's promotion to Captain. The final time was with B.J. Hunnicutt, as a farewell gesture to Colonel Sherman Potter as he left during the final episode of the series. Although Hawkeye was never shown receiving any kind of citation on the show, it is assumed that he himself would be a recipient of the Purple Heart award for once being wounded. He also in episode 2/23 ("Mail Call") mentions that this was his second war; implying that he had served in WWII.

In the final episode of season 11, the 4077th staff began assembling a time capsule of mementos from their time in Korea, with Hawkeye putting in two items. The first was a chopper's broken fan belt; its pilot had taken all night to fly a wounded soldier into camp, since the engine kept overheating. Hawkeye said that although no one had noticed the pilot while he was there, it would be nice for someone in the future to know that he had made a difference. The second item was the teddy bear left behind by Radar when he was discharged, to stand for the soldiers who came to Korea as boys and went home as men.

After the war

At the end of the television series, Hawkeye was one of the last to leave the dismantled camp with the announced goal of returning to his hometown of Crabapple Cove, Maine, to be a local doctor who has the time to get to know his patients instead of the endless flow of casualties he faced in his term of service.

In Hooker’s two sequels to "M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors", ("M*A*S*H Goes to Maine" and "M*A*S*H Mania"), Hawkeye returns to live in Crabapple Cove, near the fictional town of Spruce Harbor, Maine. The fictional town is described as having 30,000 residents, a large fish wharf, a café which is frequented by the protagonists, an international airport, and the Spruce Harbor General Hospital.

Having left the Army, Hawkeye is established to be working for the Veterans Administration. In May, 1954, he is laid off. At this point, Hawkeye does not have much money in the bank, is 31 years old, and has three children: Billy, Stephen and Karen.

The day he is released, Trapper John comes to visit and sets Hawkeye’s future in motion. Trapper John, a Lieutenant in the medical organization of Maxie Neville in New York City arranges for further thoracic training for Hawkeye, first in the East Orange VA Hospital in New Jersey, then at St Lombard’s in Manhattan from July, 1954. After two years Hawkeye breezes through the Thoracic Boards. At the end of his training in June, 1956, two Spruce Harbour locals, Jocko Allcock (the man who was responsible for Hawkeye being fired by the VA) and “Wooden Leg” Willcox (the local fish magnate) come to visit Hawkeye to set him up in practice—by betting favorably on the outcome of his operations.

The first operation, with Trapper John’s assistance (upon Pasquale Merlino), is a success, and thanks to his superior training Hawkeye becomes "the" local surgeon. As time goes by, Hawkeye is given more patients by the local general practitioner of note, “Doggy” Moore, goes into private practice with ex-Spitfire pilot, Tony Holcombe, and plots the eventual reuniting of the Swamp Gang. By 1959 Hawkeye has lured Duke Forrest, Trapper John and Spearchucker Jones into his net, and thanks to the proceeds of the “Allcock-Willcox” syndicate, a new “Finestkind Fishmarket and Clinic” is set up along with the new Spruce Harbor General Hospital.

In the twenty-year period described in Hooker’s two sequel novels, Hawkeye becomes notably more conservative politically (he supported Republican “Crazy Horse” Weinstein for governor of Maine and railed against people with “Recall Ford” bumper stickers), but remains as playful and humorous as ever. His golf game improves to an eight handicap depending on the time of year. He donates heavily to various causes, such as needy children and the re-education of a local clamdigger, and spends an inordinate amount of time caring for his patients. He is, however, prone to use racial and homophobic epithets.


External links

* [http://www.finest-kind.net/characters/hawkeye.php Finest-Kind.net] - "M*A*S*H" website with character profile

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