Wayne Rogers, who played ‘Trapper’ John on ‘M*A*S*H’, dies at 82

Posted at 10:08 AM, Jan 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-01 13:58:11-05

Wayne Rogers, who portrayed wisecracking Army surgeon “Trapper John” McIntyre in the first three seasons of TV’s “M*A*S*H,” died Thursday, his publicist Rona Menashe told Reuters.

He was 82.

Rogers died of complications from pneumonia in Los Angeles, Menashe said.

Rogers’ Trapper John was one half of “M*A*S*H’s” lead tandem of joke-cracking physicians in the first three seasons of CBS’ Korean War comedy-drama, paired with Alan Alda’s Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce. The character had been played by Elliott Gould in the 1970 movie.

But Rogers left the series in a contract dispute in 1975, his character written off as having been discharged, replaced by Mike Farrell’s B.J. Hunnicutt. In addition, as former “M*A*S*H” writer Ken Levine notes, Rogers was “frustrated,” as Trapper John and Hawkeye were supposed to be equals, but Hawkeye proved more popular with the public.

But Rogers never had a problem with his castmates, and he and Alda stayed friends long after he left the show.

Rogers had other TV and movie roles, including a turn as San Francisco surgeon Charley Michaels in the TV comedy “House Calls” from 1979 to 1982.

Rogers was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1933. He graduated from Princeton University with a degree in history, and though he did some acting with a group out of college, he didn’t devote himself to it full time until after military service in the 1950s.

Even then, he didn’t limit himself. A shrewd businessman — he later became a notable real estate developer and investor, with producing credits on several Neil Simon stage hits — he worked on Wall Street as well. In recent years, he appeared as a panelist on the Fox News show “Cashin’ In.”

He told that his creative side helped him achieve success in business.

“It was an advantage that I had no rules to follow, no premade decisions, no ‘books’ to tell me how to find success. This allowed me to take a creative approach rather than an administrative approach,” he said. “It is my belief that the best results in business come from a creative process, from the ability to see things differently from everyone else, and from finding answers to problems that are not bound by the phrase ‘we have always done it this way.’ ”

Before “M*A*S*H” came along, Rogers’ roles included spots on several Westerns, “The Fugitive,” “Combat!” and “Cannon.”

Besides “House Calls,” his post-“M*A*S*H” credits included playing himself in “The Larry Sanders Show,” a recurring character on “Murder, She Wrote” and Southern Poverty Law Center co-founder Morris Dees in “Ghosts of Mississippi.” He continued acting until the early 2000s.