Gary Rich Burghoff (born May 24, 1943) is an American actor, known for playing Charlie Brown in the 1967 Off-Broadway musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and the character Corporal Walter Eugene "Radar" O'Reilly in the film M*A*S*H, as well as the TV series.
Life and career:
Burghoff was born in Bristol, Connecticut. He studied tap dance and became a drummer, despite having a congenital deformity of three fingers on his left hand. He gained early experience acting with the Belfry Players of Williams Bay, Wisconsin.In 1967 he originated the role of Charlie Brown in the original Off-Broadway production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He was the drummer for a band called the Relatives in 1968. Actress Lynda Carter was the band's singer. The group opened at the Sahara Hotel and Casino lounge in Las Vegas, Nevada, and played there for three months. He and Carter remained friends, and she helped cast him in an episode of her later hit series The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, in the 1978 episode "The Man Who Wouldn't Tell".
Burghoff made his feature film debut in Robert Altman's M*A*S*H (1970). Although several actors from the original film made guest appearances in the television series, Burghoff was the only actor cast as a regular, continuing in the role of Radar O'Reilly. Although he ostensibly played the same character in the series that he played in the film, Burghoff has cited differences in the portrayal: "In the original feature film MASH, I created Radar as a lone, darker and somewhat sardonic character; kind of a shadowy figure. I continued these qualities for a short time until I realized that the TV MASH characters were developing in a different direction from the film characters. It became a group of sophisticated, highly educated Doctors (and one head nurse) who would rather be anywhere else and who understood the nature of the 'hell hole' they were stuck in. With Gelbart's help, I began to mold Radar into a more innocent, naïve character as contrast to the other characters, so that while the others might deplore the immorality and shame of war (from an intellectual and judgmental viewpoint), Radar could just REACT from a position of total innocence."
Burghoff was nominated for six Emmy Awards for M*A*S*H in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and, of those nominations, he won an Emmy in 1977. Burghoff's co-star Alan Alda accepted the award on his behalf.
Burghoff left M*A*S*H after the seventh season because of burnout and a desire to spend more time with his family, though he returned the following year to film a special two-part farewell episode, "Goodbye Radar." On the subject of his departure, Burghoff said, "Family, to me, became the most important thing... I was not available as a father because of my work. That doesn't stop when the work stops. Whenever you go out as a family, you're always torn from family to deal with public recognition."
As originally conceived, "Goodbye Radar" was supposed to be the final episode of season 7, but at the behest of CBS, it was expanded into a double-episode for the November sweeps the next season. Mike Farrell tried to persuade Burghoff to stay on the show, citing the lackluster careers of former M*A*S*H regulars Larry Linville and McLean Stevenson after their departures.
Covering the conclusion of M*A*S*H for TV Guide in 1983, Burt Prelutsky wrote, "Although nobody wanted to be quoted for the record, the feelings about Gary Burghoff's leaving were fairly unanimous: loved Radar, hated Burghoff. As summed up by one of the principals: 'Gary had personality problems. He always felt there was a conspiracy against him. He was rude to everyone, but if anyone ever said anything back to him, he'd throw a tantrum. He had frequent spats with his cast members, particularly with Alan Alda. Once his other cast member, Mike Farrell, told him that his problem was that he could dish it out but he couldn't take it, and Gary said, "And I'm getting real sick and tired of dishing it out." The poor guy didn't even realize what he'd said.'"
Mike Farrell later said, "Gary Burghoff may well have been the best actor in the company, it's always seemed to me. His focus, his ability to find those little gems of behavior that made everything absolutely true were a marvel to behold."
Burghoff also frequently appeared on the game show Match Game in the 1970s, both as a stand-in for regular Charles Nelson Reilly and also as the "special male guest" occupying the top left seat. He often sat in for Reilly from late 1974 until Episode 471, when Reilly returned in 1975 from Broadway. He appeared in 248 episodes of Match Game through its daytime run, syndicated run, and the nighttime version of the show. 215 episodes daytime, 18 episodes on Match Game PM (nighttime), and 15 episodes during the syndicated version.
Burghoff appeared regularly on TV, making appearances on other game shows as well like Tattletales, Hollywood Squares, and Showoffs. He also appeared in the film B.S. I Love You, as well as an episode of The Love Boat and Ellery Queen. His M*A*S*H character Radar O'Reilly was spun off into an unsold TV show called W*A*L*T*E*R. Burghoff also appeared in the The New Adventures of Wonder Woman episode "The Man Who Wouldn't Tell" in 1978, where he was reunited with his former band member Lynda Carter, who portrayed the title character. In the 1980s Burghoff was the TV spokesman for BP gasoline and IBM computers.
Burghoff is a self-taught amateur wildlife painter who is also qualified to handle injured wildlife in California. and has also worked as a professional jazz drummer, heading the trio The We Three (in the episode "Showtime," Radar is seen playing a solo on the drums; it is a misconception that the sound was dubbed in, as it was Burghoff's actual performance). Burghoff is also the inventor of (and holds a patent on) the "Chum Magic", a fishing tackle invention that attracts fish toward the user's boat. Other Burghoff inventions include a toilet seat lifting handle and a new type of fishing pole.
Burghoff is a philatelist, and in 1993 he was asked to help pick a postal stamp for United States hunters. In 2000, Burghoff was a spokesman for dot-com era auction aggregation site PriceRadar.com.
Burghoff came out of retirement in 2010 to star in the film Daniel's Lot.
Burghoff was married to Janet Gayle, from 1971 to 1979; they had one child before their divorce. In 1985, he married Elisabeth Bostrom; the couple had two children and divorced in 2005.
Burghoff, G (2009). To M*A*S*H and Back: My Life in Poems and Songs. Albany: BearManor Media. ISBN 1-59393-343-6.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license