February 28 is the 39th anniversary of “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” bringing M*A*S*H to a close. The finale broke viewership records and is often listed among the best series finales in the history of television. To celebrate, the next two weeks, let’s explore the production documents and script for the finale. Since the two and half hour finale is a large script and has over 200 production documents, this week we will be looking at the production documents before looking at the script itself next week.
Many of the scripts in my collection include what I call “the supporting documents.” Those documents include call sheets, shooting schedules, and in some instances, wardrobe pages. But when I finally got my hands on a copy of the script for “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” it didn’t have any supporting documents with it. Of course, the script itself was much larger being essentially the length of five episodes. I wondered what happened to the supporting documents. Were they thrown away after they were used? Would I ever be able to find these documents for a single episode? I got my answer a few years later when I was able to purchase a copy of the supporting documents for the famed final episode.
If you were to judge this item by its cover, you would assume this is a script for “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.” Instead, this is only the supporting documents. As an added bonus, the documents belonged to Albert Frankel, the men’s costume director, and includes the extra wardrobe sheets in addition to the call sheets and shooting schedules. That makes this set of documents just as thick as the script itself! I was excited to get this copy because it belonged to Frankel, like several of the scripts of my collection. His personal notes are everywhere, and I love that human connection with his scripts. So what do the production documents tell us about the finale?
Call Sheets & Set Requirements
The M*A*S*H finale was two and a half hours long, so its production schedule was much longer than the typical episode. A standard episode of the series was filmed over four days, and we can tell from the call sheets that the finale was shot over the course of 30 days between September 20, 1982 and December 17, 1982. This is a long, drawn out schedule given that during these months, the cast and crew were filming the other episodes from the eleventh season. What is great about the call sheets is that you can see who was needed each day and where the scenes were being filmed. Many were filmed at the 20th Century Fox Ranch at Malibu Creek State Park.
The primary reason that the filming took so long was the wildfire that burned the M*A*S*H set in October 1982. The fire in Malibu delayed filming and even made its way into the episode itself (more on this when we look at the script and its revisions next week). That is why we see the filming schedule stretch into December as they could not return to the set until it safe. Even then, it had to be rebuilt so that it would be usable. Scenes could be filmed at Stage 9 on the Fox lot, but all outdoor scenes had to be postponed. In re-watching the episode for these posts, it didn’t really register just how many of the scenes in the finale were shot at the ranch. Nevertheless, I am sure they did not plan for filming taking 30 days over the course of two months!
A unique feature of any script that was used by Albert Frankel are his costume sheets (I also discuss the costume sheets in the Script Spotlight post for “A War for All Seasons“). For each scene, Frankel would list the location and the wardrobe requirements for each of the male actors. For the finale, Frankel had 31 pages of costume information to manage. The principle cast members (Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, David Ogden Stiers, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher) had two pages of costume requirements each. The amount of detail that went into each of the sheets is impressive. The costume was complete right down to the steel helmets and combat boots!
The first page of the shooting schedule is where I noticed a major change in filming. The scenes where Hawkeye was being treated by Dr. Sidney Freedman were filmed on Stage 11 instead of Stage 9. This makes sense as Stage 9 was small and already cramped with the standard M*A*S*H sets (The Swamp, O.R., Mess Tent, Col. Potter’s Office, etc.). Using another stage to film scenes using sets that were only going to be in the finale gave the production more flexibility. This leaves me with a few questions, though. Was the hospital set used in M*A*S*H from another series and borrowed for the finale? Or were these sets deconstructed soon after the scenes were filmed? Despite the addition of Stage 11, the majority of the finale was shot on Stage 9 and at Malibu Creek State Park.
Some other details that stood out to me in the shooting schedule is the number of pages filmed per day. I pulled some of the other scripts to compare the number of days filmed in a day, and it ranged between 8 and 11 pages per day. There were some days when the schedule would say that they were filming scenes from another episode, but since they filmed a standard episode in four days, they didn’t have much time to waste. For “Goodebye, Farewell and Amen,” they would only get 4 to 7 pages filmed a day. This provides some more evidence for my theory as to why it took 30 days to film the finale. They were filming other episodes at the same time. Since the finale didn’t air until February 1983, they would have filmed the episodes that aired before it.
Another reason that I enjoy the shooting schedules is for the prop lists. If you look at the final page in the images (the pink page), there is a list of props, animals, cameras, and actors required for that episode. Bert Allen was the property director for M*A*S*H, so the props would have been in wheelhouse. He would have made sure the Jeeps, ambulances, and for this scene, the ox cart were all on set and ready to go for filming.
Staff and Crew List
The final page in the script is one that I had never seen before: a Staff and Crew List. I have blurred out the phone numbers in the off chance that any of them still have the same home phone number, but this was essentially the set directory. If you needed to get something done on set, the person you needed to talk to was on this list. I like this page because it goes far beyond the people and roles that we see in the credits that follow each episode. Seeing the names of the secretaries, editors, auditor, dialogue coach, hair stylist, and ranch ranger (Malibu Creek State Park) gives credit to where credit is due. These people had just as much a hand in making M*A*S*H possible each week as the actors, producers, and directors. They kept the business running so the show we all love could be made.
So far, I hope that my standard Script Spotlight posts have shown how much effort went into producing a 26-minute episode. These documents for “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” show how that was amplified for the finale. It was closer in relation to a movie production in terms of the time it took and the requirements. In the end, all of the hard work produced one of best television series finales of all time. Next week, February 28, we will take a closer look at the script itself as we celebrate 39 years since the finale aired on CBS.