Script Spotlight 8: “Dear Dad…Three”

Throughout its run, M*A*S*H tackled a number of social topics in addition to war and death. The series had storylines that challenged homophobia, sexism, and racism. In its second season, M*A*S*H was paired up All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show, shows that are known for their commentary on social topics in the 1970s. It is in that season that M*A*S*H delivered an episode entitled “Dear Dad…Three” (02×09), and it proved to fit in well with that progressive lineup by addressing racism.

In the episode, we are introduced to Sargent Condon who asks the doctors, before his operation, that he get “the right colored blood.” In post-op, Hawkeye and Trapper trick him into thinking he is getting a darker complexion by dying his skin. When he asks if he received the wrong color blood, Trapper explains that all blood is the same. Hawkeye then asks Condon if he had heard of Dr. Charles Drew. He was a black doctor who improved the techniques for storing blood and developed large scale blood banks that were introduced in World War II. MASH units relied on these blood banks. Condon stops by the Swamp before leaving the 4077th to thank Hawkeye for giving him something to think about, and he salutes Lt. Ginger Bayliss.

The other storylines in the episode are much lighter including Henry getting a video from home. In it, we get to see his wife, children, and neighbors. There are several clips spliced together on the reel, and it is a great moment that goes from humor to sadness and Henry realizes how much he misses his family. Season 2 is one of my favorites. All of the episodes are very well written and have great storylines. But that’s enough about the story, let’s take a look at the script!

The Script

This script is rough…and I am not sure what to make of it. It is a copy, but it appears to be a period correct copy. Typically, I do not purchase copies for the collection, but this one was different. The pages are extremely brittle, which is why I have each page in a protective sleeve. I didn’t want to risk of the pages crumbling because they seem to demonstrate an important part of the production process…rewrites. Throughout the script there are marked out lines, arrows, and newly handwritten lines. I believe this is a copy of a working draft of the script. This may have been one that was shared with the rest of the crew, or perhaps it was shared with the typist, who would then make the necessary revisions. I am not sure. But it is an interesting mystery.

This script is missing its cover, but let’s look at the title page first. The episode was written by Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks. Both have writing credits in the early seasons of M*A*S*H, so this isn’t uncommon. The title page is where we see our first revision. “Final” is marked out and “Revised Final” is handwritten in its place. The date below it is changed from September 19 to September 24. What changes had to be made to make a script a “Revised Final” copy vs. a “Final” copy? I am not sure. I have several “Final” copies of scripts with revised pages added. This is the only one I have seen where the state of the script has been changed.

But the revisions do not stop there. We see a lot of revisions throughout the script’s 40 pages. The first is on the Cast List page. Henry’s wife’s name is changed. In the episode “Showtime” (01×24), his wife was named Mildred. In the initial draft of this script, her name is Marge before being changed again to Lorraine. So Henry’s wife almost had a third name, or her name would have been Marge instead of Lorraine. Then, on the first of the script pages, we see lines marked out with arrows indicating that the line moves down the page. This is used several times throughout the script including on the next page. Throughout, there are marks like this. Lines marked out. Lines written in. It is interesting to read see how the episode morphed to become the lines we know now.

Why were these changes made? There are several possible reasons. The line could have been changed because it didn’t make sense for the character. We have heard from many of the M*A*S*H actors that the writers were open to suggestions if they felt like their character wouldn’t say the line. Another possibility is that the scene itself changed, so some lines had to be modified to match the changes. Lines might have also been removed for time. Episodes were 24-26 minutes long, so if an episode was trending long, cuts were made to make time. There are also corrections to typos or, as we see in the case of Henry’s wife, name changes.

Speaking of name changes, one of the interesting changes made was to the name of Dr. Drew. In the initial draft, they got his name wrong. He was called “Dr. Bernard Drew,” but this is marked out with the correct name, Charles, handwritten in. They also hand wrote in the state in which he was killed. (Next week’s post will focus on Dr. Drew and correct some inaccuracies in this episode.) As I said in the introduction, this is an interesting script. I do not know if I should list it with my original copies or not. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the process of revising a script, which is a very important part of the writing process.

The Final Episode

Watching this episode, I forgot how many classic M*A*S*H moments are in this episode. The scene above where Henry and Hawkeye remove an unexploded grenade from the body of a wounded soldier. Henry’s video from home were the kids spell out “MISS YOU” with cardboard. Margaret and Frank slapping each other. And the hilarious staff meeting in the Mess Tent. That is a lot of classic scenes in one episode, but for me, it perfectly illustrates why season two is among the best!

As for changes in the script, since I do not know know the full story behind this script, it is hard to say how many more changes were made before filming. There are several discrepancies in this script. For example, on page one, the scene with Trapper and Frank playing gin was going to be longer. On page two, the opening of the letter to Hawkeye’s dad was rewritten to match what is on screen. The staff meeting had several lines removed, and Henry’s film from home was in a slightly different order. The script also has several PA announcements that were removed, including one about Dwight D. Eisenhower announcing his run for president, something that Hawkeye mentioned in his letter.

There are several other minor errors, but I chalk those up to actors misremembering lines and changing a word here and there. Honestly though, most of the lines are delivered as written which, as I’ve said before, is a credit to the cast! There is one series inconsistency that I noticed in this episode. Father Mulcahy’s name changes throughout the series. When Radar calls roll during the staff meeting, he calls him “Father John Patrick Mulcahy.” Of course, later in the series, his first name is Francis with both John and Patrick being middle names.

I am still not sure what to think about this script. It isn’t original, it is missing its cover, and the pages are crumbling. It is a very old copy. Was it a working copy? I cannot say. Is the handwriting Gelbart’s? That is also possible, but I am not sure. He was one of the writers and heavily involved in the early seasons. So it is possible. Nevertheless, we get a glimpse of some massive rewrites that this episode underwent during the filming process. And I like seeing that! It shows how the episode evolved. While it may be a copy, it is still a great script in the collection. But perhaps one day I will be able to add a truly “original” copy of this script along side it!

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