Gene Reynolds, who co-created the iconic 1970s comedy series “M*A*S*H,” has died at 96.
The producer-director-writer died Monday in Burbank, California, Directors Guild of America representative Lily Bedrossian confirmed to USA TODAY.
Reynolds and Larry Gelbart co-created the popular anti-war CBS sitcom, which followed the staff of a mobile Army surgical hospital during the Korean War over 11 seasons –roughly three times the length of the real war. Reynolds also directed and wrote episodes for the socially conscious series.
“M*A*S*H,” a TV adaptation of Robert Altman’s acclaimed 1970 film of the same name, mined the dark comedy of war, as doctors patched up injured soldiers just to send them back to be shot at again.
Launched in 1972 during the Vietnam War, the show mixed madcap antics and Groucho Marx-style banter, anchored by surgeons Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda), “Trapper John” McIntyre (Wayne Rogers) and later B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell), with sobering commentary about the pain and horror of war, including the loss of their beloved commanding officer, Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson).
Reynolds also co-created “Lou Grant,” the drama spinoff from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” alongside “Moore” creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, in 1977.
Reynolds began his career as a child actor before shifting his focus behind the camera. In the 1960s, he directed television comedies “Hogan’s Heroes,” “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Andy Griffith Show” before co-creating “M*A*S*H” – one of the funniest, and at times, most serious – comedies in TV history.
The 1983 finale of “M*A*S*H” remains the most-watched finale in television history.
A six-time Emmy winner, Reynolds served as DGA president for four years, starting in 1993.
“Gene’s influence on the modern Directors Guild of America was significant and lasting,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme in a statement. “During his two terms as President, he dedicated himself to making the Guild more inclusive – broadening the leadership base, encouraging younger members to take leadership positions, strengthening ties between feature directors, pushing the industry to do better on diversity and working to modify DGA agreements so that filmmakers with low budgets could benefit from DGA membership.
“Gene’s commitment to the Guild lasted long after his presidency ended, regularly attending Board and Western Directors Council meetings, and never hesitating to share his thoughts. He was passionate about this Guild, spirited in his beliefs and dedicated until the end.”
During his DGA presidency, Reynolds conceived the idea of the DGA Student Film Awards – an annual competition recognizing outstanding women and minority students at film schools across the nation – and was chair of the Student Film Awards Committee from its inception.