Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Wayne Rogers


"If I had known that the show was gonna run that long, I probably would have kept my mouth shut and stayed put."
  --Wayne Rogers

William Wayne McMillan Rogers III was born in Birmingham, Alabama on April 7, 1933.  A gifted student, he graduated from Princeton University in 1954 with a degree in history, intent on becoming a lawyer.  Before applying to law school however, Rogers enlisted in the Navy and served as navigator on a cargo ship.

After his discharge from the service, Rogers went to visit a friend in Brooklyn who was rehearsing for a local stage production.  In that moment, he began having reservations about a future in law, believing a career in show business was a much better fit.

His first major role was on the daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow in 1959.  This led to a variety of primetime guest star roles in the 1960s, on such series as The Fugitive, Gunsmoke and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.  But his big break came in 1967 with a supporting role in the Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke.  Here's the scene you probably best remember him from.

In 1972, Rogers was asked to audition for a new television series called M*A*S*H, based on the feature film of the same name (right).  He was initially drawn to the role of Hawkeye Pierce, but ultimately found the character to be too cynical, opting to play the more light-hearted Trapper John McIntyre instead.

When the series went into production, Rogers became close friends with co-star Alan Alda.  Initially, neither of their characters was any more important to the show than the other.  But as the series progressed, Alda's Hawkeye became the central focus, both with the writers and the fans, a fact that did not sit well with Rogers. 

He spent the next three years fighting for a bigger role, but saw little in the way of character development, and he ultimately left the series in 1975.  As a result, the producers sued Rogers for breach of contract, but the case was ultimately thrown out of court, as Rogers, in fact, had no contract.

After his departure from the series, Rogers continued working in television.  He had a starring role in the 1975 made-for-TV movie Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan.  Then in 1976, he had a short-lived detective series called City of Angels, which only lasted for one season.  You can watch an episode in its entirety on YouTube.

The post-M*A*S*H series that Rogers is best remembered for however, was the medical sit-com House Calls, which lasted for three seasons on CBS.  For this role, Rogers was nominated for an Emmy Award for best actor in a comedy series, while his co-star Lynn Redgrave received a best actress nomination.

He continued acting throughout the 1980s and 90s, including a recurring role on Murder, She Wrote.  He also assumed the role of Major Tony Nelson alongside Barbara Eden in the TV reunion movie I Dream of Jeannie....15 Years Later (left).  Larry Hagman, who had created the role for television, was unavailable for some reason or another.  Then in 1990, he co-starred with Connie Selleca in the made-for-TV movie Miracle Landing, the true story of an airliner that made it to safety after the cabin depressurized.

Rogers was simultaneously building an impressive resume in the world of personal finance.  He was president of his own stock market investment company and testified as an expert on Capitol Hill before the House Committee on the Judiciary.  He also appeared as a spokesman for Senior Home Loans, one of the early reverse mortgage firms.  You can watch his commercial on YouTube.

By the early 2000s, he was appearing regularly on the FOX Business Channel and was a regular panelist on the news program Cashin' In.  This was his last television role however, as soon he'd be Cashin' Out.

Wayne Rogers died of pneumonia on December 31, 2015.  He was 82 years old.  He was entombed at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village in Los Angeles.   I'm sure the name is a total coincidence.

Indeed it was.  Rest in peace, Trapper.


  • This blog is coincidentally posting on Rogers' 88th birthday.

  • Rogers died exactly one year before his M*A*S*H co-star William Christopher, aka Father Mulcahy.

  • One of Rogers' co-stars on House Calls was actor Roger Bowen, a M*A*S*H veteran himself, having originated the role of Henry Blake in the 1970 feature film.

  • During the early days of their respective careers, Rogers and Peter Falk were roommates in New York City.  Today, they are both laid to rest in the same Los Angeles cemetery, only a short distance apart from one another.

  • Rogers wore a number of different hats following his departure from Hollywood.  He was co-owner of a string of bridal boutiques called Kleinfeld Bridal and was managing director of the Stop-N-Save convenience store chain in Tallahassee, Florida.  

  • In 2011, Rogers co-authored a book on achieving financial success.  You can pick up a copy of Make Your Own Rules: A Renegade Guide to Unconventional Success from Amazon.

  • Rogers' crypt is beneath that of actor Les Tremayne, best remembered for his role of "Mentor" on Shazam.

  • Rogers has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7018 Hollywood Boulevard.

No comments:

Post a Comment