×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘M*A*S*H’ Star William Christopher Dies at 84

William Christopher, the actor who played the sensitive and soft-spoken Father John Mulcahy on the long-running CBS comedy “M*A*S*H,” died Saturday at his home in Pasadena, Calif. He was 84.

The actor’s son, John Christopher, confirmed Christopher’s death to KABC-TV Los Angeles. Christopher died of non-lung small cell carcinoma, KABC-TV reported.

Christopher was a regular and a fan favorite throughout the 1972-1983 run of the much-praised “M*A*S*H.” The show’s final episode still holds the ratings record for the most watched scripted series closer with nearly 106 million viewers tuning in. Christopher was also featured in the spinoff series “AfterMASH,” which ran from 1983-85 on CBS.

On “M*A*S*H,” Christopher served as the moral compass for the show revolving around the unruly doctors and nurses running a mobile Army surgical unit, the 4077th, during the Korean War.

Christopher’s kindly Father Mulcahy frequently struggled to offer spiritual guidance and pastoral care amid the horror of war. But he also managed to connect with the war-weary medical staff and combat victims using a combination of humor, warmth and plain-spoken counsel that was never dogmatic. Christopher took on the role played by Rene Auberjonois in the 1970 Robert Altman feature that begat the series.

“M*A*S*H” star Alan Alda tweeted that his fellow cast members would miss him.

Christopher was recently seen on the NBC soap “Days of Our Lives” in a recurring role in 2012, again playing a man of the cloth. His post-“M*A*S*H” credits include voice work in the 1980s “The Smurfs” cartoon series and guest shots on “Mad About You,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” and “Team Knight Rider.”

Before “M*A*S*H,” Christopher worked steadily on TV in character roles on such series as “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gomer Pyle,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “That Girl” and the James Garner drama “Nichols.” He also logged guest shots on “The Patty Duke Show,” “Death Valley Days,” “The Virginian” and “Alias Smith and Jones.”

Christopher grew up in Evanston, Ill. and studied drama at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He got his start on stage in regional theater and Off Broadway productions. His Broadway debut came during the 1962-64 run of “Beyond the Fringe” with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. Christopher did a national tour of “Beyond the Fringe” and wound up relocating to Los Angeles.

Christopher landed the role in “M*A*S*H” after producers decided to recast the actor who played Father Mulcahy in the pilot, George Morgan, who had no lines. Christopher’s Father Mulcahy was a sporadic presence until the fifth season of the show, which coincided with the period when the actor was bedridden for two months battling hepatitis. The writers turned that into a storyline for Mulcahy as well, according to the book “MASH FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Best Care Anywhere.”

Christopher’s notable film roles included 1966’s “The Fortune Cookie,” 1968’s “The Shakiest Gun in the West” and “With Six You Get Egg Roll” and 1975’s “Hearts of the West.”

In 1989, Mulcahy and his wife Barbara penned a book, “Mixed Blessings,” describing the experience of raising their autistic son, Ned.

Christopher’s survivors include his wife of more than 50 years and sons John and Ned.

More TV

  • Jussie Smollett Empire

    Chicago Police Want to Talk to Jussie Smollett as New Evidence Emerges

    Chicago police are seeking to re-interview “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, after new evidence emerged in his alleged assault. Smollett has claimed that two men attacked him at 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. The Chicago Police Department has consistently said [...]

  • Five Takes on Canal Plus, Federation’s

    Just Days Left to Catch Canal Plus’ ‘The Bureau’ on MyFFF

    The most lauded of titles on this year’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, UniFrance’s online showcase featured by over 50 OTT services around the world, may not be a film but a drama series. With four seasons aired, and a milestone in world sales on a French TV show, slow-boiling espionage series ‘Le Bureau des légendes’ (“The Bureau”) is [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA

    TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA West President, Dies at 91

    Prolific Emmy-nominated television writer Christopher Edwin Knopf, former president of the Writers Guild of America West, died in his sleep of congestive heart failure on Feb. 13. He was 91. Knopf was born in New York and attended UCLA, leaving during his senior year to join the Air Force during World War II. He finished [...]

  • Jussie Smollett The Black AIDS Insitute

    Jussie Smollett Case: Two Suspects Released Without Charges as New Evidence Emerges

    After two days of questioning, the Chicago Police Department announced Friday evening that it has released two suspects in the Jussie Smollett case without filing charges. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that detectives had developed new information in the case. Police no longer consider the men to be suspects. “Due to new evidence as a [...]

  • GOTHAM: L-R: Guest star Cameron Monaghan

    TV News Roundup: Fox Drops 'Gotham' Final Season Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Fox released a new trailer for an upcoming episode of “Gotham” and Disney has announced the cast for its upcoming “High School Musical” series.  FIRST LOOKS Showtime released a new trailer and the official poster for the upcoming fourth season of “Billions,” premiering March 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. In [...]

  • Chris Rock

    Chris Rock to Direct Kenan Thompson Comedy Pilot at NBC

    Chris Rock has come onboard to direct the NBC single-cam comedy pilot “Saving Kenan,” Variety has learned. Rock will also executive produce the pilot, which stars “SNL” mainstay Kenan Thompson. Thompson will play a newly widowed dad determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law become more involved in their lives [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content