Who did Donald Sutherland play in M*A*S*H? Character explored as renowned actor dies aged 88

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Donald Sutherland dies at age 88 (Image via Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, who starred in many hit films and TV shows including M*A*S*H, has died at 88. The actor succumbed to his long battle with unspecified illness and his son, Kiefer has confirmed the news of his death, on Instagram:

"With a heavy heart, I tell you that my father, Donald Sutherland, has passed away. I personally think [he's] one of the most important actors in the history of film. Never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that. A life well lived."

The veteran actor has starred in over 200 projects, including The Hunger Games, in his acting career that spanned six decades, but his earlier rise to fame with his character as the surgeon Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce in the 1970 Robert Altman directed movie M*A*S*H.


Who is Donald Sutherland's Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H?

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Donald Sutherland's Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce, better known as the snarky, rebellious, and charming Hawkeye Pierce, is the lead character in the Oscar-nominated 1970 comedy film M*A*S*H, directed by Robert Altman.

Set in the events of the 1951 Korean War, Donald Sutherland's character is a physician and surgeon assigned to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit during the war. He was a replacement surgeon at the field hospital about three miles away from the front lines, who arrived with fellow redneck surgeon "Duke" Forrest (played by Tom Skerritt).

Between long and intense sessions of treating wounded soldiers, Hawkeye Pierce makes the best of his life in the Army camp. From indulging in heavy drinking and womanizing to pulling pranks on people at the camp, he's known for being good at his job but also rebellious and a rule-breaker.

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The victims of his regular antics were his former tent mate Major Frank Burns (played by Robert Duvall) and the newly assigned chief nurse Major Margaret Houlihan (played by Sally Kellerman), two people whom Donald Sutherland's character clashed with.

Pierce openly calls the chief nurse a "typical, uptight, career-army clown," while Houlihan believes him to be an idealist who has little to no regard for US Army rules.

Hawke Pierce in the film, like in the book it's based on, is a married man. However, being so far from home and stuck in an isolated Army camp, he indulges himself in being an incorrigible philanderer, convinced that no one would ever find out.

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Also believing that it will reduce stress for both people, Pierce gives himself leeway and forms dalliances at the camp, from casual flirting and hooking up to his liaison with the married Lt. Maria "Dish" Schneider (played by Jo Ann Plug).

Alan Alda took Donald Sutherland's character over for the subsequent TV show about the field hospital and its zany group of surgeons in Korea.

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Donald Sutherland has a large contribution to cinema, with acting credits in hundreds of shows and films like Path to War, the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, The Dirty Dozen, Klute, and Ordinary People.

He also brought the character of President Coriolanus Snow to life, one of the most hated villains from Suzanne Collins' YA novel-adapted The Hunger Games series.

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Edited by Pradyot Hegde
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