Images of America

A Social and Historical Look
at America Through the Movies


Study Guide - MASH (1970)

Director : Robert Altman

Stars :
Donald Sutherland .... Capt. Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce
Elliott Gould .... Capt. John Francis Xavier 'Trapper John' McIntyre
Tom Skerritt .... Capt. Augustus Bedford 'Duke' Forrest
Sally Kellerman .... Maj. Margaret 'Hot Lips' O'Houlihan
Robert Duvall .... Maj. Frank Burns
Roger Bowen .... Lt. Col. Henry Braymore Blake
Rene Auberjonois .... Father John Patrick 'Dago Red' Mulcahy
Gary Burghoff .... Cpl. Walter 'Radar' O'Reilly
Fred Williamson .... Capt. Oliver Harmon 'Spearchucker' Jones

Preparation :
Read the movie reviews by Roger Ebert and CultureDose.net

Historical/Social Significance :

"Rarely is it that a major studio really put itself in overtly controversial positions, so its surprising that MASH got through the cracks".

Most war films before this did not have real blood and guts. When people died they just sort of disappeared off screen. MASH more accurately represented the real horrors of war.

Synopsis :
The story of a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit in Korea where the doctors worked hard but played harder.

    Guided Questions for Viewing :
    Assessment questions will be based on the following :
  • What was the major function of Major Frank Burns and Major "Hot Lips" Houlihan in the movie?
  • Who was the most sympathetic character in the movie? Why?
  • Could a movie like this have been made in 1953? Why or why not? What does it say about the social climate in 1970 that allowed this movie to be made?
  • Most war films before this did not have real blood and guts. When people died they just sort of disappeared off screen. MASH more accurately represented the real horrors of war. Was this representation of war effective?
  • What did you think of Altman's anti-war, anti-religion, anti-establishment stance in this movie? Give examples with reference to the movie.
  • This movie is not what we would consider "politically correct" in 2006. As a matter of fact it could be considered anti-gay and misogynistic. Discuss Altman's use of humor with reference to 1970 and 2006. Do you think the humor was offensive? Cite specific examples from the movie.
  • MASH can be described as an absurd black comedy. It can also be described as one of the most realistic views of war ever presented up to that point in time. Discuss MASH as a realistic portrayal of war. Was it effective?


Sources:
Ebert, Roger. "MASH" Jan. 1 1970. http://www.rogerebert.com

Nesbit, John. "MASH" http://culturedose.net



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