Burt Metcalfe, Producer on Every Season of ‘M*A*S*H,’ Dies at 87

Burt Metcalfe, the onetime actor from Canada who served as a producer, director and writer on all 11 seasons of M*A*S*H, collecting 13 Emmy nominations along the way, has died. He was 87.

One of the show’s unsung heroes, Metcalfe died Wednesday in Los Angeles of natural causes, his wife of 43 years, actress Jan Jorden announced. (She had a recurring role as Nurse Baker on the series.)

Before he gave up full-time acting to work on the other side of the camera, Metcalfe played the surfer Lord Byron opposite Sandra Dee and James Darren in Gidget (1959), appeared on the first season of The Twilight Zone and starred on the 1961-62 CBS sitcom Father of the Bride.

Metcalfe was a producer on all but five of M*A*S*H‘s 256 episodes from 1972-83 and its showrunner for its last six seasons. He also directed 31 installments of the acclaimed CBS comedy, wrote three and acted in one. 

Seven of his Emmy noms came for outstanding comedy series; incredibly, he never won once.

M*A*S*H, he once said, “is not your typical military sitcom, and I think there has always been that dedication and that kind of aspiration to doing something above the norm. And fortunately, the chemistry of the people involved, the writers, actors, producers, directors, has been of the caliber that has allowed this to happen, where everybody just had a pride in what they were doing.”

Burton Denis Metcalfe was born on March 19, 1935, in Saskatoon, Canada. He spent most of his youth in Montreal before moving in 1949 to Los Angeles and studied theater at UCLA for four years, graduating in 1955.

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He made his onscreen acting debut in Mark Robson’s The Bridges of Toko Ri (1954), then served with the U.S. Navy in 1956-57.

Metcalfe portrayed the panicked neighbor Don Martin, who famously points the finger at episode star Claude Akins, on the first-season Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” which premiered in March 1960.

On Father of the Bride — based on the hit Spencer Tracy-Elizabeth Taylor 1950 film — he was newlywed Buckley Dunston opposite Myrna Fahey as his wife and Ruth Warrick and Leon Ames as his in-laws.

Clockwise from top left: Leon Ames, Ruth Warrick, Burt Metcalfe and Myrna Fahey from TV’s ‘Father of the Bride’

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He played the son of Walter Pidgeon’s character in Lord Pingo in summer stock in 1963 and showed up on episodes of The Many Loves of Dobie GillisThe Outer Limits (the first episode), The Farmer’s DaughterThe FugitivePerry MasonHennesey and 12 O’Clock High.

Metcalfe got into production at Screen Gems in 1965 as a casting director before being promoted to executive assistant under producer Harry Ackerman (BewitchedFlying Nun). During a hiatus, he acted for one of his last times, playing Maxwell in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

In 1970, he moved to Fox to work with Gene Reynolds as casting director and associate producer of two pilots, Anna and the King and M*A*S*H. Reynolds was a driving force behind the latter.

Metcalfe also was an executive producer on the 1983-85 follow-up AfterMASH, starring Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr and William Christopher. He segued to Warner Bros. Television in the mid-1980s before joining MTM Enterprises in 1986.