Gary Burghoff AKA Radar from ‘M*A*S*H’ Always Kept His Left Hand Out of View – Five Times We Could See It 

The popular television series “MAS*H,” which aired in 1972, showcased a variety of unforgettable and cherished characters, such as the witty and caring Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce and his lovable companion, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt. The characters from the show have left a lasting impression on fans worldwide.

Corporal Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly, the company clerk of the 4077 MASH unit, frequently appeared in the series but was often underestimated by his fellow military personnel because of his anxious demeanor. Despite being underappreciated by his colleagues, Radar was certainly not overlooked by the show’s fans.

Gary Burghoff, the celebrated actor, portrayed Radar from the beginning of the TV series in 1972 until the seventh season, which was broadcast in 1979. Despite the fans’ desire for more of the modest clerk, Burghoff disclosed that he had to leave the show in order to revive his personal relationships and combat burnout.

“M*A*S*H’s” Influence and Burghoff’s Personal Identity
Burghoff took delight in his portrayal of Radar, but the character’s requirements started to increase. He mentioned that it became tough to differentiate himself from his character in the public eye, which eventually became monotonous. He also mentioned his dislike for being excessively idolized by the crowds.

“Aw, I know I’m cute. Cute, cute, CUTE! I was always cute because I was always the smallest kid on the block. I hate cute.”

Burghoff was perceived by all as a charming, petite, shy individual, a persona he had portrayed on-screen and on stage for a long time. Nevertheless, after enduring years of being underestimated, both figuratively and literally, he became weary of the stereotype imposed on him by countless individuals whom he had never crossed paths with.

The actor defended his height, saying that 5 feet 6 inches isn’t unusually short. He mentioned that he would have seen the tops of Arte Johnson or Mickey Rooney’s heads had they ever met, but the persona still stuck.

Fortunately, Burghoff didn’t allow his disability to stop him from chasing his dream of becoming an actor, which his fans appreciated.

Even though Burghoff had doubts about what others thought of him, his co-stars really liked him. Director Charles Dubin remembered working with Burghoff on “MAS*H” and mentioned how kind and friendly he was to everyone. But Burghoff struggled with another side of himself that affected his self-confidence.

Burghoff was born with a congenital disability known as Brachydactyly, a type of Poland Syndrome. This condition resulted in the actor having three fingers on his left hand that were visibly smaller than the rest of his digits, and it had been a source of struggle for him since his early childhood. The actor remarked:

“Of course, this defect affected me while I was growing up. I suppose when I was very young, I knew my disability would set me apart and make me special.”

Fortunately, Burghoff didn’t allow his disability to stop him from chasing his dream of becoming an actor. Despite becoming a beloved actor on a famous American TV show, he still struggled with insecurities about his fingers and body.

During his time on “MAS*H,” Burghoff made an effort to conceal his left hand from the camera. He strategically placed himself in a way that only one side of his body was visible, using his right hand for gestures when necessary. However, there were instances where he had to use both hands as part of the scene.

In one of the initial scenes, Radar was showcased standing in an open field, sporting a grey shirt and his distinctive cap. As he turned around and glanced at the sky, anticipating the arrival of helicopters before anyone else, the camera briefly focused on both of his hands gripping a football.

Upon Colonel Sherman T. Potter’s debut on the series, replacing the much-loved Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, Radar and the new leader had a memorable first encounter. As Colonel Potter left the room in search of the latrines, the camera focused on Burghoff’s torso as he carefully opened a box with both hands.

urghoff was captured on camera in yet another famous scene. During a morning salute led by Major Frank Burns, Radar performs his usual bugle salute. In a comedic twist, one of the men fires the ceremonial canon at Burns’s request.

Radar finds himself in a tough spot when the cannonball heads straight towards him, causing his instrument to be knocked out of his hands. Within moments, Burghoff shifts his focus towards the camera, expressing his anger through gestures like clenching his fists and stomping in frustration. During this scene, both of his hands briefly come into view.

In a subsequent episode, the writers revealed Radar’s more tender side as he affectionately cuddled his pet guinea pig, Babette. As he began to sing, Father John Mulcahy interrupted him, causing Burghoff’s hands to become visible again as he put Babette away, with his left hand beneath his right.

Radar, being the friendly guy he was, raised his right hand to acknowledge the first salute, following military protocol. Surprised by the unexpected second salute, he raised his left hand too, unintentionally giving a double salute. He felt embarrassed, furrowed his brow, and slowly lowered his hands in a typical Burghoff-esque confused manner.

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