AMAZON

Sunday, November 26, 2006

M*A*S*H Theme




An Alternate Opening for the TV Series M*A*S*H
If the video doesn't play, click here


T
he death of Robert Altman has brought back to my mind the movie, M*A*S*H and the TV series, with which more people seem to be familiar. I first saw the movie 35 or so years ago and I’ve been continually watching the TV series, including the reruns, for almost as long.

However, it was just a couple of years ago that I obtained the music and lyrics for the theme, Suicide Is Painless.

(Music by Johnny Mandel, Lyrics by Mike Altman—Robert Altman’s son)

Through early morning fog I see
visions of the things to be
the pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see...

[chorus]:

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

I try to find a way to make
all our little joys relate
without that ever-present hate
but now I know that it's too late, and...

[Chorus]

The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.

[Chorus]

The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
and to another give my seat
for that's the only painless feat.

[Chorus]

MASH
The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger...watch it grin, but...

[Chorus]

A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
'is it to be or not to be'
and I replied 'oh why ask me?'

'Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
...and you can do the same thing if you choose.

ADDENDUM

I understand how the lyrics of Suicide Is Painless are disturbing to many. Yet, when one looks at them from the context of the plot of the movie M*A*S*H, they may make more sense, especially remembering that the Altman film is both a “dark comedy” and an anti-war movie produced in 1970 in the midst of the Vietnam War.

The MASH dentist, Captain Walter Koskiusko Waldowski, nicknamed “The Painless Pole,” is identified by those in the know (mostly the nurses) as "the best equipped dentist in the Army. The film’s dialogue indicates that his nickname is to be taken two ways: not only does he practice “painless” surgery, but he is a very "well-endowed" man, referencing a colloquial alternative meaning of "pole.”

When, for the first time in his life, Captain Waldowski’s pole fails him in bed—“I must be a fairy” he moans—he decides that his life isn’t worth living and tells his fellow doctors he must commit suicide. The doctors set up a suicide party for the Painless Pole, during which one of them sings the song “Suicide Is Painless” while Waldowski lies in his coffin awaiting the painless suicide cocktail Hawkeye and Trapper John have prepared for him. Thus song refers to both the method of suicide and to the dentist's nickname.

The cocktail is, however, a placebo that they tell him will eventually "put him to sleep.” The doctors also arrange to have one of the nurses, Lt. Dish, "inadvertently" find Waldowski lying in his coffin, awaiting what he thinks is his own demise. She joins him in the coffin and by the next morning, Captain Waldowski has literally put the proverbial "big smile" on her face. Then he goes to breakfast at the mess tent, calm and completely free of anxiety—and his desire to commit suicide.

12 comments:

  1. A depressing song. I think people get depressed because they think they are somehow separate from God and all the joys of life. They find it hard to forgive themselves and forgive others and continue in a downward spiral. But as I understand it, God forgives us. In fact, I understand that God never condemned us, and that it was the ancient Church's idea to say that to keep us in line. Kind of an interesting thought.

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  2. I like the music much better than the words. ec

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  3. That video of MASH was great! Much better than the regular opening of the program!

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  4. Do you know I have never seen an episode of MASH, even though it is on at 5pm every day?... well, you do now.

    xxx

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  5. I can see how the lyrics of “Suicide Is Painless” are disturbing to some. Yet, when one looks at them from the context of the plot of the movie M*A*S*H, they may make more
    sense, especially remembering that the Altman film is both a “dark comedy” and an anti-war movie produced in 1970 in the midst of the Vietnam War.

    The MASH dentist, Captain Walter Koskiusko Waldowski, nicknamed “The Painless Pole,” is identified by those in the know (mostly the nurses) as "the best equipped dentist in the Army. The film’s dialogue indicates that his nickname is to be taken two ways: not only does he practice “painless” surgery, but he is a very "well-endowed" man, referencing a colloquial alternative meaning of "pole.”

    When, for the first time in his life, Captain Waldowski’s pole fails him in bed—“I must be a fairy” he moans—he decides that his life isn’t worth living and tells his fellow doctors he must commit suicide. The doctors set up a suicide party for the Painless Pole, during which one of them sings the song “Suicide Is Painless” while Waldowski lies in his coffin awaiting the painless suicide cocktail Hawkeye and Trapper John have prepared for him. Thus song refers to both the method of suicide and to the dentist's nickname.

    The cocktail is, however, a placebo that they tell him will eventually "put him to sleep.” The doctors also arrange to have one of the nurses, Lt. Dish, "inadvertently" find Waldowski lying in his coffin, awaiting what he thinks is his own demise. She joins him in the coffin and by the next morning, Captain Waldowski has literally put the proverbial "big smile" on her face. Then he goes to breakfast at the mess tent, calm and completely free of anxiety—and his desire to commit suicide.

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  6. Indeed, i like the music much better than the lyrics, i had no idea just how "sad" those lyrics are. The re runs are still showing here also, i still get a laugh out of them, specially Klinger's antics :o)

    So glad you're doing ok Nick, enjoyed catching up on your posts :o)

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  7. Nick, thanks for clarifying. It's funny if you know the story.

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  8. I really like that video. As for the song, I had not listened carefully to the words. Didn’t some groups do it during the war in Vietnam? I seem to remember it on the radio. Like you, I saw MASH when it first came out. Then when the TV series began, it took me a while to accept Alan Alda as Hawkeye. Now, if I were to watch the film, I would find it hard to accept Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye!

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  9. Already knew the lyrics. The video is great, but maybe too long for the beginning of a TV show.

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  10. That was one of my favorites growing up, although it did seem the movie was more like the book. Still, the show maintained its character over the years, even as many of the characters came & went.

    Couldn't get the video- will try again later:)

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  11. I agree that the book and movie MASH were “dark (black—the non-pc adjective) comedies.” I read the book and saw the movies during my military days in the midst of the Vietnam fiasco. I think the TV series became more of an anti-war commentary than either the book or movie. I had hoped that we had learned something from Vietnam; however, we evidently didn’t and now more young men and women are paying the price for the multiplication of our corporations’ profits and their CEOs’ bonuses.
    In some ways I can identify with the Painless Pole. Hell, if you’re a dentist stuck in the middle of a war zone putting young guys’ mouths back together that should never have been torn apart, I would be (and was) tempted to end my life whether my pole stopped functioning or not. (Of course, I didn’t).

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  12. I appreciate the posting of that video and the lyrics. I have been searching for both for some time.

    A. Johnston

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