He'll have to compete with the likes of Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty and Burt Reynolds for the position of my all-time favourite performer. Alan Alda hasn't got the dramatic talent of any of the others (some would say far from it) and as a filmmaker he was never important and never inventive. Yet, Alan Alda has a position in the business that few others can match. Not only has he enjoyed a successful career based on remarkably healthy ideals and political correctness (too correct for my taste, actually), but he has taken great pride in giving his audience pleasure and genuine moments of amusement. He comes off as one of the most unselfish men in the business, yet many who have worked with him - during the time of M*A*S*H or as a director - will tell you otherwise.
Obviously, it is no secret that there would be no Alan Alda as we know him today had it not been for M*A*S*H, which, along with Friends, is the most successful tv-series of all time. Alda was a young, semi-struggling actor of films and stage when he landed the role of Hawkeye Pierce for the show's start in 1972, and by the end of the very first season he was one of the most popular household names in the country. Such was his impact on the character and the show's popularity that the producers had to cast and write it based on how it would fit in with Alan's Hawkeye. Robert Altman's feature film from 1970 was and will always be acclaimed, but for most people, M*A*S*H will always be synonymous to Alan Alda and the character of Hawkeye Pierce. His charisma, humour and knack for simple comic relief stands firmly as the epitome of how to lead a tv-sitcom. Still, Alda would tell you that M*A*S*H was so much more than that.
To come from eleven years on M*A*S*H to new challenges in the film industry was never going to be easy. Alda already had the foundation of popularity on which he could build, but he was also going to be extremely associated with that one character. He chose to write and direct his films himself, and throughout the eighties Alda's choice was to make insightful, good-hearted character-dramas of middleaged, urban life. His debut feature, The Four Seasons arrived in 1981 to rave reviews, but unfortunately Alda wasn't quite able to thrive on the success.
After the only moderately successfull Betsy's Wedding in 1990, Alda's career as a filmmaker had come to an end. He had been extremely selective as to accept roles in other films (only starring in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors except from his own films throughout the entire decade) but as the nineties went along, he could be seen in more and more supporting roles in films with different amount of success. More often than not, these were not too challenging roles, and it is my definite opinion that we have never seen the best of Alan Alda on the big screen - and we probably never will. I was happier than anyone when in 2005, Alda recieved his first ever Academy Award nomination for his work in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. But although he was brilliant in it, I'm not sure that he actually deserved it. However, it might open doors for him to take a few more challenging roles as his career meets its autumn. It has been a career that has given people more laughs and good-times than most others.
Sweet Liberty (1986)
"Alda's conception of this professor—as smug and insecure but basically a representative of solid, enduring values—casts a pall over the proceedings; still, if you don't expect too much and just ride along with the movie's conventionality there are enough enjoyable scenes to put you in a good mood." - Pauline Kael
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
"Woody Allen himself plays a little, grubbing-for-a-living documentary filmmaker who falls in love but can't compete for the woman (Mia Farrow) against a darling of the media, a tall, egomaniacal TV producer played with a wonderfully smug, screwy abandon by Alan Alda." - Pauline Kael
M*A*S*H (TV Series) (1972-83) [CLICK FOR FULL QUOTES]