Gene Reynolds, the creative force behind the 1970s hit series M*A*S*H and Lou Grant, has died. He passed away at the age of 96 in Burbank, Calif.
Gene Reynolds — A Legend
A native of Cleveland, Reynolds was born Eugene Reynolds Blumenthal and began his showbiz career as a child actor, appearing in a 1934 Our Gang short. He went on to have roles in Love Finds Andy Hardy and Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary.
A former president of the Directors Guild of America (which has confirmed his passing), Reynolds teamed with writer Larry Gelbart to bring the film M*A*S*H, which told the stories of doctors in the Korean War, to television.
The series starred Alan Alda as wisecracking, sensitive surgeon Captain Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce. “My friend and mentor Gene Reynolds has died but his brain and heart lives on in MASH, the classic he helped create, and produced and directed,” Alda tweeted.
“He changed my life and touched the lives of tens of millions of us. Goodbye, farewell and amen, Gene. Love you,” he said, harkening back to the title of the two-hour M*A*S*H finale, which holds the record as the most-watched TV episode, even beating the Dallas episode of “Who Shot J.R.?”
M*A*S*H won a Peabody award in 1975 and numerous Emmys including Outstanding Comedy Series in 1974. Along with producing M*A*S*H, Reynolds wrote and directed many episodes of the critically-acclaimed sitcom.
A Lasting Influence
“Gene’s influence on the modern Directors Guild of America was significant and lasting,” said current DGA President Thomas Schlamme. “During his two terms as President, he dedicated himself to making the Guild more inclusive – broadening the leadership base, encouraging younger members to take leadership positions, strengthening ties between feature directors, pushing the industry to do better on diversity and working to modify DGA agreements so that filmmakers with low budgets could benefit from DGA membership.
“Gene’s commitment to the Guild lasted long after his presidency ended, regularly attending Board and Western Directors Council meetings, and never hesitating to share his thoughts. He was passionate about this Guild, spirited in his beliefs and dedicated until the end.”
After leaving M*A*S*H, Reynolds partnered with James L. Brooks and Alan Burns to create Lou Grant, a dramatic one-hour spinoff of Mary Tyler Moore. Ed Asner brought his sitcom character from Minneapolis to Los Angeles where he became a newspaper editor. Lou Grant ran from 1977 to 1982, earning the Emmy for Best Drama Series in 1979 and 1980.
My friend and mentor Gene Reynolds has died but his brain and heart lives on in MASH, the classic he helped create, and produced and directed. He changed my life and touched the lives of tens of millions of us. Goodbye, farewell and amen, Gene. Love you.
— Alan Alda (@alanalda) February 5, 2020