Veteran actor David Ogden Stiers, best known for his role as the arrogant surgeon Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on “MASH,” died Saturday. He was 75. His agent, Mitchell K. Stubbs, tweeted that he died of bladder cancer at his home in Newport, Ore. He is also known for the role of District Attorney Michael Reston in several Perry Mason TV movies.
Stiers first appeared in the Broadway production The Magic Show in 1974 in the minor role of Feldman. Subsequent early credits include The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Kojak, and Rhoda. Stiers also appeared in the pilot of Charlie’s Angels as the team’s chief back-up. In 1977, Stiers joined the cast of the CBS-TV sitcom M*A*S*H. As Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, Stiers filled the void created by the departure of actor Larry Linville’s Frank Burns character. In contrast to the buffoonish Burns, Winchester was a well-spoken and talented surgeon who presented a different type of foil to Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce and Mike Farrell’s B.J. Hunnicutt. Stiers received two Emmy Award nominations.
After M*A*S*H completed its run in 1983, Stiers expanded his work on television with regular guest appearances on North and South; Star Trek: The Next Generation; Murder, She Wrote; Matlock; Touched by an Angel; Wings; and Frasier, along with a recurring role in Season 1 of Two Guys and a Girl as Mr. Bauer. In 1984, he portrayed United States Olympic Committee founder William Milligan Sloane in the NBC miniseries The First Olympics: Athens 1896. Beginning in 1985, Stiers made his first of eight appearances in Perry Mason made-for-TV movies as District Attorney Michael Reston. He had guest appearances on ALF and Matlock. He appeared in two unsuccessful television projects, Love & Money and Justice League of America (as the Martian Manhunter).
For efforts as the narrator and as of Disney’s enormous hit animated film “Beauty and the Beast,” he shared a Grammy win for best recording for children and another nomination for album of the year. In 2002, Stiers started a recurring role as the Reverend Purdy on the successful USA Network series The Dead Zone with Anthony Michael Hall. In 2006, he was cast as the recurring character Oberoth in Stargate Atlantis. I will forever remember Stiers as the lead guest character in that thought provoking TNG episode that is at the heart of great scifi.
Stiers was gay but never spoke publicly about his sexual orientation until 2009, as he feared that public knowledge of his sexuality would harm his career; much of his work would consist of family-friendly roles.