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Major Frank Burns

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Frank Burns
Frank
M*A*S*H character
Vital information
Rank Major (O-4), U.S. Army Reserve, later promoted to Lt. Colonel (O-5) when transferred to a VA Hospital in Indiana
Job/Role in unit: Ranking Former Chief Surgeon at the 4077th M*A*S*H
Home Same as birthplace
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Brown
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 185 lbs.
Family/Personal Information
Born:  ?
Birthplace: Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.
Nationality/Race:
Spouse: Louise
Relatives/Children: Unnamed father
Unnamed mother
3 daughters
Appearances
First appeared in: "MASH (film)
Last appeared in: "Margaret's Marriage" (Season 5)
Series/Film
appeared in:
M*A*S*H (TV series)/MASH (film)
Played by: Robert Duvall (film)
Larry Linville (series)
Major Franklin Delano Marion "Ferret Face" Burns is a surgeon at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital who is acting commander of the hospital in the absence of Lt. Col. Henry Blake or Col. Potter. His romance with Major Margaret Houlihan is well-known throughout the camp, though the two act as if it is a secret.

His character is portrayed by Robert Duvall in the film and Larry Linville on the show.

Although he and Margaret are both strict regulation-worshipers, Burns, unlike his paramour, is portrayed as inept, and at times, without a clue, at his job. Several times a patient of his has been spared death only because of a chance second glance by one of his colleagues.

About FrankEdit

A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was born and raised Franklin Delano Marion Burns was born June 13, although what year is not revealed (this is debatable, because in the Season 2 episode "For Want of a Boot", his birthday party takes place in the winter). In one M*A*S*H episode, Burns claims he was in practice for 12 years.

In another episode, Burns sneered at Hawkeye because while Hawkeye was in a General Hospital, Frank had a thriving three year private practice in Fort Wayne with a $35,000 house and two cars. Other episodes also tell that Burns also has a 30 foot yacht, a country club and a men's lodge memberships and is involved in a kickback prescription racket and has an ongoing affair with his receptionist twice a week in the Golden Goose Motel. He also falsifies his Income Tax returns and dabbles in the Stock Market. He once claims to Houlihan he can't marry her because he can't afford a new wife and an ex-wife although the real reason he won't divorce his wife is because the house and stocks are in her name! He engaged in cheating other members of MASH by secretly listening to baseball games on a hidden radio and then tricking others into making bets he could win-until Hawkeye, B.J. and Radar tricked him with his own game. Several times he tried to steal objects-an alarm clock and a ring from Major Houlihan; a Korean national treasure; a pistol from a visiting colonel-and never succeeded.

A running gag is that besides his greed Burns is also inept-he was a Scoutmaster until he accidentally set fire to himself and is basically incompetent with firearms: he wildly shot his pistol and missed in the dark in the mess tent when he and Hawkeye investigated a noise; he shot a lamp out while the rest of MASH personnel were playing a poker game; he accidentally shot BJ Hunnicut in the leg while cleaning his pistol and shot himself in the leg as well while trying to return a stolen pistol to a gun bin, {Both wounds were just scratches}. Twice Burns is awarded the Purple heart medal-once for throwing his back out while dancing with Major Houlihan and once for getting an egg shell fragment in his eye. Both times he doesn't keep the main medal-one goes to a hospitalized underage soldier who's going home and the other goes to a Koren baby whose mother was wounded just before birth.

At least once he tried to steal a Purple heart from a patient. Another running gag is that when he is happy or asleep he lets out a hysterical screech of a laugh. Frank can sleep through anything. One time Hawkeye and Trapper "milked" him for a pint of blood while he was asleep. Another time, after a "night out on the town" encouraged by Colonel Potter, a drunken Frank drank up all of Hawkeye and BJ's liquor and won all their money in a poker game and then was toe tagged by BJ and Hawkeye and was accidentally shipped up to the front where he continued to sleep, uninterrupted, until the next morning.

His skills as a Surgeon are also debatable with MASH 4077's record of 98% survival rate-since at least two patients have to be saved from infection after being operated on by "Ferret Face" (Burns' nickname). Another time he almost cut a surviving kidney from a patient (after refusing to look at the x-ray, which revealed that the patient only had one) and nearly allowed a comatose patient to die. Hawkeye claims his feud with Burns began when Hawkeye remarked Burns created more widows and pallbearers than salmonella. Burns himself admits the local funeral director gives him thank you cards every Christmas. Trapper John claimed Burns couldn't cut a Salami without bungling it and BJ wrote that Hawkeye claims Burns became a doctor only after washing out of embalming school.

Burns himself admits he flunked the medical exam twice and only passed by buying the answers for $200.00 and that he failed being a male nurse when he couldn't fold hospital bedsheets; he graduated 122nd out of 200. Besides being a Surgeon Burns is also in charge of garbage detail, latrine digging squad, giving lectures to enlisted personnel on why the Korean War is being fought every Friday, and also the Camp's physical fitness officer; despite having anemia, high blood pressure, a bad back, and a hernia operation. Several times Burns gets knocked out cold after being hit by Klinger, Zale, Hawkeye, BJ, and Major Houlihan.

His favorite general is Douglas MacArthur, and his favorite senator is Joseph McCarthy; who ironically was as crazy as Colonel Flagg. In one episode Hawkeye and BJ tried to keep a North Korean POW doctor after Burns is mistakenly taken POW by two disguised North Koreans; the two infiltrates are so tired of Burns idiocy that they let him go- claiming that is the best thing they can do for their side!

Emotionally Burns can act, at times, very unstable and childish when he doesn't get his way-twice he had fits of petulant anger when Hawkeye became Chief Surgeon of MASH 4077 and when he lost permanent command to Colonel Sherman T. Potter; once when he became so worried about losing Houlihan -he decided to become a "hero" {Blood and Guts Burns} that he nearly blew himself up with a hand grenade and went wondering around in the dark with a M1 carbine. In his last performance Burns has a nervous breakdown when Houlihan leaves to get married and goes down to Seoul and gets drunk and tries to romance women he thinks are Houlihan, resulting in a court martial and being put under psychiatric observation-which in MASH 4077's fictional world means all charges are dropped and he goes home a Lt. Col in charge of a Veterans Hospital in Ft Wayne Indiana! The only person he has real affection for is his mother-apparently his father was unfaithful to her.

Unfortunately, the character of Frank Burns was made perhaps too two dimensional, often lacking any degree of human complexity or nuance. He was portrayed as inept and evil at times, which, unfortunately, perhaps for Larry Linville, the actor who played Frank, served the comedy of Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds, as well as the series' Nielsen ratings well. One wonders how such a dumb and morally shallow person was able to make it through medical school, as well as have medical practice and to be able to work in a MASH unit where the survival rate was so high. Larry Linville, who so brilliantly played Burns, called the latter a "technical contrivance.'' This seems accurate. Frank Burns was lacking in anything even remotely connected to real human profundity, and was perhaps the only completely cartoonish character and most two dimensional (outside of Max Klinger, whose character was even made more three dimensional as the series wore on) of all of the characters of the series. Even with this, he was still described in one episode as "a fair to competent surgeon, and still able commander", albeit an acting one.

A goof in the series is him being shown as a Major; according to the US Army Alamac 1959 {.p.149} Captain's rank could only be acheived after 14 years service; in fact he would probably have been a 1st Lt. {3 years}; likewise the rank of Colonel could come only after 21 years service.

Relationship with OthersEdit

Frank is also known for his pompous, closed-minded, and sometimes unfeeling nature. (Winchester also displays some of these qualities, but in his case, this was just a shell to mask his kind heart. With Frank, it wasn't).

As a commander Burns tends to throw his weight around camp, especially around the enlisted (such as the mild-mannered Radar, who he usually refers to as "pipsqueak" and "shavetail") and new soldiers. This "high-horse" attitude makes him disliked among most of the crew, except Margaret; particularly by Col. Potter, who does not like him "personally or professionally." Frank's behavior often makes him the target of various pranks and jokes by Pierce, Trapper, and/or Hunnicut.

Frank is not above manipulation or thoughts of conspiracy. One time, He had manipulated Klinger and his buddy and at times nemesis Sgt. Zelmo Zale into a boxing match so that he would step in and stop the fight once Potter got involved, making it look like he was doing a good deed. This came back to bite him in the rear when Hawkeye and B.J. learned of Frank's intentions, telling the two fighters of Frank's devious scheme. All Frank got for his troubles was two punches to his face, which knocked him out. When Burns tried to bring up both Klinger and Zale up on charges only to learn he could get twenty years for promoting a fight

Another incident came when Colonel Flagg attempted to use Frank and Margaret's strict following of the rules to get them to help him in another paranoia scheme. Frank did his best to suck up to Flagg, only to, in a rare show (if not the only show) of genuine goodness, turn away from him along with Margaret once they see how far Flagg was willing to go for the sake of his paranoia.

Frank is also a bit of a coward, as shown in the episode "Dear Radar," in which the monthly foot inspections were being held, Frank refused to let Pierce and B.J. look his feet over, forcing Pierce to hold the man down before he let them do their job. Despite his bullying and Gung-ho patriotism Burns shows himself to be a panicky coward under pressure of either fire from the enemy or at the prospect of having to care for overwhelming casualties.

At times, Potter also loses his temper towards Frank, who oftentimes attempts to suck up to him in order to stay off of the Colonel's bad side....which never succeeds!!

Final M*A*S*H appearanceEdit

Burns is crushed when he discovers Margaret is about to be married to Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscot, and after their marriage takes off for Tokyo, he has a breakdown. He is eventually promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and put in command of a veterans' hospital in his home state of Indiana. After Linville left, the show became less satirical and more serious in drifting away from the Larry Gelbart/Gene Reynolds service-comedy episodes era into the Alan Alda/Burt Metcalfe creative era of the series.


Personnel of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital
Commissioned Officers
Lt. Col. Henry Blake | Major Frank Burns | Augustus Bedford "Duke" Forrest | Major Sidney Freedman | B.J. Hunnicutt | Oliver "Spearchucker" Jones | Captain "Trapper John" McIntyre | Father Francis Mulcahy | Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce | Colonel Sherman T. Potter | Walter "Painless Pole" Waldowski | Charles Emerson Winchester III | Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan | Nurse Margie Cutler | Nurse Ginger Bayliss | Nurse Kellye Yamoto | Nurse Peggy Bigelow | Lieutenant Maria "Dish" Schneider
Enlisted
Sgt. Maxwell Q. Klinger | Corporal "Radar" O’Reilly | Sergeant Zelmo Zale | Pvt. Igor Straminsky | Sergeant Luther Rizzo | Sergeant Major Vollmer | SSGT Gorman | Corporal Judson | Private Lorenzo Boone

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