Monster M*A*S*H

Nurse Able

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Nurse Able
Judy Farrell as Nurse Able
Judy Farrell as Nurse Able in "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" in Season 11, the final episode of the M*A*S*H TV series.
M*A*S*H character
Vital information
Rank 2nd Lieutenant (O-2), U.S. Army
Job/Role in unit: Nurse at the MASH 4077th Surgical Hospital
Home Not mentioned
Hair Color: Blonde/Red/Auburn/Black
Eye Color: Green
Height: 5'4"
Weight: 125 lbs.
Family/Personal Information
Born: Not Mentioned
Birthplace: Oklahoma, as entioned in the "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" episode
Nationality/Race: American/Caucasian/Black/Asian
Spouse: Single
Relatives/Children: None mentioned
First appeared in: "As You Were" (Season 3)
Last appeared in: '"Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" (Season 11)
appeared in:
Played by: Gwen Farrell (3 episodes)
Judy Farrell (8 episodes)
Kellye Nakahara (2 episodes)
Sherry Steffens (1 episode)
Patricia Stevens (1 episode)
Lois Foraker (2 episodes)
Phyllis Katz (1 episode)
Bobbie Mitchell (2 episodes)
Lynette Mettey (1 episode)

Nurse Able was a generic name for minor nurse characters in the M*A*S*H TV series. Like Nurse Baker and Nurse Charlie, the name Able was derived from the phonetic alphabet used by the US Army in the 1950s before it was changed to "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie" later.

From Seasons 2-11 there were at least 21 episodes with a character named Nurse Able. They do not necessarily refer to the same person, and these characters were played by at least 11 different actresses.

In the early seasons, Nurse Able was a minor or side role usually with only a single line, but this evolved so that by Season 4, some Nurse Ables had a significant part in the plot. By Season 6, the use of Nurse Able had settled down and in eight of nine of the character's final appearances, from Seasons 6-11, the role was played by Judy Farrell who was only ever credited as Nurse Able.

Early Ables: Season 2-3Edit

The early Nurse Ables comprised five appearances from Season 2 to 3 which were played either by Kellye Nakahara or Bobbie Mitchell.

Nurse Able first appeared in Season 2 "As You Were", played by Kellye Nakahara. She is assisting Hawkeye in the O.R. when Frank doubles over in pain because of his hernia. Hawkeye asks Able to close and dashes over to help Frank.

The next three appearances of Able are in early season 3, all played by Bobbie Mitchell who had already played six other nurse characters in earlier episodes. In "Iron Guts Kelly" and "O.R." Able is seen in the early part of the episode helping Trapper and Hawkeye suit up in the scrub room. In both cases she only has a few lines, limited to bantering with the doctors while they are preparing for surgery.

Five episodes later, in "There Is Nothing Like a Nurse", Bobbie Mitchell is Able again although she has just played Nurse Baker in the previous episode. This time she is in the supply tent saying goodbye to Hawkeye just before the nurses are due to be evacuated because of an impending enemy attack. "Why are all the great guys married?" she asks. "Who said I was?" Hawkeye says. "You did," she replies. Obviously Hawkeye must have told her he is married in order to avoid commitment, much like what he did to the various nurses in Season 1 "Ceasefire". This is Bobbie Mitchell's final appearance as Nurse Able. She will appear as Nurse Baker again just a few episodes later.

The final appearance of Nurse Able in Season 3 is by Kellye Nakahara in "A Full Rich Day". This is another small role where she is assisting Frank and Trapper in the O.R. while they work on Sgt. Bryan, under the watchful eye of gun-wielding Lieutenant Smith. Her lines are limited to the occasional response to Trapper's instructions for "lap sponge", "suture" and so on.

Seasons of Plenty: Season 4 to late Season 5Edit

From Season 4 to the first half of Season 5, there were eleven appearances (eight credited, three uncredited) of Nurse Able played by eight different actresses. This group included familiar recurring cast members like Patricia Stevens and Lynette Mettey who had already played other nurse characters, and actresses like Sherry Steffens or Susan Bredhoff for whom a single Nurse Able part would be their only appearance on the M*A*S*H series.

The first Able in this period appeared in Season 4 "The Late Captain Pierce". Played by Sherry Steffens, this is the first Able to have a substantial speaking part. In the episode, a clerical error has caused the Army to believe that Hawkeye is dead. Lieutenant "Digger" Detweiler from the morgue detail comes to the MASH 4077 camp to collect his body. He is upset to find Hawkeye still alive and so prowls the camp to find a dead body, any dead body, to replace him. Not finding anything, he waits outside the O.R. while Able is assisting BJ and Hawkeye inside, hoping a body would emerge. Able tells the doctors that Digger's presence gives her the creeps. Hawkeye tells her that he is just doing his job. "He needs a body." Hawkeye suggests Able needs one too and asks what she is doing after the operation. She replies that she plans to wash her hair, if she can find some beer. Hawkeye offers his tent and his beer, adding, "Dead men tell no tales, you know."

Coming out from the operation into the scrub room, Hawkeye tells Digger that the patient made it, so a disappointed Digger leaves. As the doctors and Able remove their surgical gowns, BJ suggests that they should organize a wake for Hawkeye. Able says, "That's sick" but Hawkeye thinks it's a good idea. "I would have wanted it that way."

Although the closing credits clearly state that Sherry Steffens was Nurse Able in this episode, Connor Snyder has also stated in a detailed interview that she played the part. Perhaps Steffens was a stage name she used earlier on.[1]

A few episodes later, in "Dear Mildred" we see Hawkeye once again trying to hit on Nurse Able, this time played by Patricia Stevens. He suggests going to the generator shed to watch the valves go up and down, bird-watching, or because it is night, bat-watching. She turns down all these offers and his efforts are not helped by Radar, who interrupts, wanting to speak to Hawkeye.

In "Of Moose and Men", Lois Foraker plays a nurse who summons Hawkeye to Post Op because his patient, Col. Spiker is anxious to speak to him. Hawkeye wonders why, because Col. Spiker's vital signs are good and in any case Spiker doesn't like him. Foraker suggests maybe the colonel wants to thank him. Although uncredited, this part is sometimes considered among the Ables as this is Foraker's next credited role.

In "Dear Ma" the next Able is played by veteren recurring cast member Gwen Farrell. This is a small part in the O.R., with Able responding to BJ's instructions to get x-rays and an anesthetist for his next patient.

Later Ables: Judy Farrell's eraEdit

The actress who had the most appearances as Nurse Able was Judy Farrell, the former wife of M*A*S*H co-star Mike Farrell; Judy first appeared in the role in “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”, where Nurse Able begs Hawkeye to come fix the furnace in the nurses’ quarters. Later, she lead a blind Hawkeye out of post-op after he nearly came to blows with Frank. She took him to the nurses’ quarters. Along with several of her fellow nurses, she had prepared for a trip to Tokyo in “Movie Tonight” but after seeing the fun that the rest of the camp was having, decided to stay.

She helped give Margaret a bridal shower in “Margaret’s Marriage” and in “Images” she helped convince Hawkeye and B.J. to talk to Margaret about giving Nurse Cooper a break. In “Ain’t Love Grand”, she tried to talk Hawkeye into going back to the Swamp during his fued with B.J. to no avail. She was one of the (many) nurses to enjoy Hawkeye’s vintage wine in “Taking the Fifth” after he tried to use it to get a date. And during the farewell dinner in “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” she announced that she was going to be “the best darn nurse Oklahoma’s ever seen.”

References Edit

  1. | Hannibal Courier Post site, Hollywood veteran helps Bowling Green actors hone their skills, accessed on 26 Jan 2015

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