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Lawrence Lavon Linville[1] (September 29, 1939 – April 10, 2000) was an American actor known for his portrayal of the surgeon Major Frank Burns on the television series M*A*S*H.

Larry Linville
Larry Linville Major Frank Burns MASH 1972.JPG
Linville as Frank Burns
Lawrence Lavon Linville

(1939-09-29)September 29, 1939
DiedApril 10, 2000(2000-04-10) (aged 60)
Years active1960–1996
Spouse(s)Deborah Guydon (1993 – April 10, 2000; his death)
Susan Hagan (October 15, 1986–1992; divorced)
Melissa Gallant (April 24, 1982–1985; divorced)
Vana Tribbey (December 25, 1977 – April 20, 1982; divorced)
Kate Geer (April 25, 1962–1975; divorced) 1 child (Kelly Linville, b. 1970)


Early life and educationEdit

Linville was born in Ojai, California, the son of Fay Pauline (née Kennedy) and Harry Lavon Linville.[2] Raised in Sacramento, he attended El Camino High School[3] (Class of 1957) and later studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder before applying for a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.


After returning to the United States, Linville began his acting career at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, a year-round repertory theatre under director Robert Porterfield.

Before M*A*S*HEdit

Before his five-year co-starring role on M*A*S*H, Linville had guest-starring roles on many of the well-known television series of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Included in his credits in that period are one appearance each on Bonanza, Room 222 and Adam-12. He had three appearances, as three different characters, on Mission: Impossible over three seasons of that television series. On the early seasons of Mannix, Linville had a recurring role as Lieutenant George Kramer, an ally of Mannix in the L.A. Police Department.

Linville played a doctor on the television movie The Night Stalker (1972), a predecessor of the Kolchak television series, and in the episode titled "Chopper" of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, he played the youngest police captain on the force investigating murders committed by a headless motorbike rider. He also had a small role in the film Kotch (1971), which was directed by Jack Lemmon and starred Walter Matthau. Linville also appeared as U.S. Treasury Agent Hugh Emery in the 1972 television series Search episode "One of Our Probes is Missing".


Larry Linville (left) with the cast of M*A*S*H (1974)

When the television series M*A*S*H started, Linville signed a five-year contract. He played Frank Burns, a major and surgeon. He achieved wide recognition in this role, in which his character was contrasted with those played by Alan Alda and others in the ensemble. During that period, the sitcom's tone had changed from pure comedy to more drama-focused story lines, as it reflected issues related to the Vietnam War (though M*A*S*H was set during the Korean War, it aired during the Vietnam and post-Vietnam era and tended to reflect this period in a roundabout fashion). He was offered a renewal for two more seasons when his contract expired, but he declined. After five seasons, Linville felt that he had taken the Frank Burns character as far as he could and chose to leave the series to pursue other roles.

After M*A*S*HEdit

After M*A*S*H, Linville starred or appeared in many films and television series. He was a guest-star on many television series, most frequently Murder, She Wrote; Fantasy Island; The Love Boat; The FBI Story; and CHiPs. He also appeared on episodes of Airwolf (he played Maxwell in "And a Child Shall Lead") and The Rockford Files, and appeared in the television movie The Girl, the Gold Watch & Dynamite (1981). He also played a stock character—the "Crazy General"—along with Edward Winter in the pilot episode of Misfits of Science. He also co-starred in the short-lived sitcom Grandpa Goes to Washington with Jack Albertson.

Linville appeared as jealous ex-boyfriend Randy Bigelow in the 1982 short-lived Disney series Herbie, the Love Bug. He also starred in the short-lived The Jeffersons spinoff Checking In, where he played Florence Johnston's (Marla Gibbs) nemesis, Lyle Block; however, this series only lasted four episodes. Linville co-starred in 1984 on Paper Dolls, a nighttime drama on ABC offering a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the fashion industry. In 1991, Linville appeared on an episode of the television series Night Court as a doctor. Linville also appeared in an episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman season 1 episode 3 as a crackpot claiming to have been abducted by Superman and taken aboard his spaceship.

He also had roles in many films, including School Spirit (1985), Earth Girls Are Easy (1988), C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (1989), Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever (1991), A Million to Juan (1994) and No Dessert, Dad, till You Mow the Lawn (1994).

Linville appeared as an interview subject for Memories of M*A*S*H, a 1991 special commemorating the 20th anniversary of the series. In 1997, he joined Larry Gelbart (the producer and creator of M*A*S*H) and David Ogden Stiers (who played Frank Burns' replacement on the sitcom, Major Charles Winchester) to attend a deactivation ceremony for the last remaining U.S. MASH unit in Korea.[4]

Marriage and familyEdit

He was married five times: to Kate Geer (sister of actress Ellen Geer), with whom he had a daughter, Kelly Linville (born 1970) before they divorced. Kelly was his only child. He also married (and divorced) Vana Tribbey, Melissa Gallant, and Susan Hagan. His last marriage was to Deborah Guydon, who was by his side when he died.

Surgery, illness, and deathEdit

After doctors found a malignant tumor under his sternum, Linville underwent surgery in February 1998 to remove part of his lung. He received further treatment, but had continuing health problems over the next two years. Linville died of pneumonia in New York City on April 10, 2000, after complications from cancer surgery.[5] His ashes were scattered at sea off the coast of Bodega Bay, California.

Partial filmographyEdit


  1. ^ According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905–1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California. Searchable at
  2. ^ "Larry Linville Biography (1939–2000)". Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  3. ^ Basofin, Pete (August 21, 2011). "In History's Spotlight: Larry Linville". Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on July 26, 2013. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
    • a "Born in Ojai, Linville moved to Sacramento and graduated from El Camino High School." — ¶ 2.
  4. ^ Jelinek, Pauline (June 15, 1997). "The Real-Life MASH Unit Celebrates Its Final Episode". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ "'M*A*S*H' actor Linville dead at 60 - April 11, 2000". Retrieved 21 April 2018.

External linksEdit