Thursday, 5 January 2017

Godspeed William Christopher

William Christopher, best known for playing Father Francis Mulcahy on M*A*S*H, died on December 31 2016 at the age of 84. The cause was  small-cell carcinoma.

William Christopher was born in Evanston, Illinois on October 20, 1932. He grew up in Chicago's suburbs and attended New Trier High School in Winnetka. He graduated with a degree in drama from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. After graduation he moved to New York City where he acted on stage. He appeared on Broadway in the 1962-1964 run of Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke's satirical revue Beyond the Fringe. He also went on a national tour with Beyond the Fringe.

William Christopher moved to Los Angeles and made his television debut in 1965 in a guest appearance on 12 O'Clock High. He guest starred on such shows as Hank, The Patty Duke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Death Valley Days, and Hogan's Heroes before being cast in the recurring role of  Private Lester Hummel on Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. He appeared in The Perils of Pauline (1967), which was three pilots for a TV series edited together and released as a feature film. In the late Sixties he guest starred on That Girl. He made his film debut in The Fortune Cookie in 1966. During the Sixties he appeared in the films The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell (1968), The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), and With Six You Get Eggroll (1968).

In the Seventies William Christopher played the recurring role of Niles on the short-lived Western Nichols. It was in 1972 that Mr. Christopher was cast in the role of Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H. In the first episode the character had been played by actor George Morgan, but the producers decided to recast the role. Ultimately, William Christopher would be one of only four members of the regular cast to remain with the show for its entire run (the others were Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, and Jamie Farr). During the Seventies he also guest starred on such shows as The Virginian, Insight, Columbo, Movin' On, Lucas Tanner, and Good Times. He appeared in the film Hearts of the West (1975)

In the Eighties William Christopher continued to play the role of Father Mulcahy, first on M*A*S*H and then on its sequel/spin-off AfterM*A*S*H. He provided additional voices on the Saturday morning cartoon The Smurfs. He guest starred on the shows The Love Boat; Murder, She Wrote; and CBS Summer Playhouse. In the Nineties he guest starred on The New WKRP in Cincinnati, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Diagnosis Murder, Team Knight Rider, and Mad About You. In 2012 he had a recurring role on Days of Our Lives.

In the mid-Nineties William Christopher toured the United States with fellow M*A*S*H cast member Jamie Farr in The Odd Couple. In 2008-2009 he did a tour of Church Basement Ladies. He devoted a good deal of time to the National Autistic Society. He and his wife Barbara published the book Mixed Blessings about their experiences with their autistic son Ned.

Loretta Swit told Associated Press following William Christopher's death, "He became TV’s quintessential padre as Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H. A great sense of humour and a great humanitarian. It was the most perfect casting ever known." It is hard to argue with Miss Swit's assessment of William Christopher being cast as Father Mulcahy. He excelled in the role. As Father Mulcahy he was soft spoken, sensitive, a bit quirky, and kind. It was Father Mulcahy who served as the conscience and moral compass of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. From all reports William Christopher was much like Father Mulcahy in real life--kind, gentle, and soft spoken. He was beloved by his fellow cast members and fans alike.

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