Poor Wayne Rogers (Trapper John on TV’s M*A*S*H from ’72 to ’83) died a year and two days ago at age 82. He was a likable midrange actor who wound up making a lot of money in the stock market, but I chose not to post anything when he passed. Because the only thing I had to say about the guy would’ve been construed as unkind and inappropriate at such a moment. But I can say it now.
My only in-the-flesh encounter with Rogers was when I saw him in a 1989 Westport Country Playhouse production of David Mamet‘s Speed-The-Plow. He played Charlie Fox to Charles Cioffi‘s Bobby Gould. I’d seen Joe Mantegna, Ron Silver and Madonna do it on Broadway a year earlier, and they were much better. (Yes, even Madonna.) One reason was that the Broadway version played it hard, tough and trim while the Westport guys softened the mood here and there. Rogers basically tried to win the audience over by charming things up, and you can’t do that with Mamet.
The bottom line is that Rogers wanted the audience’s approval and affection more than he wanted to respect the text and “deliver the Mamet” the way he should have. (Surely he’d seen the 1988 B’way version.) That’s one of the marks, no offense, of a second-tier actor. But he turned out to be a first-rate investment manager.