Movie Tonight was the 119th episode of M*A*S*H, the 22nd in the fifth season of the show, which originally aired on CBS-TV on February 22, 1977. It was written by Gene Reynolds, Don Reo, Allan Katz, and Jay Folb and directed by Burt Metcalfe.
Colonel Potter hopes a Western will be the cure for the 4077th's morale problem. But during the show, the staff of the camp is forced to make its own entertainment during the frequent film breakages.
Full episode summary
Without any wounded to take care of, the 4077th is bored and cranky. A simple session of cleaning up the O.R. leads to the staff yelling at one another. Col. Potter gets so frustrated he walks out on all of them. But Father Mulcahy, coming from Seoul, brings some good news: a movie that Potter requested and he is clearly very excited about. He's so excited, in fact, he announces that his "all-time favorite movie" will be shown after dinner.
The crankiness continues through dinner - everyone's in such a bad mood, no one's talking, so dinner is a tension-filled event. But Potter comes in and announces the night's movie is the classic Henry Fonda picture My Darling Clementine (1946). This - and Potter's enthusiasm - seems to cheer everyone up.
Later, the movie starts, to the cheers and applause of the audience. Unfortunately, just a few minutes into the picture, the film goes off the reel and the screen goes dark. As Klinger fixes the film, Col. Potter organizes a community sing-along, and after some cajoling they all sing "The Tennessee Waltz."
The film starts again, and runs for another few minutes, when - at a crucial scene - it goes out again. The crowd starts to get really annoyed, when Father Mulcahy - via piano - breaks into "Gee Mom, I Want To Go Home", causing everyone to sing along, and add their own specific sets of lyrics. Radar then does some impressions, followed by everyone doing impressions of Father Mulcahy (Radar doing the best job), ending with Hot Lips singing a song all on her own, getting so wrapped up in the performance she doesn't even stop after the movie starts up again.
During the film's climactic shoot-out, everyone gets in on the act, play-pretending shooting each other, with them all falling over in mock agony. It leads to everyone laying on the floor as the movie rolls on. The festive mood is broken when a jeep arrives carrying wounded, snapping everyone into action.
In a closing scene not shown in most syndicated airings, we see the staff of the MASH hard at work in the OR. Col. Potter starts softly singing "My Darling Clementine", and one by one, the rest join in.
Research notes/Fun facts
- Anomaly: The song Margaret sings is "C'est Magnifique", written by Cole Porter in 1953 for the musical Can-Can. The show premiered on Broadway May 7, and Korean War ended shortly after on July 27, so it's highly unlikely Margaret or anyone else in Korea would be aware of it.
- During one of the shots of the movie "My Darling Clementine", one of the cowboys uses a whip, and Hawkeye jokes, "Look, it's Margaret's whip!" Margaret received a leather whip from her fiancé Lt. Col. Donald Penobscott earlier in the season ("Lt. Radar O'Reilly").
- Three episodes earlier, B.J. is quite angry with himself when he spends the night with a nurse ("Hanky Panky"). In this episode, B.J. and Hawkeye cheerfully improvise a line in a duet, about how they work on patients throughout the day and on nurses through the night.
- Anomaly: During one of the breaks from the movie Col. Potter has Radar do impressions of actors. The first quote "Well, it looks like you got some people around here pretty mad at you, son. But I'm not gonna hit ya. I'm not gonna hit ya. Like hell I'm not." is the famous John Wayne line from just before he starts the brawl at the quarry in the movie "McLintock". That movie came out in 1963, a near full decade after the end of the Korean War.
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Enid Kent as Nurse Bigelow
- Judy Farrell as Nurse Able
- Jeffrey Kramer as Ambulance driver
- Carmine Scelza as Corpsman
- Uncredited appearances