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Note: For the sitcom character of the same name, please see Frank Burns (television)

Too late, Boone, you killed him.
~ Frank Burns blaming an innocent private for a patient dying due to his own incompetence.

Frank Burns is an antagonist in M*A*S*H and the movie based upon the book. He was a surgeon and medical officer in the Korean War of 1950-1953, serving in the United States Army as second-in-command of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.

In the film, he was portrayed by Robert Duvall, who also portrayed Tom Hagen in The Godfather Saga, Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, Fred Waterford in the film adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale, and Joseph Pulitzer in Newsies.

Biography

When Captains Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce and Duke Forrest arrived at the 4077 they were placed with Burns in his tent. Meeting Burns for the first time they found him praying. Burns made no secret of his disdain for the new arrivals, and informed them that the list of people he prayed over would now get longer since he had to pray for them now. Pierce and Forrest went to commanding officer Lt. Col Henry Blake who they were able to talk into moving out of their tent, which they now called the Swamp.

After Captain John "Trapper John" McIntyre arrived at Camp Burns was working on a patient in the post op ward. He called for the orderly Boone to bring him a cardiac needle. Not knowing the difference Boone brought a needle, but it wasn't the right kind. When Boone asked if he should get a nurse Burns snapped it was too late, that Boone killed the patient before yanking the sheet up over the deceased's face. Boone left the ward in tears. Having witnessed that Trapper confronted Burns later that day. After being satisfied that Burns would have time to sleep it off, he punched Burns for doing that to Boone. Unluckily, it was right as Col. Blake walked by with the new head nurse, Major O'Houlihan.

Confronting Trapper, Blake learned that when Burns lost patients it was either God's will or someone else's fault. And in the most recent case it had been a kid who was "stupid enough to believe him.".

O'Houlihan was quite taken with Burns. Working with him she began to feel that he was a good military surgeon. Both Hawkeye and Forrest felt that Burns was overly officious and not a good surgeon. Hawkeye went so far as to call Burns a menace in the operating room when O'Houlihan tried to defend Burns to him.

After Trapper was named chief surgeon they had a party while Blake was away on business. While the party was going on Burns and O'Houlihan typed up a letter which they mailed to General Hammond, hoping it would get Hawkeye and Forrest arrested and Blake removed from command.

The two then went back to O'Houlihan's tent where the pair started to make love. What they didn't know was that Radar had put the microphone to the camp intercom system under O'Houlihan's bed, broadcasting the noises to the camp and O'Houlihan's request that Frank kiss her Hot Lips, which soon became her nickname. Burns and O'Houlihan realized then that the sounds of their lovemaking was being broadcast to the camp, and Burns bolted from the tent.

At breakfast the next day Hawkeye proceeded to ask Burns how O'Houlihan was in bed. Burns told him to shut his "filthy mouth" but he continued to taunt Burns about his tryst with O'Houlihan. Burns responded by attacking Hawkeye in full view of the mess tent and the recently returned Col. Blake. Burns was quickly restrained by others in the tent.

Burns was placed in a straight jacket and taken from the camp.

Trivia

  • The movie version of Frank Burns was the combination of two different characters from the original novel by Richard Hooker, those being Major Jonathan Hobson and Captain Frank Burns. In the novel, Frank Burns held the rank of Captain, the movie and television versions both held the rank of Major.
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