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Stiers, David Ogden (b. 1942)  
 
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Best known to many television viewers for his role as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on the series M*A*S*H, David Ogden Stiers has had a long and successful acting career not only on the small screen but also in film and on the stage. A lover and student of classical music, he has also been the guest conductor of dozens of orchestras. For the majority of his career he remained closeted for fear of losing opportunities to work.

Major Winchester was a Boston Brahmin, but the man who so convincingly portrayed him was born on October 31, 1942 in Peoria, Illinois, and spent most of his youth in the area.

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When he was in his mid teens, the family moved to Eugene, Oregon. In high school, Stiers began taking part in plays and also developed his musical talent, playing the French horn and the piano.

Upon graduating, he enrolled at the University of Oregon, but he soon abandoned his studies there to take a job with the California Shakespeare Company in Santa Clara, where he worked for seven years. During his time in California he also acted in productions of the San Francisco Actors' Workshop and was a member of an improvisational comedy group called The Committee, whose members included Rob Reiner and Howard Hesseman.

Although he already had considerable acting experience, Stiers enrolled at the Juilliard School at the relatively late age of twenty-seven to pursue formal studies in both drama and voice. There he found a mentor in the accomplished actor John Houseman.

When Houseman subsequently founded the troupe The Acting Company, Stiers was among its players. His success with the group led to other stage work, and in 1974 he made his Broadway debut opposite Zero Mostel in Ulysses in Nighttown (dramatized by Marjorie Barkenstein from the novel by James Joyce, score by Peter Link).

Despite his success on the New York stage, Stiers returned to California, where he had already begun to work in film. His entry into the medium was with a voice-over role in George Lucas's THX 1138 (1971), and he first appeared on the big screen in Bob Rafaelson's Drive, He Said (1971).

During the 1970s Stiers also began a career in television, mainly playing small parts until he was cast in a recurring role as the station manager on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. His performance caught the eye of producers launching the series Charlie's Angels in 1976. Stiers appeared prominently in the pilot episode but declined an offer to continue in the role when the ABC network picked up the series.

His work, however, had again been noticed, and the following year he joined the cast of the hit series M*A*S*H in the role of Major Winchester, a stuffy, elitist, reluctant draftee doctor who served as a foil to star Alan Alda's character, the iconoclastic Doctor Hawkeye Pierce. Stiers brought humanity to the role of Winchester, particularly through the love of music that he and the character shared. Stiers's work on M*A*S*H earned him Emmy nominations in 1981 and 1982.

When the series ended its run in 1983, Stiers continued his work in television. His performance in the 1984 mini-series The First Olympics: Athens 1896 brought him another Emmy nomination. He also had a recurring role as District Attorney Michael Reston in the Perry Mason series of made-for-television movies (1986-1988). In addition, he became something of a fixture on PBS, narrating a number of history and science series.

Stiers subsequently returned to commercial television in the short-lived series Love & Money (1999). Only a few episodes were aired—unfortunately in a time-slot opposite the baseball World Series—before the show was canceled for poor ratings.

Stiers had greater success with the USA Network series The Dead Zone (2002-2007), based on the Stephen King novel of the same title. A fan of science fiction since boyhood, Stiers relished the opportunity to participate in a project in that genre.

"I really like science fiction," he stated, "because it tells terrifically human stories in a framework that keeps you visually excited and challenged and lets you recognize the commonality of the characters in the piece with you and people you know in the here and now. . . . It causes you to think about big things in ways that are practical and real that otherwise might become just theoretical."

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