On a recent trip to Los Angeles it was a sunny spring day and I wanted to hike. I ended up at a place at once familiar and remote. I recognized the shape of the mountains instantly. I was in Korea, on a Hollywood lot. You guessed it. I was on the site, formerly the 20th Century Fox ranch, where exterior scenes for the popular television show M*A*S*H were filmed during the show’s eleven-year run from 1972-1983. The opening scene showing doctors scurrying to meet the helicopters bringing the wounded is ingrained in the memories of M*A*S*H fans around the world, as is the show’s final shot of a helicopter lifting Hawkeye Pierce above camp, “goodbye” spelled in white rocks below, a message from his best friend B.J. Hunnicutt. This final episode made television history as the most-watched TV show of all time – 125 million viewers.
Today, a few rusted military vehicles are all that is left of the set. A few interpretive markers include photos of the set in action and some tape outlines where the tents stood.
Set in the rugged landscape of Malibu Creek State Park north of Malibu, the site is rich in film production history. The first film shot in the park was a silent black and white film in 1919 called “Daddy Long Legs” starring Mary Pickford. Other films shot here include three Tarzan movies with Johnnie Weissmuller and westerns such as “Blockade” with Henry Fonda. Fans of “Planet of the Apes” will recognize the scenery as will fans of the Fess Parker
“Daniel Boone” series. More recently the movie “Pleasantville” (1998) with its entire 1950s town was filmed on a parking lot within the park.
Years before Hollywood studios found it, the lands were inhabited for centuries by the Chumash Indians and many of the park’s trails were originally footpaths used by the Indians. By the 1860s a few homesteads occupied the rolling hills. A century later during his years as governor, Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy spent weekends at their horse ranch “Yearling Row” now in the park boundary –they later sold it to the CA park system.
But as I hiked the several miles to the M*A*S*H site, a realized what a true fan of the show I am … I felt goosebumps as a helicopter flew over. I looked skyward, half expecting to see an army helicopter coming in for a landing.
Check out this fun website about the M*A*S*H site restoration: http://www.malibucreekstatepark.org/MASH.html