Blythe Danner rejected fame, becoming one of the Seventies’ most elusive celebrities
She costarred with Alan Alda in a movie before becoming one of Hawkeye’s lovers on M*A*S*H, but it’s possible her shyness stalled her stardom.
When Blythe Danner appeared in the 1976 MAS*H episode “The More I See You,” she played one of Hawkeye’s old flames who he becomes dismayed to learn has married since he saw her last.
For MAS*H star Alan Alda, this guest episode with Blythe Danner was a reunion. The pair of award-winning actors had previously starred together in a movie called To Kill a Clown in 1972.
For Danner, the Seventies was a wild time where anything seemed possible after she won a Tony in 1970 for her spectacular performance in the dramatic play Butterflies Are Free.
After winning the Tony, Danner started being offered meatier roles, both onstage and onscreen, but behind the scenes, Danner may not have been ready for the sudden onslaught of attention her new fame had won her, especially when it came to doing interviews.
Danner became uncomfortable with the press after some less-flattering portrayals of her as not-so-bright appeared in magazines, to the point where she rarely did interviews at all.
In 1974, The Daily News convinced Danner to set the record straight on why she stopped doing interviews.
“Privacy is the most important thing to me, particularly if you’re working,” Danner said. “I believe in promoting my films, but I always like keeping a lot to myself. I truly dislike sharing anything with anyone except my family.”
This shyness to share, she said, came in part from feeling insecure as the youngest of three children at home.
“I’ve always felt a little insecure,” she said, admitting that she found it particularly painful to watch herself acting onscreen.
“I can’t bear to see myself on the screen, yet I force myself to go see my films,” Danner said. “It’s part of the educative process.”
On top of not liking to watch herself in movies or TV shows, Danner didn’t really enjoy her looks, saying, “I certainly don’t look at myself as being pretty or beautiful. I can look ‘pretty’ if I’m fixed up in a certain way, with a good makeup job or with certain camera angles or hairstyles. But, if you stop to think what angles will make me look at my best or when I am homely, you would never get to the crux of the matter. You’d worry what you look like all the time.”
She certainly looked pretty to Hawkeye, who spends the entirety of Danner’s MAS*H episode feeling heartbroken having lost her character as the potential love of his life.
Critics in the Seventies expected Danner to become a massive star based on her distinct looks and exceptional talents, but Danner instead became a steady, prolific actor who wouldn’t win her first Emmy until 2006.
It’s possible shying away from media attention hampered her rise to fame, but Danner did not regret the decision.
In her interview from 1974, Danner explained that winning awards mattered less to her than she expected, explaining that it was in motherhood where she experienced deep enthrallment, not at awards ceremonies picking up shiny trophies.
“After I did ‘Butterflies,’ all those wonderful things began happening to me,” Danner said. “Everyone kept saying, ‘Aren’t you thrilled about winning the Tony?’ I kept thinking, ‘Yes, it’s wonderful to have that acknowledgement,’ but I didn’t really feel that truly deep gut kind of enthrallment.”