Alan Alda: How He Kept ‘M*A*S*H’ From Firing Father Mulcahy

Star stood up for struggling actor!

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William Christopher took a shocking medical secret to the grave when he died — his M*A*S*H costar Alan Alda saved his job when he was deathly ill!

Bill, who played mild Father John Mulcahy on the hit series, died at age 84 on Dec. 31. But he was almost forced off M*A*S*H in 1976 — and nearly died — after being sidelined for most of the season with near-fatal hepatitis!

While his priest character was a fan favorite during the legendary show’s 1972-1983 run — bigwigs were ready to dump him.

“He became very sick and many people thought that he wouldn’t make it,” says a source close to the late actor.

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“There was some talk about writing him out of the show — but Alan Alda wouldn’t hear of it!”

Instead, Alan insisted they write “Bill’s hepatitis into the series!”

In a February 1977 episode — written and directed by Alan — the unit battles an outbreak of hepatitis and Hawkeye, Alan’s role, has to inoculate the staff.

“Alan knew Bill and his wife had an autistic son and his paycheck provided for the boy,” said the source. “Bill recovered from the hepatitis and was eternally grateful to Alan.”