Insanity: Robert Altman's MASH

"In a mad world, only the mad are sane."

Akira Kurosawa

"What this picture is about -- and it keeps getting more clear to me all the time -- is the insanity."

Robert Altman

MASH was not Richard Nixon's favorite war film of 1970. Of the four highest grossing war films released domestically in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam War -- Paramount's satirical Catch-22 and Fox's trio of MASH and the more conventional Tora! Tora! Tora! and Patton -- the recently-minted war president's personal favorite was by far Franklin Schaffner's biopic of World War II general and fellow Californian George S. Patton. Mark Feeney, in Nixon at the Movies, suggests that Patton, with his "macho, swaggering, impulsive" qualities, was a "Nixonian beau ideal: an example to aspire to, even if not a model to live by."

A large cohort of America, of course, had a different pick. The low budget subversive antiwar comedy MASH, which "Fox thought would just play in drive-ins," grossed an astonishing $36.7 million that year -- just over $200 million in 2008 dollars -- and came in as the third highest grossing film of 1970, just behind Love Story and Airport. The vaunted studio pictures Patton and...

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