Edward Winter

… the actor, who recently popped up twice on my vintage tv, first in a 1981 episode of The Greatest American Hero and then in a 1985 episode of Cagney & Lacey — where I instantly recognized him from his recurring character Colonel Flagg on M*A*S*H, from 1973-79. I was of course interested in him as a member of what I’ve called the Acting Corps (actors who get regular work and so pop up in movies or on tv, notably or inconspicuously, in various roles; also in him as a man with a conventionally good-looking face, a leading-man style of face (rather than a character-actor face); and also in him as someone with a strong and recognizable actorial persona, which runs through a number of his performances.

A standard p.r. head shot of Winter from the 1970s/80s:


Bare bones from Wikipedia:

Edward Dean Winter (June 3, 1937 – March 8, 2001) was an American actor. He is best known for playing Colonel Samuel Flagg in the iconic television series M*A*S*H from 1973 to 1979.

His other notable television roles were as U.S. Air Force investigator Capt. Ben Ryan in season 2 of Project U.F.O.(1978–1979); and in Hollywood Beat (1985), 9 to 5 (1986–1988), and Herman’s Head (1991–1994).

Winter received two Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical nominations for his performances in the original productions of Cabaret (1966) and Promises, Promises (1968). He also appeared in films such as A Change of Seasons(1980), Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983), and The Buddy System (1984).

Also a number of appearances as a supporting actor in tv shows other than M*A*S*H. Winter was a notable member of what I’ve called the Acting Corps.

There is now (as of today) a Page on this blog about my postings on the corp. I suggested the label in my 7/20/15 posting “The Acting Corps”, where I wrote:

I’ve been posting a good bit on acting on tv, with excursions into the movies and the stage, noting (frequently) that a great many of these people have extensive careers, with large numbers of acting credits, especially on television — where series (of several types) have an almost inexhaustible appetite for competent actors. So some people will pop up again and again. Some have a degree of celebrity, others are familiar faces you might not be able to put a name to, and even the well-known will often be cast in parts that have little to do with the characters they are famous for.

I’ve come to think of this bank of reliable actors as the Acting Corps.

Some of the actors are in this inventory because their performances in general are especially striking (certainly true for Winter); or because they are significant figures in a movie or tv show of note in its own right  (in Winter’s case M*A*S*H; otherwise, Cheers; Law & Order; Victor, Victoria; etc.); or because of their physical presence (for Winter, his intense, even manic, physicality; for other actors, the great beauty or striking individuality of their faces or bodies — given my personal tastes, there are a great many shirtless hunks in the inventory).

Good-looking men. Winter is conventionally good-looking. Other men in the Acting Corps are describable as beautiful — Robert Redford, for instance — or striking — note Terry Kiser’s eyes — or as conveying a personality — J.K. Simmons’s quiet humane authority:

(#2) Redford

(#3) Kiser

(#4) Simmons

(A recent posting on male good looks: my 11/25/19 posting “Revisiting 38: More male beauty”.)

The actorial persona. Of course, it’s not just a matter of good or striking looks, but it’s also what sort of reading of character we put on these looks, what sort of person we infer even from just this static visual evidence — the evidence of the anatomical characteristics of his head (especially his face), his facial expression and gaze, the way he is groomed and dressed.

Winter and Kiser are harder to read for personas than Redford or Simmons, but once we see them in motion, hear them talk, study how they act, we have much more information and can advance much more elaborate inferences about what sorts of people they are portraying. They will inhabit various different characters in specific performances, and they also may be drawn to particular kinds of characters, and to fashion these characters in their own ways, again and again. These are their actorial personas (of course, offstage they will display some collection of personas too).

As a member of the Actor Corps, Winter took on a wide variety of roles, but he seemed to be drawn to intense, even manic or deranged, and rather nasty, characters who are physically highly strung, either taut or in constant motion.

The masterwork of this kind of character is Winter’s performance as Colonel Flagg in M*A*S*H. From the Monster M*A*S*H Wiki on Colonel Samuel Flagg:

(#5) Winter as Flagg, in a relatively docile moment

Col. Flagg is a U.S. Military Intelligence agent. His behavior is rather careless and irrational, and he appears to the staff of the 4077th to be a paranoid, overly methodical military man. At times, he deliberately injures himself – sometimes seriously – to advance a top-secret, highly classified investigation. … He claims that he is either with the CIA, the CIC, or the CID, depending on who he’s dealing with.

… Flagg’s “trademark” is to assure that no one sees him leave when he finishes a job. (“I have no home. I am the wind.”)

… In one episode, Flagg remarks he has been in Intelligence for twenty years. He claims he was a showgirl at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas for six weeks. Hawkeye claims to have seen him in that disguise during that time, saying he was wearing a big hat and carrying a parasol as well as being the only showgirl that was carrying a machine gun.

Then from The Greatest American Hero S2 E5 “Classical Gas” (12/2/81):

(#6) Winter (as Charley Wilde) and Connie Sellecca (as Pam Davis)

Synopsis: the protagonist (in a red superhero suit) Ralph (William Katt) investigates the relationship between the terrorist Hydra (George Loros) and the crooked concert promoter Charley (Edward Winter), who is involved with Ralph’s love interest Pam (Connie Sellecca).

Then, from Cagney & Lacey, synopses for two episodes, S4 E14 “Rules of the Game” (1/28/85) and S4 E20 “Con Games” (3/11/85):

(#7) Winter as Hennessey and Gless as Cagney, in her apartment

(E14) Capt. Hennessey (Edward Winter)), an officer in command, retains officer Chris Cagney as his investigative partner while relegating Mary Beth Lacey to desk duty; his interest in Cagney becomes more personal than professional, and when she refuses to trade sexual favors for professional ones, he threatens her with a poor job evaluation.

(E20) Chris decides to pursue a charge of sexual harassment against her boss Captain Hennessey.

I haven’t written about actorial personas in general on this blog, but I’ve written several times about a special case: porn actors and their porn personas. From my 2/9/16 posting “Morning names: wiles, Wiles”:

… some stuff about porn actors, their porn personas, and the characters they play in particular scenes. The first thing to say is that porn actors are real people, with real-life non-porn names and lives off the set.  So we have the porn actor Kevin Wiles (KW from here on out), the alter ego of a man whose name I do not know but whose writer’s voice I have heard, through some blogging he’s done; I’ll call him MX, for Mr. X.

MX is, I am pleased to say, still alive and apparently living happily in the Pacific Northwest; he hasn’t acted in porn for some time, probably because (according to my calculations) he must be pushing 50, which is old for a porn actor, even one who aged gracefully, as KW did. Others report that MX is amiable, an excellent friend, intelligent and thoughtful, intellectually inclined in fact, and has been so since he was a teenager. All this accords with the blogging he’s done abut the travails of having both a daily personal life and also an extraordinarily public life as the porn actor KW — something that has troubled some other reflective men who act in gay porn.

Reading between various lines suggests that MX has self-identified as (thoroughly) gay since the age of 15 or and has had a high sex drive since then. (But I could be wrong.)

Though a porn actor is asked to adopt a different persona for each character he plays, almost always he’s developed a more enduring persona, his “porn persona”, if you will, that cuts across different roles and indeed, helps to determine which roles he’s offered and which ones he’s willing to accept and how he will realize any particular role. A porn persona is built on physical appearance (including not only things like body type and hair color but also, very important in gay porn, dick size), the actor’s inclinations to certain kinds of behavior (in voice, gait, mannerisms, and so on), and the actor’s sexual tastes. KW’s porn persona builds, first, on his physical appearance — he has a twinkish body type (boyish and slender rather than hunky-muscular), a sweet rather than rugged face, hair usually classified as blond, though (as with many blonds in gay porn) the darkness of his hair ranges considerably and sometimes has a reddish tinge to it. He’s also shorter than most of the men he works with.

Edward Winter, in contrast, had a fairly rugged build and was agile and active, but also tough, and (in many of his roles) both high-strung and aggressively masculine.

One Response to “Edward Winter”

  1. Scott Says:

    He was also in the first season of Soap. Watching those old episodes one observes that not only was he ruggedly handsome, he also had a great body. Very underrated.

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