Alan Alda

On this date in 1936, Alan Alda (né Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo) was born in Bronx, N.Y., to actor Robert Alda and Joan Browne Alda. He began acting at the age of 16, a hobby that he continued during his time at Fordham University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English in 1956. After graduating, he spent time performing at the Cleveland Playhouse and on Broadway. Alda’s best-known acting role is starring as surgeon Hawkeye Pierce on the television show “M*A*S*H” (1972-83), for which Alda wrote and directed numerous episodes.

Alda has acted in numerous movies, including “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989) and “The Aviator” (2004), for which he was Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actor. He has also written and directed films such as “The Four Seasons” (1981) and performed in Broadway plays, including “QED” (2001-02), in which he portrayed Richard Feynman. In 2019 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild. He has written two books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed (2005) and Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself (2007).

Alda hosted the television shows “Scientific American Frontiers” (1993-2007) and “The Human Spark” (2010). He was awarded a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Male Actor in 1975 and won an Emmy in 2006 for his portrayal of a Republican senator on “The West Wing” (2004-06). Alda’s character, Sen. Arnold Vinick stopped going to church and often battles the Religious Right in his own party. 

He married photographer Arlene Weiss in 1957 and they have three daughters: Eve, Elizabeth and Beatrice.

Alda is open about his lack of belief but prefers to identify simply as a nonbeliever rather than as an atheist or agnostic. He told the Edge Foundation, “I still don’t like the word agnostic. It’s too fancy. I’m simply not a believer. But, as simple as this notion is, it confuses some people. Someone wrote a Wikipedia entry about me, identifying me as an atheist because I’d said in a book I wrote that I wasn’t a believer.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation