Hollywood actor, director, and writer Alan Alda is a doting husband and father. However, his childhood was laid with trauma and rocky relationships with his parents.
Alan Alda, born Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo on January 28, 1936, in New York City, is most known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce on “M*A*S*H,” which ran from 1972 to 1983.
Before his successful career, filled with acting, writing, and directing credits, Alda lived a rocky life growing up with his actor and singer father, Robert Alda, and his mother, Joan Browne.
In his memoir, “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed — and Other Things I’ve Learned,” Alda detailed his childhood including, attending burlesque shows that his father performed in and his relationship with his parents.
“The Four Seasons” actor also wrote of his mother and her struggles with her mental health. During the 40s and 50s, mental illness was not spoken about, so Alda dealt with his mother’s issue alone:
“How much easier it could have been for my father and me to face her illness together; to compare notes, to figure out strategies. Instead, each of us was on [our] own.”
He detailed one particular incident where he had stayed up with his mother, as Robert was late to get home from his performance at the club below them.
When Robert got home, his wife accused him of sleeping with another woman. The altercation led to Alda’s mother attempting to attack his father with a paring knife.
However, before anyone was harmed, Alda, who was only six years old at the time, grabbed the knife from his parents and rammed it into the table, bending the point.
Later, Alda tried to bring up the traumatic situation with his parents, however, his mother told him he had imagined the incident, and his father said nothing about the situation.
Besides dealing with his mother’s unstable mental health condition, Alda lived an interesting childhood which saw him watching burlesque shows at a young age and making his first stage debut as a baby.
Another intriguing anecdote Alda shared in his memoir was when, as a two-year-old, his father had posed him with a tobacco pipe for a newspaper to get publicity for the burlesque club at which he worked.
Alda shared the details of the article about him smoking as a baby and wrote that his mother had told the news outlet that he wanted to be an actor like his father.
The write-up also featured photographs of Alda showing an array of emotions, all of which were instructions from his mother. In retrospect, Alda wrote:
“The caption under them reads, ‘Alphonse wants to be an actor.’ It might just as accurately have read, ‘Alphonse wants to please.'”
Of course, Alda would become an actor and an incredibly talented one too. His career officially started in 1959 when he made his Broadway debut in “Only In America.”
A few years later, he made his film debut in “Gone Are the Days” in 1963, a film version of the theater play, “Purlie Victorious,” which he had starred in too.
From then on, Alda landed multiple roles in Broadway shows and movies including, “Fair Game For Lovers” in 1964, “Paper Lion” in 1968, and “Jenny” in 1970, in which he starred with Marlo Thomas.
Two years later, he landed his most notable role as Hawkeye Pierce in wartime comedy and drama “M*A*S*H.” During its run, Alda continued to feature in other films and movies.
Likewise to his professional life, Alda’s personal life was just as successful. He married his wife, Arlene Wiess, in 1957, before his career took off, and the two welcomed three daughters, Eve, Elizabeth, and Beatrice.
Arlene is an equally talented artist. She was a gifted clarinetist and even won a Fulbright scholarship to study music in Cologne, Germany. Later she joined the Houston Symphony as the assistant first clarinetist.
The doting mother gave up her career as a musician to focus on raising her and Alda’s three daughters. However, she found a whole new career as a photographer.
Her images were featured in magazines such as Vogue, New York magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, People, and Good Housekeeping and different exhibitions throughout the years.
Arlene leaned her talents to the movie “The Four Seasons.” The film was a family affair as Alda wrote, directed, and starred in the movie, and his two youngest daughters made appearances in it.
Elizabeth and Beatrice, who are now in their early 60s, both started as actresses, but as they matured, their career’s followed different paths.
After another movie credit in “Nights of Creeps” in 1986, Elizabeth decided to pursue a special education career. Alda shared of his daughter’s career:
“Elizabeth decided she didn’t really care for acting. She became a teacher of the deaf and a special education teacher in general.”
After Beatrice’s appearance in “The Four Seasons,” she went on to feature in a few movies including, “A New Life” and “Men of Respect.” But later, she moved behind the camera.
In 2008 Beatrice made her directorial debut for the documentary “Out Late.” She is also the owner of a production company called Forever Films Studios.
As for Alda’s oldest daughter, Eve did not follow her father’s footsteps in film and kept her life relatively private compared to her younger siblings.
According to Closer Weekly, Eve studied psychology at Connecticut College. She also studied at Simmons School of Social Work in Boston.
Arlene and Alda can feel proud of all their daughters’ achievements. The couple can also be proud that they have stayed together for 65 years.
Throughout their career’s Alda and Arlene have spoken fondly about each other and have shared the key to having a lasting and happy marriage.
At the New York Film Festival, Alda joked and said Alrene believed having a “short memory” was the key to a long marriage. However, he also revealed that they are both supportive of each other.
Alda and Arlene’s relationship is noteworthy because they have made theirs work in an industry where long-term relationships are not necessarily the norm.