M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr made us laugh as Max Klinger, the former cross-dressing, wise-cracking company clerk. And today’s his birthday!
What’s the best way to celebrate birthday 87? If you’re part of the wonderful M*A*S*H series, you pick out the best moments for Corporal Max Klinger.
M*A*S*H creator Larry Gelbart based the role of Klinger on comedian Lenny Bruce, who was discharged from service from World War II, in part, because he was wearing a woman’s uniform.
M*A*S*H director Gene Reynolds hired Farr for the role. The two worked together on a previous movie, so Reynolds thought Farr was a natural to play the guy who was trying for a Section Eight discharge from the military.
Farr said M*A*S*H came along at the perfect time.
“I was really down on my luck,” Farr said in 2017. “I hadn’t been working, so when they called me, they didn’t even tell me what the part was, they just said you got a part, and it pays $250 for the day. So, I said to my agent, boy I’ll be there.”
Then wardrobe gave Farr his Klinger costume. It was a woman’s uniform. This was for the episode Chief Surgeon Who?
“So I said, ‘what the heck kind of part is this,” Farr recalled. “But I put the thing on, and he started laughing because of my hairy, bowed legs and everything, then he took me on this stage, and everybody had a good time laughing.”
Farr told MeTV.com that his first episode still was his favorite.
Klinger Never Was Intended to Be Major M*A*S*H Character. Farr Changed That
Klinger was supposed to be only a tiny part. But M*A*S*H fans adored Klinger. He turned a handful of lines into a recurring character. And by season three, he was a permanent part of the cast.
“It made such an impact that they called me back, and I think I did six more of those first-year shows, and that’s how I got connected with the series.”
The M*A*S*H star continued: “The show was shot in color, but everything, the jeeps, the tents, the uniforms, were olive drab, so I think Klinger’s outfits were the only things that brought color to the show. The cheesier and more outlandish the outfit, the better it was.”
Klinger really showed off his fashion sense in a M*A*S*H season seven episode called Major Ego. He had several outfit changes. In one scene, Farr, as Klinger, put on a coat originally worn by actress Betty Grable. He also dressed as Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. And he also was Rosa Moline from Beyond the Forest. Meanwhile, in a season eight episode called April Fool’s, Klinger dressed as Cleopatra. Ginger Rogers originally wore the outfit, which was altered for Farr.
But Klinger’s character wasn’t all about crazy outfits. He also loved the episode Springtime. Why? His girlfriend back home in Ohio agreed to marry him.
By the eighth season of M*A*S*H, Klinger dropped some of his crazier antics. Gary Burghoff, who played Radar, left the show, leaving Farr/Klinger as the company clerk.
“I took that one joke and parlayed it as best I could,” the M*A*S*H star said. “And the producers figured we’ll move into another area. So that is the reason why they decided to get me out of those outfits.”