‘M*A*S*H’: Jamie Farr Explained All the Ways Alan Alda was the ‘Spine of the Show’

by Joe Rutland
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When it comes to an actor being a rather important part of “M*A*S*H” and its cast, Jamie Farr said Alan Alda provided a lot.

“Alan, of course, was the spine of the show,” Farr said in an interview for the Archive of American Television. “He could write, he could direct.” Farr also said Alda could act and produce, too.

“He was very generous,” Farr, who played Cpl. Max Klinger, said. “Originally, it was an ensemble but as the show went on Alan, as they say, ‘became the lynchpin.’ They come up with all these things (sayings) that we have to use.

‘M*A*S*H’ Star Said Alda Was ‘Very Generous’ Toward Show, Cast

“He was very, very generous about the show,” Farr said. He makes a reference to show writer-executive producer Burt Metcalfe. Farr intimated Metcalfe would have to make sure everyone had a chance to have significant roles in episodes.

“Metcalfe used to say, ‘I got seven birdies I got to feed, you know,'” Farr said. “‘Sometimes I can’t do it in every show.'” He said Metcalfe would say “‘so, sometimes I’ll feed a little more to the birdies to this show and in the next show I’ll get the other birdies.'”

Farr said the entire cast of “M*A*S*H” was well aware of this.

“He (Alda) brought so much to the show,” he said. “His talent, his camaraderie, and fun. That’s the other thing. You know, I told you there are certain people that you enjoy working with, that you can’t wait to get to work.”

Joy, Laughter Played Big Part In Keeping CBS Show Going

Farr said the cast of “M*A*S*H” loved working with one another.

“You’d go home at night and your sides would be hurting from laughing and you couldn’t wait to get up the next morning to go to work,” he said.

“I think because Alan supposedly ‘was the star’ of the show, so enthroned by CBS and 20th Century Fox,” Farr said. “I don’t think he knew that was going to happen but that’s the way it worked out. He made it so much fun to come to work.”

The show ran on CBS from 1972 to 1983. Its series finale became one of the most-watched programs in television history. Besides Alda and Farr, other cast members included Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit, Gary Burghoff, and Harry Morgan. Also, McLean Stephenson, Wayne Rogers, Larry Linville, William Christopher, and David Ogden Stiers.

While the cast changed some over the years, Alda, Farr, Swit, and Christopher remained on the show for all of its 11 seasons.

Outsider.com