Jamie Farr is a prolific character actor who’s worked in dozens of films and television shows. Most notably, he played Max Klinger in M*A*S*H, which made him famous and wealthy. Most people assume it’s the show’s success that gives Farr his perpetual grin. But while Farr loved the show, it’s not what makes him so joyful.
In a 1995 interview, a reporter asked Farr why he seemed to be the “happiest man in the world?” Farr said it was because of something he learned years earlier.
“Well, I don’t know, I never met the second happiest man or the first happiest man, so I can’t judge where I fall into that category,” he joked. “But, there was a line, I think it comes from (the film) Auntie Mame. ‘Life is a banquet and some poor suckers are starving to death.’
“… I remember, there’s this Lebanese lady that I dearly loved who raised 13 children back in Toledo,” Farr continued. “… She said, “you know, I get up every morning and say ‘Thank you, God.’ I do the same thing now. There are so many people in my life that are passing away, and you realize, “Oh my goodness. I haven’t spent time with them. I haven’t shared some moments.”
Moreover, Farr said, as you appreciate your time more. It gives you perspective and helps you prioritize what is and who are important in your life.
“You accumulate a great deal of acquaintances and friendships over the years, and you just can’t always spend as much time as you would like …,” he said. “Sometimes you get a call and, gee, an uncle passed away that you really liked, or a cousin or somebody else. So each day becomes a little more precious than the day that preceded it.”
Farr’s Ohio Roots Keep Him Grounded
Jamie Farr grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where his parents taught him lessons that have helped him survive in Hollywood for more than six decades, he said.
Farr told the military magazine We Are the Mighty that his parents taught him that your name is something you share and pass on. So, if you tarnish it, you’re harming the people you should love most.
“Whenever people say your name there is honor and honesty that comes with it,” he said. “You want a good reputation: You never lied, cheated, or stole. So, you always made it yourself and did things yourself. You didn’t go around asking people for things. …
“My values instilled in me by my family have stayed with me throughout my life. I try to be straightforward and honest in all my dealings. Zenith used to have an ad that said, ‘It has to be good because it has our name on it.’ That is how I feel about my name and how it needs to be respected.”
Farr said he felt called by God to be an actor, but shortly after his career began, he was drafted into the military. And those two years away from the stage and screen nearly killed his acting career, but it did give him teach him something he thinks about with every job he takes.
“Remain humble, and it is a team effort,” Farr said. “It is about the ensemble.”
His work on M*A*S*H shows how much of that he took to heart as he was willing to do whatever the scene called for to make it funny and his fellow cast members look good.