When a new TV show starts, no one knows whether it will be a hit. “M*A*S*H” star Jamie Farr never expected its long-lasting success.
“I didn’t think the show was going to be what it was,” Farr said in an interview with the Academy of American Television. “I remember one day, ah, I’m trying to remember what year it was, but (“M*A*S*H” TV show creator and writer) Larry Gelbart said, ‘You know, get ready because we’re the next ‘I Love Lucy.’“
Farr, who played Cpl. Max Klinger, said Gelbart was referring to the show’s reruns.
“And he was right,” Farr said.
Before “M*A*S*H,” Gelbart was a writer for Sid Caesar on “Your Show of Shows.” He was part of a writing team that included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, and Carl Reiner. Now Reiner and Caesar, who contributed as a writer, too, were part of the on-screen cast.
Jamie Farr Had No Vision About ‘M*A*S*H’ Success
“No, you know, when you’re doing that, you don’t have any idea and you don’t go in there with the idea of ‘Oh, aren’t we these just wonderful people?’,” Farr said.
“‘We got these great messages. We’re so dearly loved by everybody,'” Farr said. “You go into it as a job. You try to do the best you can. (And ) you take the material and go, ‘OK, how can I convince you that this is what we’re trying to do’ and you do it.”
For “I Love Lucy,” its 180 episodes have been running in syndication for more than 60 years. “M*A*S*H” has its 256 episodes also in syndication, too.
Residuals from these reruns for “M*A*S*H” find their way in to cast members’ pockets. It gives Farr and his co-stars a level of financial success that other shows and actors didn’t enjoy.
Loretta Swit Also Had Roles In 2 Hit TV Westerns
Now one of Farr’s co-stars, Loretta Swit, managed to secure guest-starring spots on two major TV westerns, “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza.”
Swit, who plays Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, appears as Belle Clark on the CBS hit “Gunsmoke” in “The Pack Rat.” In the episode, Clark is one of two women joining Marshal Matt Dillon, played by James Arness, in moving a prisoner from Dodge City to Fort Union.
Swit also pops up on NBC’s “Bonanza.” In a March 1972 episode called “A Visit to Upright,” Swit plays Ellen Sue Greely, a picky livestock heiress who is making trouble for Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene.
Beyond those shows, Swit has appearances on “Hawaii Five-O,” “Mannix,” and “Mission: Impossible” to her credit. It turns out all three of those shows were on CBS, for whom Swit would work for 11 seasons on “M*A*S*H.” How did she join the cast of the show? Well, Swit earned the part after a screen test.
Who played the role in Robert Altman’s movie version of “M*A*S*H”? That would be actress Sally Kellerman, who didn’t pursue the TV role after the movie.