Jamie Farr on M*A*S*H cast shakeups

"The two we could have lost without hurting the show are the two we did lose."

When people set aside differences in pursuit of a common goal? That’s the sweet stuff, right there. Individuals of all different backgrounds coming together to better the collective? Mama Mia, chef’s kiss.

Imagine, now, the acrobatics that it would take to put together an effective team in Hollywood. That town’s got ego flowing through its pipes. So picture how much delicate people management it would take to put together a group of actors with genuine chemistry. That’s the gold that M*A*S*H producers struck when they cast their show. The M*A*S*H cast was so perfectly calibrated for heart and comedy. It was unbelievable.

However, even the most finely tuned plans are subject to change. After three seasons, a few of the show’s heavy hitters left for greener pastures. Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson, not content to share the limelight with Alan Alda, exited M*A*S*H to try their hand at other projects. These real-life moves of course had repercussions in the fictional television world, as those actors’ characters had to be written out of the show. “Trapper” John McIntyre and Col. Henry Blake were written off, and Mike Farrell and Harry Morgan joined the cast.

Jamie Farr, the show’s Cpl. Klinger was upgraded from a recurring guest to a starring role. In 1975, Farr spoke with the Lexington Herald about the various comings and goings.

“I think of all the characters in M*A*S*H the two we could have lost without hurting the show are the two we did lose,” said Farr. “Not that they didn’t contribute to the program, but one is a company commander which you can replace because he does not have an integral part of each program. And you can get someone who is similar to take that post, someone who will tolerate the antics for a reason.”

“The reason for Harry Morgan is that he has two years to go and he doesn’t want to make waves. He, more or less, accepts what goes on in the camp because he wants to retire.

Mike Farrell is somewhat like Trapper, er, Wayne Rogers, a doctor who has been in the Army a short time and never seen action. As a character, he has some growth yet. He’s seeing what is happening and you are getting a reaction from his point of view. And we are the veterans and have seen it. It’s an extra element to the show.”

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