“M*A*S*H” gave actor Jamie Farr plenty of room to turn Cpl. Max Klinger into one of classic TV’s most memorable characters.
Farr, who initially appeared as the cross-dressing Klinger in 1972 yet became a cast regular two years later, recalled what could be done with that role.
“He was such a bizarre character and he was so funny,” Farr said in a 2019 interview with Australian TV show Studio 10. “Not only to the audience but the cast always said, ‘What is he going to do to get out next?’
‘M*A*S*H’ Star Knew He Could Do Pretty Much Anything In His Role
“I sat on a pole, you know, to try and get out,” Farr said. “One of the lines, I’ll never forget this, I told the colonel (Col. Henry Blake, played by the late McLean Stevenson) ‘I don’t deserve to be in the Army, sir.’ I said, ‘I’m a Communist.’ I said, ‘No, honest sir.’
“And he was like a cartoon character,” he said. “You could to anything with it and you’d accept it. You’d say, ‘That’s OK. That’s Klinger.’”
Of course, Klinger in “M*A*S*H” always talked about getting out of the Army and returning home to Toledo, Ohio. Farr’s actual hometown is Toledo. Farr also served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Korea albeit after the Korean War ended.
Farr Played Klinger As Part of Spinoff With Morgan, Christopher
Farr played Klinger on “M*A*S*H” through the season-ending finale in 1983. He also played Klinger in “After M*A*S*H” for two seasons with Harry Morgan, who portrayed Col. Sherman Potter, and William Christopher, who portrayed Father Francis Mulcahy.
When the show lost Gary Burghoff, who played Walter “Radar” O’Reilly, Farr took over his role in supporting Potter in the 4077th. He turned Klinger into a character with more depth, too, and stopped the cross-dressing part as well. Just another way for Farr to make Klinger into another type of role.
The veteran actor also gave show star Alan Alda a lot of credit toward keeping “M*A*S*H” moving forward.
“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 said Alda could act and produce, too.
“He was very generous,” Farr 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.”
Stephenson, Morgan, and Christopher have all died from the original series cast.