For almost 20 years before M*A*S*H, Jamie Farr struggled to make a living from acting. The parts were few and far between with a few brief roles, a couple of commercials and a part in a movie.
In a 1976 interview with Detroit Free Press, Farr talked about the struggles he faced before M*A*S*H.
“It was a struggle,” he said. “My wife Joy… was the family breadwinner. I’d vacuum, do the dishes, and clean the house. And when she got home from work, I’d have dinner ready. And remember, this was way before Women’s Lib, before it was fashionable.”
Luckily for Farr, M*A*S*H was right around the corner. He was an uncredited announcer in the first episode of season one. After, he took on the role of Maxwell Klinger in the fourth episode of the first season.
“I didn’t even see the script till I got to the studio,” he said. “They brought me into a trailer and I saw this WAC officer’s uniform. I thought I was in the wrong dressing room. I put it on and walked onto the set and the entire cast and crew went into hysterics.”
And that’s when the dresses came. Klinger, the man who’s willing to do anything to get out of the Army, even if he had to wear a dress. In the interview, Farr said he was called to reshoot a scene after they made some adjustments.
“This time I played Klinger as a straight guy who wants to get out of the war,” he said. “The way I played it, it was truly an original character. I mean, there’s never been a guy wearing a dress who really acts like a man.”
Farr had went on from his first few roles on M*A*S*H to become a series regular. Today, the clothing is just part of the show. Then, it seemed to have defined Jamie Farr in many ways.
From a Statue of Liberty outfit to a pregnant lady, we all have a favorite Klinger look by now.
In a 1974 interview with Fort Lauderdale News, Farr said the costume department on M*A*S*H had fun picking out his clothing.
“They have to buy everything I wear,” he said. “They just can’t go to the studio (Fox) and get things out of wardrobe, Marylin Monroe was a different size.”
Farr wasn’t ashamed of having to wear dresses and other outfits, he had fun with it. M*A*S*H gave him the success he wanted and the role everyone didn’t know they needed.
“This part,” he said. “is so wild that it hasn’t hurt me at all.”