Jamie Farr wanted M*A*S*H fans to accept him with or without the dress

Farr didn't need Gary Burghoff or a pretty dress for Klinger to shine.

The Everett Collection

Jamie Farr played an essential role as Cpl. Maxwell Klinger on M*A*S*H. Whether you loved the character and his great fashion sense or not, he became an important piece of the M*A*S*H puzzle.

However, according to a 1981 interview with The Gazette, the Klinger character started to become more than "just a guy in a dress" after the departure of Gary Burghoff, who played the role of Radar O'Reilly in season eight.

Klinger, originally known for his comedic attempts to get discharged from the army by wearing women's clothing, was promoted to the position of company clerk, effectively taking over Radar's duties. 

Many would despise the idea of trading in their self-identity for an office job, but Farr said it was his opportunity to no longer be a walking "sight gag" on the series.

This change allowed Klinger to evolve from a primarily comic relief character to a more integral part of the show's operations. Even with his new role and the promise of more screen time, Farr said he tried his best to keep his friend, Gary Burghoff, on the series.

"I told Gary his leaving might be bad for the show and bad for him, but I couldn't talk him out of it," Farr said. "I think we're all more convinced than ever that M*A*S*H is bigger than any one of us."

"When you have a hit show, you're always scared to make changes, and when people leave, there's the fear that the audience won't accept the new version of the series," Farr continued. "Instead, we seem to get stronger."

Even with the departure of four incredible actors and their characters — Wayne Rogers, McLean Stevenson, Larry Linville and Gary — the M*A*S*H audience still increased instead of decreased.

Throughout M*A*S*H's 11 seasons on-air, Farr said he was blown away and in awe at the kind of high-profile job offers that started to come his way. According to the interview, he turned down many roles because working on one hit series was enough of a job for him.

"Do you have any idea how lousy my chances would be of getting into another show as successful as this one?" Farr said. "I'll wait until it's over and then I'll go for all those great parts people keep offering me."

Although successful, the transition from dressing in drag on the series to a full time company clerk had Farr nervous at times. He knew that putting away Klinger's dresses would lead to bigger responsibilities in the 4077th.

"I was actually pretty nervous when they said they were going to make Klinger the company clerk and cut back quite a bit on the dress jokes," Farr said. "It meant more responsibility and we were all anxious that maybe the audiences wouldn't go for me out of dresses."

"But like everything else on M*A*S*H, it worked out fine," Farr continued. "Klinger still gets into a dress once in awhile, but because it's less frequent, the impact is greater."

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11 Comments

clarenceearp 1 month ago
My favorite episode was when Klinger tried to desert with the paraglider. Those furry slippers were hilarious
Does that look like a big red bird with fuzzy pink feet?
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sagafrat69 30 days ago
Loretta Swit looked so bored with the material given to her in those last few seasons it's really kind of sad to watch them today. There's a big difference between "character development" and insulting the audience by making a character into something they just aren't. I blame the last crop of writers for that. There's no " growth" there. If you can't write comedy for a comedy series, then don't bother. You can fool some of us that are watching, but not all of us.
Adamtwelvia 27 days ago
Ya mean Head Writer Alan Alda.
Wiseguy70005 1 month ago
Badly written sentence makes it appear Gary Burghoff only played Radar in season eight.
sagafrat69 1 month ago
Jamie Farr was incredible as Klinger. In retrospect the writers should've brought in a new company clerk with new storylines after Burgoff's departure. Klinger's purpose for being on the show was to do anything possible to get out of the service. The horrific writers at the end of the series turned Klinger, much like Hot Lips, into a character we didn't recognize.Farr did the best he could with the material given to him. One thing that can be said is Klinger was always a likeable guy and Jamie Farr had a lot to do with that.
Adamtwelvia sagafrat69 27 days ago
Alan Alda had a hand with that!
sagafrat69 Adamtwelvia 25 days ago
Alda wrote some of the best episodes in the early seasons, maybe the best episode of the series in " Dear Sigmund". He was there at the end so I guess he has to take some of the blame for the train going of the rails the last few seasons. Only he can give you an explanation but he, like the other cast members, would probably tell you everything with the show was great until the end of its run. A real head scratcher.
WordsmithWorks 1 month ago
I preferred Klinger in the dresses. Not only was the character funnier -- his attempts at escaping were hilarious -- but when he gave up women's clothes, he became part of the "gang." After Radar left and Klinger became company clerk, that was all for the funny Klinger.
I still think he was funny! His sarcasm helped make the last few seasons! Otherwise it would have become a full-on drama
Adamtwelvia 1 month ago
We love ya, Klinger, no matter what you're wearing! You kept comedy in the show! Without you Alan Alda would have turned it into a full on drama!
In my eyes, YOU were the Star of the show!
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