M*A*S*H's Jamie Farr had no shame in the dress

The dress didn't make the man, the man made the dress.

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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. 

The Everett Collection

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."

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39 Comments

Hpsnape1957 16 months ago
It was always a treat to see what outfit Klinger was wearing, from his "Gone with the Wind" gown to Statue of Liberty to bathrobe with pink fluffy slippers and everything in between. The funniest part was he was such a believable character.
Naturegirlj9 16 months ago
Klinger was funny because he played it straight. Go Mudhens!!!
averagemilnerenjoyer 16 months ago
hes such an icon. Imagine being so comfortable in your masculinity that writers are like "hey you're wearing a dress for this part" and your response is "hey, sweet!"
jfms99 16 months ago
The problem with Klinger is that he was at most a one or two minute diversion in mash when they gave him more airtime, the more ridiculous and absurd he was I actually got where I couldn’t stand him anymore that I could radar, Colonel Potter, major Winchester, and BJ Honeycutt most of all I got where I couldn’t stay and Alan Alda only the first three seasons of that show do I watch and like after McLean Stevenson left and trapper John, it just wasn’t the same it got worse it became the Alan Alda show
Mamakat35 jfms99 16 months ago
I respectfully disagree with everything you just said.
Naturegirlj9 jfms99 16 months ago
It worked because he played it straight.
Jan65 jfms99 16 months ago
I completely agree. How many times can you watch an episode? Can't they find something else to put in that time slot? I never understood why anyone liked Hawkeye. All he did was whine and complain all the time. He was supposed to be the ladies man? Why?
vinman63 16 months ago
Maj. Gen. Bartford Hamilton Steele: [Klinger, wearing a dress, walks up to General Steele and salutes] Not now, Marjorie. I'm inspecting the troops.
Sway 16 months ago
Klinger, that dark hairy man dressed impeccably in women's outfits, hilarious. Alway a treat to see what he was wearing.
Pacificsun Sway 16 months ago
Yup, they never put him in dumpy clothes either!
Coldnorth Sway 16 months ago
I loved it when he was dressed like a very pregnant woman smoking a big cigar. He was so hairy it made it even funnier. He never failed to make me laugh
Zip 16 months ago
"I mean, there's never been a guy wearing a dress who really acts like a man."
He must have forgotten about the episode of Gomer Pyle USMC he was in where Gomer wears a dress during some military exercises.
C'mon Jamie, you were right there when Gomer came bounding down the road wearing it.

Jamie Farr is such a nice, good-natured guy. He was excellent as Klinger.
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jfms99 Zip 16 months ago
I have only one question about Gomer Pyle why was Gomer in Vietnam?
BillO jfms99 16 months ago
When was Gomer in Viet Nam ?
BillO jfms99 16 months ago
When was Gomer in Viet Nam ?
Zip jfms99 16 months ago
Did you mean, why WASN'T Gomer in Vietnam?
tootsieg 16 months ago
The Wardrobe Department must of been laughing all day long. What a fun job! Thanks MeTV for another great story.
Pacificsun tootsieg 16 months ago
😉 Spot on!
CoreyC 16 months ago
Jamie Farr made M*A*S*H funny with his antics. Klinger was loosely based on Lenny Bruce.
Andybandit 16 months ago
Klinger was hilarious in those dresses he wore. Once he stepped up and took over for Radar when he left. I liked Klinger even more. Then he became Sergeant.
CoreyC Andybandit 16 months ago
See Uncle Abdul it is no wonder I never got a Section 8. Everyone here is crazy.
LoveMETV22 17 months ago
Excellent story. Can't imagine M*A*S*H without Jamie Farr. He brought a certain "Joie de vivre" to the series and the Klinger character.
CoreyC LoveMETV22 16 months ago
Jamie was the true comedian of M*A*S*H.
Coldnorth CoreyC 16 months ago
Always scheming. From eating keep parts to one of his relatives was in some type of emergency. Col Blake would pull out the folder and read the phony emergency he used before. That had to be a fun part to write
Coldnorth Coldnorth 16 months ago
Jeep parts. My typos keep getting more frequent. Sorry about that
Moverfan Coldnorth 11 months ago
He came in once with a letter that started with "Dear Son"--Henry's only comment was "You obviously haven't sent her a recent picture"...
Pacificsun 17 months ago
Great story, MeTV Staff!

He definitely did make the part original!
Runeshaper 17 months ago
"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." = HILARIOUS! LOL
cperrynaples Runeshaper 17 months ago
Yes, the show was shot at the Fox studios, so they proably had a few Marilyn dresses! And no Jamie wasn't the right body type...LOL!
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