Bring back some good or bad memories


July 25, 2023

Amazing Portraits of Jamie Farr as Sgt. Maxwell Q. Klinger in ‘M*A*S*H’

Maxwell Q. Klinger is a most unusual character from the M*A*S*H television series which ran from September 17, 1972, to February 28, 1983. Jamie Farr portrayed this comical, cross-dressing enlisted man who was always trying to get sent home from the Korean War.

According to Farr, M*A*S*H creator Larry Gelbart based the character on comedian Lenny Bruce, who was discharged from the navy at the end of World War II for, among other things, wearing a woman’s WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) uniform.

The series popularized the use of the term “Section 8,” which referred to a World War II-era army regulation providing for the discharge of personnel deemed mentally unfit to serve. In the mid-20th century, psychologists regularly diagnosed homosexual individuals with mental disorders, and evidence of non-normative gender identity or sexuality could lead to a discharge from military service.

Farr explained that he didn’t need to audition for the part. He had played a small role in F Troop, a slapstick sitcom about a remote army outpost at the end of the Civil War, for director Gene Reynolds. When Reynolds became the producer for M*A*S*H and read the script with the Klinger character, he reportedly said, “there is only one guy who can play this and get away with it, and it’s Jamie Farr.”

The chance to work on the show came at a critical time for Farr.

“I was really down on my luck. I hadn’t been working, so when they called me, they didn’t even tell me what the part was, they just said you got a part, and it pays $250 for the day,” Farr said. “So, I said to my agent, boy I’ll be there.”

Farr described going down to the studio and being ushered into a trailer where a woman’s WAC (Women’s Army Corps) uniform was hanging. He thought that he was sharing a dressing room with an actress, but then Gene told him that was his costume.

“So I said, ‘what the heck kind of part is this?’ But I put the thing on, and he started laughing because of my hairy, bowed legs and everything, then he took me on this stage, and everybody had a good time laughing.”

Farr only had five or six lines in that early episode, but he made an impression on the producers and the audience.

“It made such an impact that they called me back, and I think I did six more of those first-year shows, and that's how I got connected with the series.” Originally conceived as a bit part, Klinger appeared in 12 episodes in the second season and became a regular member of the cast by the third season.

“The show was shot in color, but everything, the jeeps, the tents, the uniforms, were olive drab, so I think Klinger’s outfits were the only things that brought color to the show,” he said. “The cheesier and more outlandish the outfit, the better it was.”

The outfits that Klinger wore were culled from the 20th Century Fox wardrobe department, and many had been used in earlier productions. Handwritten on the labels of the museum’s two Klinger dresses are the names of famous actresses who wore them first.


  1. Klinger was hotter than any of the drag queens these days.

  2. In the current military, Klinger's antics would see him promoted to two star general.




Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10