|Maxwell Q. Klinger|
Jamie Farr played Max Klinger on the CBS TV series M*A*S*H.
|Rank:||Corporal (E-4), then promoted to Sergeant (E-5)|
|Job/Role in Unit:||Supply/Mess/Corpsman|
Company Clerk the 4077th M*A*S*H hospital
Works at General Pershing Medical Hospital in Missouri as Sherman Potter's administrative assistant in civilian life after Korean War
|Home:||Toledo, Ohio, U.S. before settling in River Bend, Missouri|
|Birthplace:||Toledo, Ohio, U.S.|
|Spouse(s):||Laverne Esposito (ex-wife), Soon-Lee Klinger|
|Relatives/Children:||Numerous uncles, including Abdul, Abdullah, Ahmed, Amir, Bob, Ernie, Gus, Hakim, and Zak|
An aunt, Fatima
Mrs. Klinger (mother)
Amos Klinger (nicknamed Butch) (father)
A female cousin, Num-Num
|First appeared in:||"Episode 4 Chief Surgeon Who?" (Season 1)|
|Last appeared in:||"Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" (Season 11)|
|Appeared on/or in:||M*A*S*H / AfterMASH|
|Played by:||Jamie Farr|
Sergeant Maxwell Q. Klinger is a character from the M*A*S*H television series played by American actor Jamie Farr. A Lebanese-American hailing from Toledo, Ohio, Klinger serves as an orderly/corpsman (and later company clerk) assigned to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit during the Korean War. The character's original defining characteristic is his constant attempt to gain a psychiatric discharge from the army, typically through being judged mentally unfit for service (under "Section 8") or for other reasons. To this end, he would habitually wear women's clothing and engage in other "crazy" stunts. He later gives up his discharge attempts and is promoted from the rank of corporal to sergeant during the course of the TV series.
Klinger was the first main character introduced on M*A*S*H not to have appeared in either Richard Hooker's original M*A*S*H novel or the subsequent film. Originally introduced as a bit character in the early first season episode "Chief Surgeon Who?" as a simple gag of a soldier who wanted out of the Army and was trying to fake his way to a "Section 8" medical discharge, he made such an overwhelming impression on the producers and audience that he became a recurring character throughout the season, and by the second season was a regular member of the cast.
Klinger is proud of his family, and of his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, which he regularly mentions (including references to Tony Packo's Cafe, an actual location, and living in the area of Helena St. And N Michigan St.). The only time the series has a glimpse of Toledo is a dream sequence when Klinger finds himself in a deserted street. He is also an enthusiastic Toledo Mud Hens baseball fan (a real-life minor league baseball team) as he has been seen wearing a "Mud Hens" cap (Note that the cap worn by the actor is not a Mud Hens cap but actually a Texas Rangers cap as the costume department couldn't find an authentic Mud Hens cap for the character). He also is fond of Cuban cigars made in New Jersey by Puerto Ricans. His father and grandfather were olive pickers; likewise his father had a sharp temper and a left hook, and is a champion bowler.
Klinger in the 4077th MASHEdit
In the early episodes, a running gag was Klinger's endless efforts to get discharged from the Army either by cross-dressing or through other means. Viewers could always look forward to what new outfit he would wear or what other ploy he would attempt.
But despite all his efforts, his commanding officers are never fooled, and Klinger is continually frustrated. Perhaps they recognized, as B.J. Hunnicutt once remarked, that Klinger is actually the only sane one by always trying to get out, while the rest of the camp are crazy for accepting their situation and making the most of it, as Joseph Heller would also observe in "Catch 22". The commanders largely tolerate Klinger's antics because they are entertaining, and he is otherwise a conscientious and reliable orderly who makes a point of never letting his schemes interfere with his duties. For example, he volunteered to join the party to go beyond enemy lines to recover casualties in Season 3 "Rainbow Bridge". In "Aid Station" he is sent with Margaret and Hawkeye to a Battalion aid station. There, he performs duties which would normally be done by a surgical nurse, while remaining steady under artillery fire, earning praise from Margaret and Hawkeye. By Season 7 "They Call the Wind Korea," he is the one who cajoles Winchester into saving a Greek soldier when Winchester thought the conditions were too difficult and the equipment too primitive.
In Season 8, he takes over Radar O'Reilly's job of company clerk with reasonable seriousness, developing a reputation as a scrounger and eventually getting promoted to Sergeant. Klinger also performs a near pitch-perfect impression/impersonation of Colonel Potter, which he uses several times to manipulate others into giving the unit supplies or information that requires the Colonel's direct approval (which is often hard to obtain, since he is frequently in surgery when needed on the phone).
By the end of the Korean War, Klinger has fallen in love with and married a native Korean woman, Soon Lee (Rosalind Chao). In the final episode, Klinger reverses his longtime goal to leave Korea, and decides to stay to help search for her relatives (inspired by real US troops choosing to stay in Korea after the war). In the short-lived spin-off, After M*A*S*H, we learn that soon after the end of the war, Klinger and his wife, having found her family, return to the United States. Klinger, though, has been disowned and ostracized by his own family for marrying a Korean and finds his hometown unwelcoming to a mixed-race couple. In desperation, Klinger resorts to petty crime to make ends meet, and is caught and put on trial. Klinger contacts Colonel Potter seeking help, and a deal is struck, whereby in exchange for the charges being dropped, Klinger and his wife will move to St. Louis, Missouri and work at the hospital that Colonel Potter now administrates. Klinger and Soon Lee make the move, and Klinger studies for a Civil Service Exam, while he and Soon Lee await their first child.
The Klinger CollectionEdit
Main article: The Klinger Collection
One of the main ways Klinger would try to prove himself mentally unfit for service was to habitually wear women's clothing. Although this was as a scam to get out of the army, he took the role seriously and developed a great deal of expertise in ladies fashion and became extremely proud of his "Klinger Collection". Besides buying outfits, he also made his own, investing money and effort buying the best materials from overseas. He had a sewing machine in his tent as well as tailor's mannequins. He was sometimes consulted by the nurses and even Margaret on fashion matters.
At least three times Klinger loses his entire "Klinger Collection" of dresses: once when he thought there was a ceasefire and thus he didn't need them for Section 8 anymore; once when he was sent to a Battalion Aid Station with Hawkeye and Houlihan, Radar sold them when he thought Klinger had been killed; another time when the 4077th had bugged out to a new location, he has to trade them to Korean prostitutes so the MASH can use an abandoned school building as a new operating room.
Eventually, Klinger gives up wearing women's clothing, a change demanded by Farr because he felt his children would be ashamed of his appearing in women's clothing week after week on national television, and the views of the Klinger Collection became more rare from Season 8 onwards. The "Klingerpatra" costume in Season 8 "April Fools" is one of more memorable late season outfits, with his picnic suit in Season 9 "Taking the Fifth" probably his last.
Other ploys to gain a dischargeEdit
Main article: Klinger's ploys to get out of the army
Besides dressing as a woman, Klinger also tried a wide range of ploys to get out of the army. Not all of the ploys attempted to exploit a "Section 8" by proving that he is mentally unfit for service. Other ploys were aimed at getting a hardship discharge on compassionate grounds or were outright efforts of desertion.
These ploys invariably fell flat, mostly because his commanders could see through them or outwit him. Colonel Blake in particular (and later Colonel Potter) kept a thick file of bogus letters in which Klinger claimed numerous family catastrophes, culminating in one where one half of the family had died, while the other half was pregnant. Klinger makes so many attempts at being sick in order to get discharged that one time, when he develops anemia due to a side effect of Primaquine, the MASH staff refuses to believe he is really ill.
Some of his ploys came close to succeeding. In one of the closest, he wears a body/water reducing suit during a heatwave. Colonel Potter had agreed to give Klinger a discharge if he could hold out for 24 hours in the suit. This fails because he can't stand the heat stress and gives up with only an hour to go. Klinger also nearly got a Section 8 when Majors Burns and Houlihan are so tired of his acting up they do recommend his release; Klinger's chances are gone when Major Freedman will only recommend a discharge if Klinger acts like a transvestite for the rest of his life.
At one point, Klinger's hearing is damaged by an exploding land mine (caused by contraction of the ground due to the extreme winter conditions), but the injury isn't permanent and Klinger regains his hearing. When Col. Potter tells him deafness would have got him a medical discharge, he immediately tries to fake a relapse. But Col. Potter bellows in his ear that he doesn't buy it and Klinger responds "You don't have to yell. What do you think I am, deaf?"
In the Season 8 episode "Dear Uncle Abdul", Klinger, in writing a letter to his uncle, reflects on his failed attempts to get out on a Section 8, remarking on all the weird things going on in camp involving the officers. He ends the letter by saying "You see, Unc? It's no wonder I never got a Section Eight; there's nothing special about me. Everybody here is crazy."
Get rich quick schemesEdit
Main article: Klinger's get rich quick schemes
In between trying to get out of the army, Klinger also indulges in various enterprises in an effort to make some quick money. Most of these came to nothing, but some, like the one in "Too Many Cooks," at least brought great pleasure to the camp personnel and others, whereas others were more like the one in "A War for All Seasons", which was indeed very profitable for everyone else BUT him (and Winchester).
Reputation as a scroungerEdit
(work in progress)
His many unclesEdit
Main article: Klinger's many uncles
Another of the running gags from episode to episode was Klinger's many uncles. They would give him connections for many things or serve as a source of advice for many situations. One almost got him into West Point, but he couldn't pass the entrance exam.
In one episode, Klinger is seen with a bandana around his neck. When Maj. Burns tells him to remove it because he wants it, Klinger refuses, as he said his Ma told him to never take it off (even though we never see it again after this episode). Unlike his other costume choices, this one is wholly sincere. Klinger's respect for his mother is established in several episodes. She does not speak or read English, only Arabic. Fearing she would worry herself sick if she knew he had been sent to Korea, he has told her he was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he actually served his training. In the episode "The Party," Mrs. Klinger reveals that she knew he was in Korea all along.
Although Klinger does not seem to possess a great deal of academic intelligence, he does possess a great deal of practical intelligence. He doesn't know that a horse is a mammal, but he is able to trick Winchester into helping him. This seems surprising, since Winchester is much more gifted than Klinger in book learning. But Klinger is able to manipulate Winchester, since he knows Winchester's weak spots. This is Klinger's practical intelligence at work. For example, when Klinger decides to produce a MASH newspaper, he needs to get people to write for it. He asks Winchester, who he knows has a sophisticated understanding of what constitutes good food, to write a food column for the paper. Winchester agrees, but only after Klinger tells him that Igor, who prepares the camp's meals, is writing a column on food. Since everyone knows that Igor can't cook well at all, Klinger knows that this will persuade Winchester to write a column. Other examples of his practical intelligence include him tricking Hawkeye and B.J. into giving him a three day pass, and his suggestion to Winchester that he should treat Col. Baldwin with kindness in order to get Baldwin to transfer Winchester back to Tokyo General. Despite being a hustler, at least twice the results come back on Klinger--in "The Yalu Brick Road," his deal for turkeys results in nearly everyone. including himself, getting food poisoning; in "A War for All Seasons", his deal of betting on a baseball team with Major Winchester results in Winchester losing a lot of money.
Although these examples seem to indicate a devious side to Klinger, he also has a very good heart. He tries to do the right thing when confronted with a moral problem. He tells Col. Potter about a nurse who was drinking too much and almost gave a person the wrong blood type. He shows generosity toward the Korean orphans at Christmas time.
- Once, in answer to Winchester's bigoted question, "How would you feel if your sister were marrying a swarthy, dark-haired, olive-picker?" Klinger responds that he has a sister who did just that. She is only once mentioned again--when Klinger says "Hello" to his sister "Irene" on the Clete Roberts interview episode. Klinger's mother and grandmother also married olive pickers.
- Klinger's first wife was Laverne Esposito from the Hungarian side of Toledo. He never sees Laverne while they are married, since they marry over the radio (Henry wouldn't grant him leave because of his continual efforts to get out of his military service) - 3.6 "Springtime" - She asks him for a divorce - 6.20 "Mail Call Three" - Later, she moves on with his best friend - 9.7 "Your Retention, Please"
- Winchester once confessed to being so bored, he wanted to look at Klinger's cousin Hakim's wedding pictures.
- Both Klinger and Winchester have the same blood type. However, in another episode (4.3) Klinger is B positive, while Winchester states he is AB negative (8.11).
- It was never established what the "Q" stood for in Maxwell Q. Klinger.
- Series writer Larry Gelbart stated during the M*A*S*H* 30th Anniversary Reunion special that Klinger's antics were inspired by stories of Lenny Bruce attempting to dodge his own military service by dressing as a WAVES member.
- Farr noticed the women's wardrobe in his dressing area on his arrival, and thought at first he'd be sharing the space with a woman. Finding out the clothing was for his character, he was surprised, but took it in stride.
- Early filmed scenes, with Farr performing in a sissy way, didn't work. Farr suggested his own vision of the character: Klinger was heterosexual, but crazy, thinking it was normal for him to dress like a woman, but behave like a man. This version of Klinger clicked on camera and with the TV audience.
- The dog tags Klinger wore on the show were Jamie Farr's own from when he served in Korea in the United States Army.
- Besides wearing dresses for a Section 8, another running joke is Klinger's feud with his mortal enemy, supply Sgt Zelmo Zale:
- In 5.18, Klinger and Zale are manipulated into a boxing match by Frank Burns, but it's Burns who gets a K.O. from both Klinger and Zale.
- In 5.20, when Zale makes a nasty remark about the Toledo Mudhens, Klinger loses his temper and hits Zale, for which he gets KP duty for a whole month.
- In one episode (5.12), Klinger states why he has such a large nose: "I came from a long line of short nosed people. One day my grandfather's camel spit in the eye of the village witch. Ever since then we've been growing them like this" (points to his nose).
- Klinger appears to be Catholic during the first few seasons (mentioning a family priest, as well as the practice of praying to St. Anthony, and observing Lent), then at least once being mentioned as an atheist (when Father Mulcahy asks why Klinger is praying when he is an atheist, Klinger replies that he gave it up for Lent). In later episodes, Klinger has been heard to invoke Allah, indicating he follows the Islamic faith. In the show AfterMASH, he remains Muslim; he said that his wife prayed to Buddha while he prayed to Allah for Father Mulcahy's recovery.
- The house that Klinger is born in is at 1215 N. Michigan St., Toledo, Ohio 43604.
- Klinger knows how to mix concrete and the basic rules for using it, as seen in (9.3).
- (Klinger to Sgt. Zale) Zale, if my dog had a face like yours, I'd shave its butt and teach it to walk backwards.
- (After Maj. Winchester asks Klinger to spell caution) "C-A-W..." (and then a few minutes later) "K-A-W?"
- (When Colonel Tucker walks into Klinger's office and sees him in an Egyptian dress and is told he is discharged) "How can you shame me? I'll be the laughing stock of the Nile."
- (to a drunken B.J. after they shared a massive drinking binge, united in their collective jealousy and hatred of Radar, who has just gone home) "Probably does, but I bet my stupid "clumpany cerk" screwed it up."