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Maxwell Q. Klinger

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Maxwell Q. Klinger
Maxwell klinger
Jamie Farr played Max Klinger on the CBS TV series M*A*S*H.
M*A*S*H character
Vital information
Rank Corporal (E-4), then promoted to Sergeant (E-5)
Job/Role in unit: Supply/Mess Sergeant
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
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Brown
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 155 lbs.
Family/Personal Information
Born: Not Mentioned
Birthplace: Toledo, Ohio, U.S.
Nationality/Race: Lebanese-American/Caucasian
Spouse: Soon-Lee Klinger
Relatives/Children: Numerous Uncles, including Abdul, and fictional ones such as Ahmed
Mrs. Klinger (Mother, mentioned only)
Appearances
First appeared in: "Pilot" (Season 1)
Last appeared in: "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" (Season 8)
Series/Film
appeared in:
M*A*S*H / AfterMASH
Played by: Jamie Farr


Sergeant Maxwell Q. Klinger is a fictional 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 attempts to gain a Section 8 psychiatric discharge from the army, by habitually wearing women's clothing and engaging 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.

BackgroundEdit

Klinger is proud of his family, and of his hometown, which he regularly mentions (including references to Tony Packo's Cafe, a real-life local attraction). {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 dept 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 are olive pickers; likewise his father had a sharp temper; a left hook and is a bowling champ.

B.J. Hunnicutt once remarks 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. Making no secret of his disdain for the Army, Klinger constantly tries to get a discharge. Outside the occasional outlandish desertion attempt (once was a gasoline can originally filled with water as a bluff to immolate himself until Potter caught on and replaced it with one genuinely filled with gasoline, prompting an alarmed Klinger to shout, "Who put gasoline in my gasoline!?") 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 episode where one half of the family had died, while the other half was pregnant. Thoughts of what his family at home would think of his antics are no deterrent, especially since one of his uncles tried the same trick and regularly sends Klinger his own dresses. Klinger has at least six civilian men's suits-including a zoot suit and a tuxedo when he played "maître d'" when the MASH mess tent became a "cafe". His most unusual stunt was attempting to eat an Army Jeep ending up in post-op getting his stomach pumped of nuts, bolts and a windshield wiper; when a visiting Admiral proclaims Klinger as "crazy" after learning of Klinger latest stunt, Klinger is so overjoyed he actually tries to transfer to the US Navy-until patients come in and he has to act "normal". Once, he even confessed to being a Communist in hopes of being discharged. Klinger makes so many attempts at being sick in order to get discharged-that one time when he develops anemia due to his ethnic background-the MASH staff refuses to believe he is really ill!

But despite all his efforts, his commanding officers are never fooled, and Klinger is continually frustrated. The commanders largely tolerate his antics because they are entertaining, and Klinger is otherwise a conscientious and reliable orderly who makes a point of never letting his schemes interfere with his duties. At one point, Klinger almost gets a medical discharge when his hearing is damaged by an exploding land mine (caused by the ice contracting the ground and pressure setting the land mines off due to cold), but the injury isn't permanent and Klinger regains his hearing and retains his post at the 4077, although he immediately tries to fake a relapse to Col. Potter where he 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?"

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. He takes over Radar O'Reilly's job of company clerk with reasonable seriousness, 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). 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!"

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 M*A*S*H 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.

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 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.

MiscellaneousEdit

In one episode, Klinger is seen with a bandana around his neck. When Maj. Burns tells him to remove it as it is not military, Klinger refuses, as he said his Ma told him to never take it off. 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, 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 academic intelligence, he does possess what might be called very good 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. But then Klinger, in his greed, informs Winchester that he will need to pay to receive the newspaper. Winchester responds by saying: "if you think I'm going to pay you for the privilege of writing for your paper, you're dumber than you look, which boggles the mind." Klinger then tells him that Igor, has a plan to write a recipe for "Boston Clam Chowder." Since Winchester is from Boston, and understands what constitutes gourmet food, he's offended to hear that Igor, will be writing a recipe for it. Klinger adds that, according to Igor, "you take a bucket of canned clams, add powdered milk..." And Winchester, not wanting such a gourmet delicacy as Boston Clam Chowder made so crudely, relents, and decides to write for the paper. Klinger has made all of this up, about Igor writing a column on food. He knows that the idea of Igor, whose preparation of the camp's meals everyone hates, writing a column on food, will cause Winchester to give in and write. This displays real practical intelligence. Other examples of this 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. Klinger knows that Winchester, who hates Baldwin for sending him to the MASH unit, and who is planning on getting revenge against Baldwin, can manipulate Baldwin into transferring him, by being nice to him.


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 who almost gave a person the wrong blood type. He shows generosity toward the Korean orphans at Christmas time.

TriviaEdit

  • 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 first wife was Laverne Esposito from the Hungarian side of Toledo.
  • Charles Winchester once confessed to being so bored he wanted to look at Klinger's cousin Hakim's wedding pictures
  • 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 himself as a WAVES member.
  • The antics also suggest Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
  • 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.
  • At least three times Klinger loses his entire 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 he has to trade them to Korean prostitutes so MASH 4077 can use a "school building" as a new operation center!
  • 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.
  • Another running joke are Klinger's numerous, and infamous, uncles:
    • an Uncle (unnamed) who was a Chicago hitman for $100. (3.11) {possibly "Hasan the enforcer" the most important member of the Klinger Clan {10.17}
    • an Uncle Jake who may have died {after Klinger gets hysterical after receiving a scratch from an accidental gunshot wound} {4.3}
    • an Uncle Zak who used a wedding dress to get out of World War I. He gives it to Margaret for her marriage to Donald (5.25).
    • an Uncle Gus who "avoided" service in World War I (6.9).
    • an Uncle Bob who wore woman's stockings to get out of Navy in World War II {4.15}; served two years for involvement in Toledo's "Payolla Scandal" (6.19).
    • an Uncle Achmid who could get him a job at City Hall (7.25) {possibly Klinger's unnamed uncle who is a member of Toledo City Council. {7.17}}
    • an Uncle Abdul who translates Arabic to English for Klinger's mother (7.26); Klinger also writes a letter to "Uncle Abdul" (8.12). In {9/8} Klinger remarks on Uncle Abdul wedding party
    • an Uncle "7199199", in jail for counterfeiting (9.12)
    • an Uncle Amos who gives Klinger "sage advice." (10.4)
    • an Uncle Harry, supposedly the best "whiplash lawyer" in Toledo who is serving a jail sentence of "15 to 25" (10.9).
    • an Uncle Eustis who is warned not to go outside (10.11)
    • an Uncle Habib who is serving a jail sentence of "1 to 5"; he sent Klinger a Zoot Suit in (11.2).
    • an Uncle Amir who is an out of work door to door pita salesman in (11.5).
    • an Uncle Shlemiel a Bedouin who taught Klinger camouflage {11/16} {Note Shlemiel is a Jewish not Arabic word for humor}


  • 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).
  • A fourth running joke is Klinger's get rich-quick schemes: only one (11.5) has a real chance to succeed, when Klinger tries to have Major Winchester invest in a hula hoop prototype; unfortunately for Klinger, Winchester's ego ruins any chance of success. Quote Major Winchester, "My God, Klinger! You've invented the circle!". In another scheme, (episode 9.11), Klinger tries to practice electronics on the camp's Public Address system so as to make a fortune repairing broken T.V. sets.
  • Of all his ploys to get out of the Army, only two had a chance at succeeding: in 6.10 eating his way out (i.e, discharge for being overweight), which fails because his stomach isn't as big as his desire to get out of the service, and in 7.7, wearing a body/water reducing suit during a heatwave, which fails because he can't stand the heat stress after 23 hours. Colonel Potter had agreed to give Klinger a discharge if he could hold out for 24 hours in the suit. In 6.8 Klinger's brilliant scheme to get out of the Army by being admitted to USMA and then get kicked out for cheating is ruined only because of his lack of knowledge of subjects for the admittance exam. In 7.18, Klinger acts as if he is still in Toledo, and Colonel Potter was ready to sign off on a Section 8, but Klinger blew that when Potter asks "Rank", and Klinger answers "Corporal", leading to Potter shredding the form in front of Klinger. Another times he almost got out is when a unstable patient took Klinger as a hostage at gunpoint to get out of Korea-which failed when the patient passed out; Klinger also tried forging a hardship notice from Colonel Potter to get a discharge but had a change of heart at the last minute. The nearest Klinger ever gets a section 8 is when Majors Burns and Houlihan are so tried 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!
  • In one episode Klinger and Winchester get lost-and find they are only 200 yards from MASH 4077. The goof is a scene which shows Klinger on a hill overlooking MASH-despite the fact MASH 4077 is surrounded by a minefield.
  • 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 the show Aftermash he is 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.

QuotesEdit

  • (Klinger to Ssgt. 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 had a humongous drinking binge, united in their collective jealousy and hatred of Radar) "Probably does, but I bet my dumb clumpany cerk screwed it u

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