Maxwell Klinger

Maxwell Klinger

MASH character

Corporal Maxwell Klinger, as played by Jamie Farr, dressed as a woman, his trademark gag
rank=Corporal (formerly)
Sergeant (currently)
hair=Black (seasons 6-11, graying)
home=Toledo, Ohio, USA
tv=Jamie Farr
first="Chief Surgeon Who?"
last="Saturday's Heroes" ("AfterMASH")

Corporal (later 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 (like Farr himself), 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.


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). He is also an enthusiastic Toledo Mud Hens baseball fan.

B.J. Hunnicutt once remarks that Klinger is actually the 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 (one of the more memorable was a threat to douse himself with a gasoline can originally filled with water as a bluff, 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 four 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. Once, he even confessed to being a Communist, and to being a serial killer known as "The Toledo Strangler", in hopes of being discharged.

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 contracting ground and metal in land mines due to cold weather), 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 televisionFact|date=February 2007. 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!"

When the staff starts putting together a time capsule at the end of the 11th season, Klinger offers to put in his Scarlett O'Hara dress. Rebuffed by Maj. Houlihan, he argues that it can stand for all the wives and girlfriends left behind by the soldiers. Houlihan relents, on the condition that Klinger use his black dress instead of the Scarlett O'Hara; he cheerfully agrees to the switch.

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, "AfterMASH", 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 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.


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.


*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 never mentioned again.

*Klinger's first wife was Laverne Esposito from the Hungarian side of Toledo

*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 sissyish 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 5.17, Klinger & Zale are manipulated into a boxing match by Frank Burns, but it's Burns who gets a K.O. from both Klinger & 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)
**an Uncle Jake who Klinger cries out for in hysterical delirium (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 as Klinger's Aunt Gussy (6.9).
**an Uncle Bob who served two years for involvement in Toledo's "Payolla Scandal" (6.19).
**an Uncle {unnamed} who is a member of the Toledo City Council {7.18}.
**an Uncle Achmid who could get him a job at City Hall (7.25)
**an Uncle Abdul who translates Arabic to English for Klinger's mother (7.26); Klinger also writes a letter to "Uncle Abdul" (8.12); Klinger was also at "Uncle Abdul"'s wedding {9.8}
**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 "10 years to life" (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).

*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.

*Another running gag was Klinger losing his entire collection of Dresses:
**3/19 Radar gives away Klinger's dresses when Klinger is sent to a battalion Aid Station
**5/1 Klinger has to give away his dresses to a group of prostitutes for a new MASH hospital "building"

*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 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). Later, he appears to be Muslim, sometimes offering prayers or praise to Allah, though Christian Arabs do use the word Allah for God.
*The house that Klinger is born in is at 1215 N. Michigan St., Toledo, Ohio 43604.


*(to Colonel Potter) When I leave the Army it'll be the honorable way-- with a Section Eight!
*(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 will be 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 of the recently discharged Radar) "Probably does, but I bet my dumb clumpany cerk screwed it up."
*To Colonel Blake: "Can I start the calisthenics now sir? I'm dying to get into a size 9."
* [During the Army Life song] Oh some guys like the army, I think that it's a mess! If it's so damn terrific, how come I wear a dress?

ee also

*Breakout character

External links

* [] - "M*A*S*H" website with character profile
* [ Best Care Anywhere] - "M*A*S*H" website with character profile


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