Don't ask. It's the code of the desert.
~ Klinger

Maxwell Q. Klinger was a central protagonist in the M*A*S*H television series.


He is portrayed by actor and comedian Jamie Farr.

History

Born in Toledo, Klinger was a Arab-American of Lebanese descent. During the Korean War Klinger had been drafted into the United States Army and assigned to the M*A*S*H 4077 with the rank of Corporal. Hating the war and wanting to go home, Klinger hit upon the idea of cross dressing in women's outfits and other crazy stunts in order to convince his superiors to grant him a Section 8 discharge.

As Klinger otherwise did a good job as an orderly and medic, Lt. Col Henry Blake refused to let him go on a Section 8. At one point Blake did call in psychiatrist Dr. Freedman to evaluate Klinger, and the doctor was about to recommend Klinger's discharge on the grounds of being a homosexual and transvestite. However Klinger did not want that following him for the rest of his life, stating that he wasn't any of those things, he was just crazy.

When Colonel Sherman Potter arrived at camp Klinger was the second member of the unit to greet the new CO. Wearing a full dress Klinger informed Potter that he was Section 8 head to toe. Potter sternly informed him that those efforts would not fly with him, and ordered Klinger to get in to uniform. Potter later relaxed a little bit with Klinger and allowed him to keep wearing dresses and carry out crazy stunts to get out of the army, but he never let Klinger out. Potter grew fond of Klinger, saying he reminded him of his son in law and dressed like his wife. When Frank Burns told Potter that he loved it at the 4077 Potter told Burns that either he or Klinger was nuts and now Potter had to figure out which one was nuts. (Burns would eventually have a breakdown and have to be shipped stateside).

Klinger married his childhood sweetheart Laverne via a long distance ceremony. The marriage did not last long and ended in divorce shortly after Klinger learned that his wife had carried on an affair in his absence and had taken most of the money he had sent home for her own purposes.

When Radar O'Rielly's Uncle Ed died O'Rielly was granted a hardship discharge so he could return home to run the family farm. Corporal Klinger was then tasked with taking over as company clerk. Klinger had a rough few days, having a hard time keeping up with the demands of his new role. Realizing that Klinger needed help to grow in to his new role, Potter sat Klinger down and told the younger man that he would do everything he could to help Klinger with his new job. Klinger soon became an excellent company clerk, doing the job just as well as Radar did. He for the most part gave up cross dressing and his other crazy stunts, wearing regular uniforms. His ability to scrounge up parts and work deals proved invaluable, and he was soon promoted to Sergeant.

In the closing days of the war Klinger met a young Korean woman named Soon-Lee who had been arrested by the Army for shooting a soldier. She had been using a rifle as a plow when arrested. With Klinger's help she was freed when it was proven the bullet used to shoot the soldier hadn't come from her weapon. The two fell in love with each other, and at the conclusion of the war the two were married by Father Mulcahy, who asked them to consider naming their children after him. Much to the amusement of the others in the camp, Klinger decided to remain in Korea after the war to help Soon-Lee find her family.

It did not take Soon-Lee and Klinger long to locate her family. With their livelihood wiped out by the war Klinger helped Soon-Lee's parents get reestablished as farmers. Klinger and Soon-Lee returned to the states. Unfortunately Klinger's family did not react well to his marrying a Korean. Facing discrimination in Toledo Klinger was arrested for bookmaking. When he agreed to leave Toledo to work for Sherman Potter at a VA hospital in Missouri the judge dropped the charges.

Klinger and Soon-Lee joined Potter and Father Mulcahy at General Pershing VA Hospital in Missouri. Klinger worked for Potter as his assistant at the hopsital. Soon-Lee became pregnant and the couple welcomed their first child into the world during this time.

Trivia

  • Klinger was played by Jamie Farr during all 11 seasons of the M*A*S*H television series. Farr was initally hired to only play Klinger for one episode, but he proved popular enough with the writers that they kept having him back. Farr eventually became a regular on the series.
  • Klinger was the first regular character on the television series that had not appeared in the movie or mentioned in the original novel.
  • The abandonment of Klinger's efforts at getting a Section 8 by wearing women's clothing was at the insistence of Farr, who felt it would be difficult for his children to watch him week and week wearing such clothes.
  • At the 10th season the cast of M*A*S*H voted on whether to keep the series going or not. The vote went towards ending the series in the 11th season, with Farr, William Christopher, and Harry Morgan voting to keep the series going. Farr, Christopher, and Morgan were invited to continue their characters on the series AfterMASH, which lasted for two seasons before being cancelled by CBS.
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