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Jamie Farr
JamieFarrHWOFSept2012.jpg
Farr at the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2012
Born
Jameel Joseph Farah

(1934-07-01) July 1, 1934 (age 89)
Occupation Actor, comedian
Years active 1955–present
Known for Playing Klinger on M*A*S*H
Spouse(s)
Joy Ann Richards
(m. 1963)
Children 2
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch Special Services
Years of service 1956–1959

Jamie Farr (born Jameel Joseph Farah; July 1, 1934) is an American comedian and actor. He is best known for playing Corporal Klinger, a soldier who tried getting discharged from the army by cross-dressing, on the CBS sitcom M*A*S*H. After M*A*S*H, Farr reprised the role of Klinger for AfterMASH and appeared both in small roles on popular shows such as The Love Boat and as a host or panelist on game shows including Battle of the Network Stars. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985.

Early life

Farr was born Jameel Joseph Farah on July 1, 1934 in Toledo, Ohio, the son of Samuel and Jamelia Farah. His father, who owned a grocery store, was an immigrant from the Beqaa Valley area of Lebanon and his mother, a seamstress, was a first-generation Arab American who grew up in Iowa. Prior to immigrating through Ellis Island, Samuel's surname was Abboud and his father's first name was Farah. Farr grew up in Northern Toledo, which had a strong Arab population, in a diverse neighborhood. He was raised Antiochian Orthodox. He has at least one sibling, an older sister, Yvonne.

His first acting gig was at age 11, when he won two dollars in a local acting competition. While in high school, he worked at his father's shop and delivered The Toledo Times newspaper in the morning and The Blade in the afternoon. He graduated from Woodward High School in 1952 and left for California later that year, where he attended classes at Pasadena Playhouse. It was there that he was spotted by an MGM talent scout and offered a screen test for the film Blackboard Jungle, where he played the role of Santini. He was credited as Jameel Farah, as he would not take on the name Jamie Farr until 1959 after his stint in the army.

Jamie Farr Stumpers 1976
On the game show Stumpers!, 1976

Career

While training at Pasadena Playhouse, Farr acted in bit parts including a role in The Blackboard Jungle (1955) for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He also worked at a chinchilla farm for extra money. Sherwood Schwartz noticed Farr on an unsold TV pilot and cast him on The Red Skelton Show in 1955, where he played Snorkel, whose large nose gave him an inhumanly strong sense of smell. He became a regular on Skelton.He was drafted in 1957, and underwent basic training at Fort Ord in California as part of the 6th Infantry Division. He was made a Broadcast Specialist and worked on training videos in various roles at Fort Knox, the Army Pictorial Service, and Fort Huachuca before shipping out to Korea. Abroad, he was part of the Special Services and worked on the Far East Network. When Red Skelton traveled to Japan and Korea to do a USO tour, he requested Farr's service as his assistant.

After two years of active duty, Farr returned to the United States, where he spent an additional two years on reserve. Shortly after his return, his father died and he decided to give up acting to help provide steady financial support for his mother. When Farr went to say goodbye to Skelton, Skelton handed him a stack of one hundred dollar bills to send home and told Farr he was hiring him as a writer. Farr completed his military career with an additional two years on inactive reserve.

Over the next decade, Farr had small roles on The Danny Kaye Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, My Three Sons, and Garrison's Gorillas and appeared in films including The Greatest Story Ever Told, No Time for Sergeants, Who's Minding the Mint?, and With Six You Get Eggroll. In October 1972, he was hired for one day's work on the fourth episode of M*A*S*H as Corporal Maxwell Klinger. Klinger provided comic relief in his desperate attempts to be given a Section 8 discharge by wearing elaborate women's outfits with accessories such as boas, a fruit hat, and fashion headscarves. At the time, Farr was still a struggling actor and was most concerned about the $250 paycheck from the M*A*S*H job so he could buy groceries and pay rent; he never expected to be invited back for several more episodes. For several years, the producers and the studio dodged his requests for a contract, which Farr suspected was so they didn't have to increase his salary. He was finally hired as a series regular on M*A*S*H beginning with season 4 in 1975.

MASH Cast 1977
Cast of M*A*S*H (1977)

Like Farr, the character of Klinger was a Lebanese-American from Toledo, which gave Farr the freedom to pepper references about the town into his dialogue. He frequently mentioned hot dogs from Tony Packo's Cafe and was a fan of the baseball team, the Toledo Mud Hens. Klinger was promoted to the company clerk's position later in the series and gradually stopped wearing women's clothes. This was done for two reasons: first, to show Klinger's respect for his new role and his increased maturity; and second, because Farr didn't want his two young children to be teased about their father wearing dresses on TV. By the end of the show, only Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye Pierce, and Loretta Swit, who played Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, had appeared in more M*A*S*H episodes than Farr. Farr was also one of three cast members who had actually served in Korea, the others being Alda and Mike Farrell, and the dog tags he wore as Klinger were his own from his time in the service.

During the late 1970s, Farr appeared regularly as one of the celebrity judges on The Gong Show. He also made frequent guest appearances on several other game shows, including The $100,000 Pyramid, Super Password, and Body Language. Following the end of M*A*S*H in 1983, Farr, Harry Morgan, and William Christopher reprised their roles for two seasons on the spinoff show AfterMASH, which followed their characters after the end of the war. Between the 1970s and early 1990s, he appeared in several made-for-TV movies such as Murder Can Hurt You, Return of the Rebels, and Combat Academy and guest starred on shows including Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Emergency!, and Murder She Wrote. He played the Sheik in The Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run II, and Speed Zone and was the only actor to have appeared in all three Cannonball Run films. He also appeared in TV commercials, including for Wonder Bread, Mars bars, and IBM computers.

Farr's debut on Broadway was as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls in the 1990s at age 60. He had wanted to play this role since seeing the show in high school. He replaced Nathan Lane in the role last minute, only having two weeks and one full-cast rehearsal before the show opened. In 1997, he played Oscar Madison opposite former M*A*S*H costar William Christopher as Felix Unger in The Odd Couple. The two had appeared in several movies before being cast together in M*A*S*H. He also appeared in Flamingo Court opposite Anita Gillette. His other shows have included Say Goodnight, Gracie, The Last Romance, George Washington Slept Here, Catch Me If You Can, Don't Dress for Dinner, Lend Me a Tenor, Tuesdays with Morrie, and Oklahoma!.

Farr, Jamie (2007) crop
Farr in September 2007

Between 2007 and 2008, Farr, Chuck Woolery, and Bob Eubanks were rotating hosts of the $250,000 Game Show Spectacular at the Las Vegas Hilton. He also hosted a daily radio travel feature called Travelin' Farr. On Memorial Day 2007, Farr hosted a multiple-episode run of M*A*S*H on the Hallmark Channel where he provided commentary during commercial breaks. Between 2016 and 2018, he promoted M*A*S*H and other classic television series on MeTV and in 2022 was attending large-scale events like Comic Con to meet fans of the show. The same year, he hosted M*A*S*H: The Best By Farr, where he provided commentary on his favorite episodes of the show to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary. Farr published his autobiography Just Farr Fun (ISBN: 978-0964077508) in 1994 and cowrote Hababy's Christmas Eve (ISBN: 978-1934341100) a book based on a story told by Klinger about a family of camels who brought the Wise Men to baby Jesus in his manger, with his wife in 2003.

Farr collapsed during a dinner show in Edmonton in 2014 and was transported to the hospital. He finished out the week of shows until an understudy was found, then flew home to California, where he had a stent put into his heart to treat atherosclerosis. In 2018, after collapsing during rehearsals for Jack of Diamonds, he decided to retire from stage acting.

Personal life

Farr met his now-wife Joy Ann Richards, a model, shortly after returning from military service. They married in 1963 and have two children, Jonas (c. 1969) and Yvonne (c. 1972), and a grandson named Dorian. In 2021, Farr told We Are the Mighty that James Jabara was his cousin. Farr has battled severe rheumatoid arthritis since the early 1990s.

Farr was very close to Red Skelton, describing him as his "hero" and "mentor", and like "a second father" to him. and shared that Skelton was one of his favorite comedians growing up. Before Farr left for his military service, Skelton gave him a Saint Christopher medal, which he has worn since. When Skelton died in 1997, his widow asked Farr to be a pallbearer at his funeral.

Public records show that Farr has contributed financially to the Republican National Committee and Republican Party candidates multiple times since 1988, including to the campaigns of Darrell Issa (2022), who grew up in Ohio and is of Lebanese ancestry, and Joe Leibham (2009). Farr is fluent in Arabic.

Legacy and honors

Farr has remained deeply loyal to his hometown of Toledo, Ohio and the city has returned the sentiment. In 1977, he was awarded Toledo's version of the Keys to the City, a ceremonial glass. Scott High School named their new performing arts wing after him the same year. The University of Toledo awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1983 and, in 1998, a park where Farr spent a lot of his childhood was renamed the Jamie Farr Park, something he has referred to as "a highlight of my life and career." Tony Packo's Cafe, a restaurant referenced several times by Klinger on M*A*S*H, displays a hot dog bun signed by Farr at their establishment. In 2017, Farr and Klinger were the first two inductees to the Toledo Mud Hens' Celebrity Hall of Fame. In 2023, an artist erected Jumpin' Jamie, a fiberglass frog statue part of a larger public art piece. The frog is named after Farr and is dressed in a babushka and red lipstick in homage to Klinger. Originally at the Highland Meadows Golf Club, where the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic was held, it is now kept at Bittersweet Farms. There is also an academic scholarship bearing his name through the Greater Toledo Community Foundation.

In 1983, Judd Silverman approached Farr about "lending his name" to a golf tournament. The following year, the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, an annual LGPA tour stop, held its inaugural event in Sylvania, Ohio. Sponsored by Kroger, Owens Corning, and O-I Glass, the tournament raises money for children's charities, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Farr hosted the event for 28 years until it was rebranded the Marathon Classic in 2012. As of 2023, it is called the Dana Open.

Outside of Ohio, Farr has been nominated for an Emmy for his time on M*A*S*H, given the Comedy Achievement Honoree award at the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, and inducted into the Boys and Girls Clubs of America Alumni Hall of Fame. In 1985, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Two of the dresses he wore as Klinger had previously been worn by Ginger Rogers and Betty Grable and are now owned by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In 2001, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations and in 2016 was given the Arab American Institute Foundation's Special Recognition Award.

Select filmography

Television

Year Title Role Notes Ref
1955-1961 The Red Skelton Show Snorkel
1959-1961 The Rebel Theodore (1959), Pooch (1961) Appeared in "Panic" (1959) and "Two Weeks" (1961)
1961 The Dick Van Dyke Show Restaurant delivery boy Season 1, episodes 4, 5, 11, and 12
1963 The Danny Kaye Show Hans, Court Reporter, Player
1962-1964 Hazel Counterman (1962), Antonio (1964) Episodes "Barney Hatfield, Where Are You?" and "Let's Get Away from It All"
1965 Burke's Law Zava, Lineman, Clinic Informant Season 3, episode 15: "A Very Important Russian Is Missing"
1965-1966 My Favorite Martian Hospital orderly (1965), jewel thief (1966) Episodes "Virus M for Martian" and "The Avenue C Mob"
1966 The Lucy Show Episode "Lucy, the Rain Goddess"
I Dream of Jeannie Achmed Episode "Get Me to Mecca on Time"
F Troop Lackey (uncredited), Standup Bull Season 1, episodes "Our Hero. What's His Name?" and "Too Many Cooks Spoil the Troop"
The Andy Griffith Show Gracos Season 6, episode 23
1967 Death Valley Days Dick Gird Season 15, episode 15: "Silver Tombstone"
1965-1968 Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. USMC Sergeant (1966), Special effects man (1968) Episodes "Gomer Pyle POW" and "A Star is Not Born"
1967-1968 Garrison's Gorillas Pablo (1967), Tony Marcello (1968)
1968 Get Smart Musician Season 4, episode 1: "The Impossible Mission
1969 The Flying Nun Police officer Episode "Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters"
1971 The Chicago Teddy Bears Duke, Lefty 11 episodes
1972-1973 Emergency! Alan Austen Season 2, episodes "Helpful" and "Boot"
1973 Inch High, Private Eye Voices 13 episodes
1975 Barnaby Jones Marty Paris Season 3, episode 20: "Doomed Alibi"
Kolchak: The Night Stalker Jack Burton Season 1, episode 13
1977-1979 Battle of the Network Stars Himself
1981 The Fall Guy Himself Season 1, episode 7: "Japanese Connection"
1972-1983 M*A*S*H Maxwell Klinger 216 episodes
1978-1983 The Love Boat Seymour (1978), Inspector Akhmed Sadu (1982), Art Fuller (1938) Episode in seasons 1, 6, and 7
1977-1984 Circus of the Stars Himself
1983-1985 AfterMASH Maxwell Klinger M*A*S*H spinoff; 30 episodes
1987 Wordplay Himself Guest host
1998 Diagnosis: Murder Season 5, episode 15: "Drill for Death"
2002-2003 That '70s Show Two episodes
2007 Family Guy Himself Episode "Believe It or Not, Joe's Walking on Air"
2016 Bella and the Bulldogs Ernie Episode "Bad Grandma"
2018-2019 The Cool Kids Dudley 6 episodes

Film

Year Title Role Ref
1955 Blackboard Jungle Santini
1958 No Time for Sergeants Lt. Gardelli
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Thaddeus
1967 Who's Minding the Mint? Mario
1968 With Six You Get Eggroll Jo Jo
1973 The Blue Knight Yasser Hafiz
1981 The Cannonball Run The Sheik
Return of the Rebels Mickey Fine
1984 Cannonball Run II The Sheik
1986 Happy Hour Crummy Fred
1988 Scrooged Himself
1989 Speed Zone The Sheik
2007 A Grandpa for Christmas Adam Johnson
Black History Month on Kiddle
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