Childhood & Early Life
Born on July 1, 1934, in Toledo, Ohio, USA, Jamie Farr is the son of Jamelia M. (née Abodeely) and Samuel N. Farah. His mother was a seamstress while his father worked as a meat cutter and grocer.
Their Lebanese-American family was quite religious. Farr, his sister Yvonne, and their parents were members of the Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Toledo.
He began acting very early in his life. At the age of 11, he received his first acting prize when he earned two dollars in a local acting contest.
After graduating from Woodward High School, he joined Pasadena Playhouse. It is there that he was spotted by a talent scout from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), who got him the opportunity to screen test for ‘Blackboard Jungle’.
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Credited by his real name, Jameel Farah, Jamie Farr played the role of Santini in the 1955 crime drama film ‘Blackboard Jungle’. Directed by Richard Brooks, the film tells the story of an English teacher who joins an inner-city school with violent and unruly students.
After working in ‘Blackboard Jungle’, Farr left the entertainment industry for a period to serve in the United States Army.
His service lasted two years, during which he was stationed in Korea as well as Japan. Besides Alan Alda, he is the only ‘M-A-S-H’ cast member to have served in the US military. Additionally, Farr wore the real dog tags from his army days during the filming of the show.
Despite earning much critical praise for his first role, Farr experienced his share of struggles as an aspiring actor. He played a variety of small roles in the early days of his career, including a delivery person, a post office clerk, an army store clerk, an airlines reservations agent, and as an employee at a chinchilla ranch.
Between 1956 and 1961, he played several minor roles in six episodes of CBS’ (formerly NBC) comedy/variety series ‘The Red Skelton Show’.
In 1961, he played a delivery boy in four episodes of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’. In 1973, he lent his voice for the NBC animated series ‘Inch High, Private Eye’. He also made guest appearances in TV shows like ‘Toma’ (1974), ‘Lucas Tanner’ (1975), ‘Murder, She Wrote’ (1988), ‘That '70s Show’ (2003), ‘The War at Home’ (2007), and ‘Bella and the Bulldogs’ (2016).
On stage, Farr, along with Nathan Lane, performed the role of Nathan Detroit in the 1992 Broadway revival of ‘Guys and Dolls’. In 1996, he embarked on a US tour with ‘The Odd Couple’, portraying the role of Oscar Madison, while his ‘M-A-S-H’ co-star William Christopher played Felix Ungar. Even today, Farr is active as a stage actor, often appearing in regional plays.
As a panellist, Farr has appeared in numerous game shows, including ‘The $25,000 Pyramid’, ‘Super Password’, ‘Body Language’, ‘Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour’, ‘Wordplay’, ‘The $1.98 Beauty Show’, ‘The Magnificent Marble Machine’, and ‘Tattletales’.
After sporadically appearing on screen for the past two decades, Farr began playing the role of Dudley in Fox’s comedy series ‘The Cool Kids’ in 2018. The show also stars David Alan Grier, Martin Mull, Leslie Jordan, and Vicki Lawrence.
Family & Personal Life
On February 16, 1963, Jamie Farr exchanged wedding vows with Joy Ann Richards. They have two children together, a son named Jonas and a daughter named Yvonne. In the early 1990s, Farr became afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder from which he has been suffering since.
In August 1997, Farr published his autobiography ‘Just Farr Fun’ through Eubanks-Donizetti Enterprises, Incorporated. The book was well-received by the critics. He also co-authored the children’s story ‘Hababy's Christmas Eve’ (2003) with his wife. The book is a retelling of the First Christmas from the perspective of the animals.