Major Houlihan evolved from a rigid, by-the book military leader into a
complex, passionate nurse. Throughout the life of the long-running series, “Hot Lips” remained a sensuous hot blonde who used her sexuality to her advantage...

Margaret's character developed from an officer who mocked her commanding officer -- Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) -- to a woman who warmed up her fellow Army soldiers at the 4077.

Behind the  character, Loretta was a determined, late-blooming actress -- she was 35 when she got the role of her life -- who ignored advice from agents to change her odd-sounding last name and to get a nose job.
.“M*A*S*H” was the ensemble series centered around the Korean War that redefined excellence in television programming. While many of the key characters came and went during the 11 seasons of “M*A*S*H,” Loretta and Alan Alda (Dr. “Hawkeye” Pierce) were the only actors to star in the series from the pilot to the finale. Loretta appeared in 240 of the 251 episodes, and won two Emmys for portraying Major Houlihan.

“Margaret was very lonely at the top, as much as she wanted to be a major and prove herself and be 'the best damn nurse in Korea,'” Loretta told an Australian TV interviewer.

“She was vulnerable and sensitive, a great nurse who so obviously cared about the boys, the wounded. She was a wonderful complex woman.”
As the series progressed, Loretta pushed the producers and writers to expand her character's development.

“(Loretta) really was responsible for her character growing,” said Alda. “She was called Margaret [instead of “Hot Lips”] after the first couple of years because she wasn't a one joke character anymore. Loretta insisted on the writers finding out who this person was.”

“Hot Lips changed a lot in 11 years. She gained a lot of self-esteem through the years, and she came to realize that what she did was valuable,” Loretta said. “I took each traumatic change that happened in her life and kept it. I didn't go into the next episode as if it were a different character...she was in constant flux. She never stopped developing.”

A northern New Jersey native with Polish heritage, Loretta was born with acting in her blood. She said that her mother frequently took her to double features at the movie theater twice a day. She said watching movies was like “going to school. Even if it's bad, you're learning what not to do.”
Loretta studied with acting coach Gene Frankel in New York, and one of her first notable stage performances was in “The Odd Couple” with Don Rickles and Ernest Borgnine. A later bloomer who said she was 30 before acting paid her rent, Loretta made a breakthrough in 1967 by starring on stage in “Mame” with Susan Hayward in Las Vegas.

Three years later she went to Hollywood and guest-starred in several TV series: “Gunsmoke,” “Mission Impossible,” and “Hawaii Five-O,” among others.

She inherited the Major Houlihan role from Sally Kellerman, who starred in the 1970 film version of "M*A*S*H."

“M*A*S*H” premiered in the fall of 1972 and although it came to close to getting canceled, the series became one of the most celebrated  programs in American TV history. “M*A*S*H” was a Top 10 show in the ratings for nine of 10 seasons.
As much as her parents encouraged her to go outside and play with the other kids, she resisted.

“I tried to blend, I tried to play ball, but I didn't want that,” Loretta told the Toronto Star. “I wanted to act. I would stay up all night with a flashlight under the covers, reading scripts and playing every part.”

Although Loretta's mom loved the movies, she couldn't stand the thought of her girl leaving home to pursue her dreams.

“When I left the house to become an actress, my mother literally flung her body across the door and said, 'You're killing me,'” Loretta said in the interview with The Star. “My parents came to see once at this little theatre in Greenwich Village, walking in as though it were the doorway to Hades.

“After the show, I came out and my mother said to my father, 'If you don't stop her now, she may wind up doing this for the rest of her life,” Loretta said. “That gave me the courage I needed to keep at it until I succeeded.”
Loretta Swit "M*A*S*H" Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan
Loretta Swit "M*A*S*H" Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan
Loretta Swit "M*A*S*H" Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan
Loretta Swit "M*A*S*H" Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan
Classic TV Beauties
Custom Search
No. 16
Classic TV Beauties 1970s Countdown
LORETTA SWIT as Major Margeret Houlihan in "M*A*S*H"
Christina Applegate "MArried... With Children" Kelly Bundy
Charlene Tilton "Dallas" Lucy Ewing
Erin Gray "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" Wilma Deering
Joan Collins "Dynasty" Alexis Colby
Pam Dawber "Mork and Mindy" Mindy McConnell
Mary Tyler Moore "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" Mary Richards
Suzanne Pleshette "The Bob Newhart Show" Emily Hartley
Linda Gray "Dallas" Sue Ellen Ewing
Susan Dey "The Partridge Family" Laurie Partridge
Angie Dickinson "Police Woman" Pepper Anderson
email me
One of the first TV shows to film a conclusion, the “M*A*S*H” finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and  Amen,” was the most watched episode in US television history when it aired on February 28, 1986. The finale garnered a 77 share, meaning 106 million Americans, almost half of the 235 million population, watched the 2 1/2 hour season-ender that night.

Near the end of the “M*A*S*H” run, Loretta played
Christine Cagney in the movie pilot for “Cagney
and Lacey,” but due to her contractual obligations,
she was unable to take the role when the TV series started.

After “M*A*S*H” she made several forgettable movies and guest-appeared in numerous TV game shows. Loretta has periodically performed on the stage the past few years.