Loretta Swit is best remembered for playing Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, the head nurse on the beloved series M*A*S*H. She was one tough cookie, working to prove herself among all of the men during the Korean War, and it made the character incredibly memorable across the show's 11 seasons.
Loretta Jane Swit grew up in New Jersey before moving to New York to pursue acting and singing at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She kicked off her career in the theater, performing on Broadway and touring the country with the cast of Any Wednesday. She made her first television appearances on shows like Mannix, Mission: Impossible, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Hawaii Five-O.
Swit had been working on a couple of episodes of Hawaii Five-O and hadn't really heard the news about a new pilot called M*A*S*H. When she came back from Hawaii, she found out that CBS had recommended her to FOX for the new show and before she knew it, she was meeting with producers for the role of Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan.
"I had no idea how important it would be in my life," Swit explained to From the Desk. "And I came home thinking, "That was fun; that was nice. I'd like to work with these people."
"And that's kind of it. They didn't have pages even for me to read. They didn't have anything. It was just, hello, let's talk and see if we like the tone of your voice."
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The actress went on to win two Emmy Awards for her role and even met her future husband of 12 years during filming, actor Dennis Holahan. By the 10th season, it was still one of the most-watched shows on television. In fact, Swit was one of the few original actors still on the show alongside fellow castmembers Alan Alda and Jamie Farr. But around that time, Swit signed on to appear in a TV movie about two female cops...Cagney & Lacey.
As we know, that TV movie was a hit and the network immediately ordered a TV show. Swit tried to get out of her M*A*S*H contract to play Christine Cagney on the new series but was unable to do so. Meg Foster went on to take over for six episodes before Sharon Gless fully took over the role through the end of the television series.
"If I had been allowed to leave [M*A*S*H] I would have done Cagney because I loved the character," Swit admitted in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. "It was another strong woman and I thought the audience really liked seeing me in uniform."
Over the years, Swit has continued appearing on numerous TV shows including The Love Boat, Love, American Style, Pyramid, Match Game, Murder, She Wrote, Diagnosis: Murder, and Hollywood Squares, and films and TV movies like Miracle at Moreaux, Race with the Devil, A Killer Among Friends, Freebie and the Bean, Games Mother Never Taught You, Hell Hath No Fury, Play the Flute, and Stand Up and Be Counted.
The beloved actress received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989 and these days is based in New York City. Even in her 80s, she's active on social media and has kept busy helping promote frontline heroes during the current coronavirus pandemic.
"The volunteers, caregivers, and first responders who are the front of the trenches -- they are our heartbeat. Our lifeline," the actress told Fox News.
"The times are challenging, but we are tough," the M*A*S*H star continued. "I have been networking. I have been shooting PSAs on my iPhone for New York City -- the city I love, for the ASPCA and Ayla's Acres for my love of animals, and Paws for Purple Hearts [because] I love veterans, POWs and [our] military."