The 1983 finale of MASH remains one of the most-watched shows in the U.S. and the most-watched scripted show of all time. One actress who can say she’s been in every season of the Army series is Loretta Swit, who played Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan. Sweet, the show’s only heroine, played the head nurse at an Army hospital during the Korean War. While initially Major Houlihan was a bit one-dimensional, she grew and changed throughout the show – thanks to Swit. She told the Toronto Star in 2010, “People in power said to me, ‘This is just one episode,’ and I said, ‘If you have a long series, there’s always room to grow.’ Place, I certainly think you’re in danger every day, treating people every day would be the right place.
Swit will always be remembered for playing the role of Hot Lips, but her career has extended far beyond the classic series. Now 84, she is also an accomplished theatre actress and is committed to animal welfare. Read on to learn more about her life today.
Swit has appeared in various TV shows and films before and after working with MASH, including Gunsmoke, Hawaii Five-0, The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote. Her last screen appearance was in the 2019 film Blowjob. She has also performed extensively on stage, appearing in “The Same Time”, “Next Year”, “The Edwin Drude Mystery”, “Vagina Monologue” and “Mam”. And she’s still playing today. In November and December 2021, she starred in the Coral Gables, Florida drama Middletown.
“I think the audience will always be your most important partner,” she told Broadway World in November 2021. “They communicate what they want from you. That’s what makes live theater so exciting. Everyone’s on board.”
Swit is passionate about animal rights and founded the SwitHeart Animal Alliance. According to their website, “I founded the SweetHeart Animal Coalition to prevent animal cruelty and end animal suffering, promoting and partnering with numerous nonprofit organizations and programs that protect, rescue, train and care for animals and protect their habitats, while improving Public awareness of animals. Issues affecting domestic, farm, exotic, wild and native animals and their welfare.”
Sweet also mentioned her love for animals in an interview with the Toronto Star. She cited Mahatma Gandhi as one of her inspirations, saying: “I am very committed to animal rights activism and I always think of his famous quote: ‘The real test of a country’s greatness is the way it treats its animals.'”
Sweet has published two books, both related to art. The first is A Needlepoint Scrapbook, a needlepoint design book published in 1986. Then there’s SwitHeart: Watercolor Art and Animal Activities by Loretta Swit. Published in 2017, the book is filled with her watercolors on animals and animal welfare organisations.
The cast and creators of MASH reflect on their time on the show in a 2018 oral history for The Hollywood Reporter. Swit cites a fan email summarizing her thoughts on the show. “When we’re done with the show, I’m going to rewrite what someone wrote in the telegram,” she said. “It said: ‘Dear MAS*H people: You made me laugh. You made me cry. You made me feel thankful.’ I never forget that. This is the legacy of hell. “