‘M*A*S*H’ Star Sally Kellerman, Hot Lips Houlihan Actress, Dies at 84

by Jonathan Howard

Sad news from the world of Hollywood as Sally Kellerman, best known as Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in M*A*S*H has passed away.

A television icon that entertained generations of fans and viewers around the world. Kellerman was a blonde beauty on and off-screen and will be dearly missed. At 84 years old, the actress passed away at an assisted care facility in Woodland Hills, a neighborhood in Los Angeles. She had been battling with dementia, according to her son Jack Krane and The Hollywood Reporter.

Kellerman was a native of California and made herself a career there. While she portrayed Major Houlihan, she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Even after her success on M*A*S*H, Sally Kellerman stayed in the business.

She was featured in Brewster McCloud, Welcome to L.A., The Player, and Prêt-à-Porter. Kellerman was also featured in an early episode of Star Trek as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner on the USS Enterprise. Her last words in the episode are, “I’m sorry … you can’t know what it’s like to … be almost a god,” to Capt. Kirk.

After starring alongside Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School, Kellerman talked about the role and what went into the film.

“This is my one brag in life: The director [Alan Metter] said he felt that I helped make Rodney human, believable in a relationship. Because I just had to love him and be sincere about it,” the actress said back in 2016. Anyone that can make Dangerfield seem less large than life is talented. That’s for sure.

While she had plenty of roles after M*A*S*H, Margaret Houlihan will remain part of Sally Kellerman’s legacy. And, she never seemed to mind that, either.

Sally Kellerman ‘M*A*S*H’ Icon

Before it became a television show, there was, of course, the M*A*S*H movie. Kellerman was the original Houlihan. There is a famous scene that involves the guys of the camp pranking Houlihan in the showers. She had not been nude on camera before and Robert Altman had to come up with distractions to help.

“When I looked up, there was Gary Burghoff stark naked standing in front of me,” she said in 2016. “The next take, [Altman] had Tamara Horrocks – she was the more amply endowed nurse – without her shirt on. … So I attribute my Academy Award nomination to the people who made my mouth hang open.”

Kellerman was always funny, witty, and her stories were always entertaining.

“But I think that [torment] really saved Hot Lips. She grew up after that. She’d been so uptight, so rigid, no sense of humor – and after all that went down, she started having a really good time, a real-life,” the actress continued.

Sally Kellerman is a legend and will be remembered for so many of her great roles. Our thoughts are with her family, friends, and loved ones.