‘M*A*S*H’ Star Loretta Swit Talks Being Close With the Whole Cast

by Joe Rutland

Loretta Swit played Margaret Houlihan on the classic TV show M*A*S*H and was part of an ensemble show that still resonates today. Swit becomes a household name through the CBS show. Her career skyrockets after playing the role originated in the movie by the late Sally Kellerman. Yet what is it about being a part of the show that still means a lot to her? She talks about that a bit.

“I was close to everybody, that’s the problem,” Swit says in an interview with TribLive. “They’re my family. We were, we are – we were and are, family. After getting roots like that, you have to work at it and you don’t take it for granted, we never did take what we had for granted.

Loretta Swit of ‘M*A*S*H’ Recalls Just Appreciating Every Day

“The other wonderful thing is that we appreciated every day, so we didn’t have to look back when it was over and say, ‘Geez, I wish I had appreciated, realized what a great time I had,'” Swit says. “Every day, we knew what a great thing we were a part of and a wonderful experience. It’s a part of our lives, in a way that it is a part of everybody’s life. I mean, it’s a phenomenon the way people relate to those – and I hate to say ‘characters’ – but we were playing characters. But, they were people to the audience who regards them as people and family, this global M*A*S*H family.”

Swit’s “Hot Lips” character had memorable scenes with Larry Linville’s Major Frank Burns. But Margaret also was a married nurse during the Korean War. Viewers could see her go through a lot of emotional changes from episode to episode. The actress definitely made her presence felt throughout the show’s run.

One Time, Actress Did Offer Up Thoughts About Show’s Legacy

What is the show’s legacy? Swit offers up some wisdom about that very thing. “I’m going to paraphrase what someone wrote in a telegram when we ended the show,” Swit once said in another interview. “It said, ‘Dear M*A*S*H folk: You made me laugh. You made me cry. You made me feel. Thank you.’ I’ve never forgotten that. That’s one hell of a legacy.”

If you recall, she was the lead actress in a show dominated by male cast members. Yes, Swit was appreciated for her work and definitely by fellow cast members. Don’t think that just because Swit was the only female lead. Still, she did see there was room for some character development. “The guys in control would say to me ‘It’s just an episodic,’ and I would say, ‘If you’ve got a long-run series then there’s always got to be room for growth,'” she said.