Nurse “Hot Lips” Houlihan was a very modern woman on M*A*S*H, although the iconic show was set in the 1950s.
Loretta Swit, who brought Margaret, aka Hot Lips, to life, explained that her M*A*S*H character was just trying to live up to her parents expectations. She talked about the topic in an interview with Fox News in 2017.
“The thing about Margaret was that she was living in the ‘50s. I don’t think ‘feminist’ was even coined yet,” Swit said. “I think she existed before any kind of major movement took over… I think that’s what made her so spectacular.
“The character was ambitious,” said the M*A*S*H star. “She’s very strong, very passionate… She had a passion for life and saving life. [But] she had a lot to prove. Her mother was a nurse and her father was a general. And he always wanted a boy.”
Instead of getting that boy, Margaret’s general father — Alvin “Howitzer Al” Houlihan — had to be satisfied with Hot Lip’s career. She made Major and was the top-ranking woman in the 4077th. And, he probably was proud of her choice in husbands. After all, Margaret married a colonel. And her marriage was a big part of M*A*S*H. The episode, called Margaret’s Marriage, ran in March 1977. She had her wedding to Col. Donald Penobscott at the 4077th. The nurses gave her a bridal shower. The guys treated Donald to a bachelor party.
Margaret and Frank Carried On a M*A*S*H Affair
And as any fan of M*A*S*H knows, Margaret and Frank Burns had an ongoing dalliance, dating back to the movie version of the TV show. Ironically, Margaret accidentally gave herself the nickname of Hot Lips. She and Frank were kissing in a tent, not knowing that the guys had planted the public address microphone under her cot. She exclaimed “Ohhhhh, Frank, my lips are hot. Kiss my hot lips!”
Margaret became engaged to Donald when she was on R&R in Tokyo. But Donald soon began to cheat on her. She found out in a memorable M*A*S*H episode. Donald wrote a steamy love letter to a girlfriend, but accidentally mailed it to Margaret.
It all was a plot point in the episode Comrades in Arms, which was written and directed by Alan Alda. It’s the episode in which Hawkeye and Hot Lips finally get together. The two visited another medical unit. Their jeep broke down in enemy territory. They found a safe place, but didn’t know if they’d live through the night. So if it was their last night on Earth, they might as well enjoy some passion.
“Alan and I were very, very close,” Swit said in a 2015 interview with an Australian TV station.“We were such a family, I can’t describe it – you had to be there. But Alan told me he had written that [episode] with the idea for quite a while before we actually did it. And Gene Reynolds [M*A*S*H executive producer] felt that the audience might not be ready for that in the earlier years. We really needed to grow into [when] they believed this could happen. And so we did finally do it. God, I loved it.”