‘M*A*S*H’: This Lead Actor Also Had Roles in ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Bonanza’

by Joe Rutland
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Loretta Swit is known around the world for playing Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on TV’s “M*A*S*H.” Swit had roles in two other TV series.

In 1970, Swit plays Belle Clark on “Gunsmoke” in an episode called “The Pack Rat.” Clark is one of two women who join Marshal Matt Dillon, played by James Arness, as he takes a wounded prisoner from Dodge City to Fort Union.

Meanwhile, she also shows up on a March 1972 episode of NBC’s smash-hit western series “Bonanza.” In “A Visit to Upright,” Swit plays Ellen Sue Greely, a picky livestock heiress who is making trouble for Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene.

But those aren’t the lone popular TV shows Swit guest stars on prior to joining “M*A*S*H” later in 1972. She makes appearances on “Hawaii Five-O,” “Mannix,” and “Mission: Impossible,” and all three shows were on CBS. As it turns out, CBS would be Swit’s home network for 11 seasons as “Hot Lips.”

Swit took on the TV show role after actress Sally Kellerman played her in Robert Altman’s film version of “M*A*S*H.” From that point to today, whenever someone mentions “Hot Lips” Houlihan, a connection is immediately made with Loretta Swit.

One Famous Kiss Scene On ‘M*A*S*H’ Cost $450K

Do you remember the final show for “M*A*S*H” that aired on CBS? It was the most-watched series finale in TV history with 121 million viewers seeing “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.”

Throughout the show’s run, there always was an element of romance in the air. You had “Hot Lips” Houlihan hanging out with Maj. Frank Burns, played by Larry Linville. You also had “Hawkeye” Pierce in a couple of romantic entanglements, too.

During the finale, though, Pierce and Houlihan move from a much-closer friendship to on-screen romantic chemistry. It left viewers with a desire to see then together, but nothing happens.

Until the finale, that is. Viewers got a payoff in the end as Pierce and Houlihan share a romantic kiss. It also brought a nice payday to CBS. A commercial that cost $450,000 aired accompanying the kiss.

So, the network made a nice bit of money from that one moment alone.  

Show Fires Back at ‘Ludicrous’ Censorship Of Certain Word

Television networks are notorious for having “Standards and Practices” officials. They are the people who say what can and cannot be in a show’s script or even aired at all. Two words that were especially odd to censor were “virgin” and “circumcision.”

In an interview with Television Academy, Alda spoke about “M*A*S*H” and its experience with censorship from an acting perspective.

“In the early days, there were some ludicrous examples of this,” Alda said. “‘Radar’ (Gary Burghoff) at one point, in one of the early shows, said he was a virgin. This word was excised by the censor … I thought being a virgin is something they would like.”

Alda also said that when the show was first on and not as popular, CBS was far more strict with them.

“M*A*S*H” TV show creator, executive producer, and writer Larry Gelbart looked for ways to get even with the network when they made these choices. Alda said in one show, he asked a soldier, “Where are you from?” His response was that he was from the Virgin Islands.

That was just one way “M*A*S*H” writers tossed what they considered silly censorship back to the network. 

Outsider.com