Loretta Swit

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Loretta Swit
Loretta Swit MASH 1972.JPG
BornLoretta Jane Swit
(1937-11-04) November 4, 1937 (age 81)
Passaic, New Jersey, U.S.
OccupationActress
Years active1967–present
Spouse(s)
Dennis Holahan
(m. 1983; div. 1995)
Parent(s)Lester Swit
Nellie Swit
Signature
Loretta Swit - signature.svg

Loretta Jane Swit (born November 4, 1937) is an American stage and television actress known for her character roles. Swit is best known for her portrayal of Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on M*A*S*H, for which she won two Emmy Awards.

Early life[edit]

Born in Passaic, New Jersey, of Polish descent, Swit's parents were Lester and Nellie Swit. She graduated from Pope Pius XII High School in Passaic in 1955. In 1957, she graduated from Katharine Gibbs School in Montclair in June, then was employed as a stenographer in Bloomfield. She studied drama with Gene Frankel in Manhattan in New York City and considered him her acting coach. She regularly returned to his studio to speak with aspiring actors throughout her career. Swit is also a singer, having trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Theatre[edit]

In 1967, Swit toured with the national company of Any Wednesday, starring Gardner McKay. She continued as one of the Pigeon sisters opposite Don Rickles and Ernest Borgnine in a Los Angeles run of The Odd Couple.

In 1975, Swit played in Same Time, Next Year on Broadway opposite Ted Bessell.[1] She also performed on Broadway in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. From there, she played Agnes Gooch in the Las Vegas version of Mame, starring Susan Hayward and later, Celeste Holm. Most recently, Swit has toured with The Vagina Monologues.

She has played Shirley Valentine, a one-woman play, since the 1990s into the 2010s, appearing in a variety of locals and revivals.[2][3]

In October–November 2003, she starred as the title character in North Carolina Theatre production of Mame in Raleigh, North Carolina.[4]

In August–September 2010, Swit starred in the world premier of the Mark Miller play, Amorous Crossings, at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, directed by Todd Booth.

In 2017, Swit appeared in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks in Buffalo, New York.

Television[edit]

When Swit arrived in Hollywood, starting in 1969, she performed guest roles in various television series, including Hawaii Five-O (her first TV credit), Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible, and Mannix.

M*A*S*H[edit]

The cast of M*A*S*H (1974); clockwise from left: Larry Linville, Loretta Swit, Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff, McLean Stevenson, and Alan Alda.
The cast of M*A*S*H (1977); back row, L-R: William Christopher, Gary Burghoff, David Ogden Stiers, and Jamie Farr Front: Loretta Swit, Harry Morgan, Alan Alda, Mike Farrell

Starting in 1972, Swit played the lusty, extremely capable head nurse Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan in the television series M*A*S*H, a comedy set in an American mobile army hospital during the Korean War. Swit inherited the star-making role from actress Sally Kellerman, who portrayed Houlihan in the feature film. In the first few seasons her character was single and blindly patriotic, and she had no friends among the camp surgeons and nurses, with the notable exception of her married lover, Major Frank Burns, portrayed by Larry Linville. Over time her character was considerably softened. She married a lieutenant-colonel but divorced soon after. She became good friends with her fellow officers, and her attitude towards the Koreans in and around the camp became more enlightened. The change reflected that of the series in general, from absurdist dark humour to mature comedy-drama. Swit was one of only four cast members to stay for all 11 seasons of the show, from 1972 to 1983 (the others are Alan Alda, Jamie Farr and William Christopher).

Swit and Alda were the only actors to have been in both the pilot episode and the finale; she appeared in all but 11 of the total of 256 episodes. Swit received two Emmy Awards for her work on M*A*S*H. Later, she was also the first M*A*S*H star to visit South Korea, when she narrated the documentary Korea, the Forgotten War.

Her favorite episodes are "Hot Lips & Empty Arms", "Margaret's Engagement" and "The Nurses".[5]

She also had a close relationship with Harry Morgan, who played Colonel Sherman T. Potter. They became neighbors, after the series ended, until his death on December 7, 2011.[6] Swit continues to stay close to Alda, along with his wife, three daughters and seven grandchildren.[7]

Cagney & Lacey[edit]

In 1981, Swit played the Christine Cagney role in the movie pilot for the television series Cagney & Lacey but was precluded by contractual obligations from continuing the role. Actress Meg Foster portrayed Cagney for the first six episodes of the television series, with Sharon Gless taking over the role from that point on.

Other TV work[edit]

Swit also guest-starred in shows such as Bonanza, The Love Boat, Win, Lose or Draw, Gunsmoke, Match Game, Pyramid, The Muppet Show and Hollywood Squares. On one episode of Match Game, Swit wrote the Polish greeting "Dzień dobry" (even with the diacritical mark) on her card during the introduction. She also starred in Christmas programs such as the television version of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and 1987's PBS special A Christmas Calendar.[8] In 1988 she hosted "Korean War-The Untold Story", a documentary on the true events of the war and went to South Korea to film it, becoming the first M*A*S*H cast member to actually visit the country. In 1992, she hosted the 26-part series Those Incredible Animals on the Discovery Channel. Swit's latest appearance was on GSN Live on October 10, 2008.

She was also in the TV movie The Last Day, 1975, with Richard Widmark and Robert Conrad.[9]

Swit guest-starred with Mike Connors in Mannix, Episode 78, Season 4, "Figures in a Landscape", written by Paul Krasny Directed by Donn Mullally originally airing on October 10, 1970. Mannix Program Information

Swit guest-starred in Hawaii Five-O episode "Bait Once, Bait Twice", January 4, 1972.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1972 Stand Up and Be Counted Hilary McBride
1973 Deadhead Miles Lady with Glass Eye
1974 Policewomen Police Clerk Uncredited
1974 Freebie and the Bean Mildred Meyers - Red's Wife
1975 Race with the Devil Alice
1981 S.O.B. Polly Reed
1985 Beer B.D. Tucker
1986 Whoops Apocalypse President Barbara Adams
1996 Forest Warrior Shirley
1998 Beach Movie Mrs. Jones
2019 Play the Flute Mrs. Kincaid Post-production

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1969–72 Hawaii Five-O Anna / Wanda Russell / Betty 4 episodes
1970 Mission: Impossible Midge Larson Episode: "Homecoming"
1970 Mannix Dorothy Harker / Jill Packard Episodes: "Only One Death to a Customer", "Figures in a Landscape"
1970 Gunsmoke Belle Clark / Donna Episodes: "The Pack Rat", "Snow Train" (Parts 1 & 2)
1971 Cade's County Ginny Lomax Episode: "Homecoming"
1971 The Bold Ones: The New Doctors Rosalyn Episode: "The Convicts"
1972 Fireball Forward Nurse (uncredited) TV movie
1972 Bonanza Ellen Sue Greely Episode: "A Visit to Upright"
1972 Young Dr. Kildare Alice Episode: "The Nature of the Beast"
1972–83 M*A*S*H Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan 251 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1980, 1982)
People’s Choice Award for Favorite Female TV Performer (1983)
Nominated–Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1974–79, 1981, 1983)
Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy (1980, 1982)
Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1974, 1983)
1972 Love, American Style Doris Segment "Love and the Pick-Up Fantasy"
1973 Ironside Sally Pearson Episode: "Ollinger's Last Case"
1973 Shirts/Skins Linda Bush TV movie
1973 Love, American Style Mary Beth Scoggins Segment "Love and the Locksmith"
1974 Petrocelli Ella Knox Episode: "By Reason of Madness"
1975 The Last Day Daisy TV movie
1975 It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman Sydney TV movie
1975 Rickles Major Hotlips Houlihan TV special
1976 Good Heavens Maxine Episode: "Good Neighbor Maxine"
1977 The Hostage Heart Chris LeBlanc TV movie
1977 The Love Boat Terry Larsen Episode: "Ex Plus Y/Golden Agers/Graham and Kelly"
1978 The Love Boat Anoushka Mishancov Episode: "A Time for Everything/The Song Is Ended/Accidental Cruise/Anoushka"
1979 Supertrain Alice Phillips Episode: "Hail to the Chief"
1979 Mirror, Mirror Sandy McLaren TV movie
1979 Friendships, Secrets and Lies B.J. TV movie
1979 Valentine Emily TV movie
1980 The Love Tapes Samantha Young TV movie
1981 Cagney & Lacey Detective Christine Cagney TV movie
1982 The Kid from Nowhere Caroline Baker TV movie
1982 Games Mother Never Taught You Laura Bentells TV movie
1983 First Affair Jane Simon TV movie
1983 The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Grace Bradley TV movie
1984 The Love Boat Kathy Ross Episode: "My Mother, My Chaperone/The Present/The Death and Life of Sir Albert Demerest/Welcome Aboard"
1985 The Execution Marysia Walenka TV movie
1985 Sam Samantha Flynn TV pilot episode
1985 Miracle at Moreaux Sister Gabrielle TV movie
1986 Dreams of Gold: The Mel Fisher Story Deo Fisher TV movie
1987 A Christmas Calendar Herself (Host) TV special
1988 14 Going on 30 Miss Louisa Horton TV movie
1988 Dolly LuWanda Novack Episode: "#1.19"
1989 ABC Afterschool Special Wanda Karpinsky Episode: "My Dad Can't Be Crazy... Can He?"
1990 A Matter of Principle Jane Short TV movie
1991 Hell Hath No Fury Connie Stewart TV movie
1991 Memories of M*A*S*H Herself TV special
1992 Batman: The Animated Series Marcia Cates (voice) Episode: "Mad as a Hatter"
1992 A Killer Among Friends Detective Patricia Staley TV movie
1992 The Big Battalions Cora Lynne TV miniseries
1994 Murder, She Wrote Kim Mitchell Episode: "Portrait of Death"
1995 Burke's Law Evelyn Turner Episode: "Who Killed the Sweet Smell of Success?"
1997 Cow and Chicken Judge (voice) Episode: "Space Cow/The Legend of Sailcat"
1998 Diagnosis: Murder Maggie Dennings Episode: "Drill for Death"
2002 M*A*S*H: 30th Anniversary Reunion Herself TV special

Personal life[edit]

Swit at the Farm Sanctuary 25th Anniversary Gala in New York City in 2011

Swit married actor Dennis Holahan in 1983 and divorced him in 1995. Holahan played Per Johannsen, a Swedish diplomat who became briefly involved with Swit's character in an episode of M*A*S*H. Swit has not remarried and has no children.

Swit has written a book on needlepoint (A Needlepoint Scrapbook). In it, she declared, "We are Ms. Pac-Man fanatics in our house." She owns a Ms. Pac-Man machine. The book also includes a Ms. Pac-Man needlepoint design.

In the 1980s, Swit supported efforts of R Adams Cowley, founder of the shock trauma unit at the University of Maryland, the first of its kind in the United States. Swit helped bring attention to his use of helicopters to transport injured civilians to shock trauma centers since 1969.

Awards and honors[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Swit, Loretta (1986). A Needlepoint Scrapbook. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-38-519905-6.
  • Swit, Loretta (2017). SwitHeart: The Watercolour Artistry & Animal Activism of Loretta Swit. Ultimate Symbol. ISBN 978-0-97-695139-1.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Barnes, Clive (February 21, 1976). "Stage: 'Same Time,' 1976". The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  2. ^ Christiansen, Richard (July 26, 1990). "Loretta Swit Offers A Splendid `Shirley Valentine`". Chicago Tribune.
  3. ^ Kates, Kathryn (September 24, 2010). "Loretta Swit is Shirley Valentine". She Knows Media.
  4. ^ "North Carolina Theatre". Nctheatre.com. Archived from the original on April 4, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  5. ^ M*A*S*H: The Martinis & Medicine Collection – Special Features: Disc 1 – "My Favorite MASH"
  6. ^ "RIP Harry Morgan [Archive". The Gear Page. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  7. ^ Sue Reilly (March 12, 1979). "Major Hottie". People.
  8. ^ A Christmas Calendar (1987). Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 26, 2008
  9. ^ The Last Day (1975), see Full Cast & Crew on IMDb

External links[edit]