Loretta Jane Szwed
November 4, 1937
Passaic, New Jersey, U.S.
(m. 1983; div. 1995)
Loretta Jane Swit (born Loretta Szwed; 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.
Loretta Swit was born in Passaic, New Jersey to Lester and Nellie Szwed (née Kassack), who were both of Polish descent. Her father was a salesman and upholsterer. Swit's brother, Robert, was six years and one day her senior. As a child, Swit was a member of a Girl Scout troop sponsored by the Holy Rosary R.C. Church of Passaic known as the Holy Rosary Scouts.
She graduated from Pope Pius XII High School in Passaic in 1955, where she had been a cheerleader, taken part in theatrical productions, and was co-captain of the women's basketball team. She graduated from Katharine Gibbs School in Montclair in June 1957, then was employed at a variety of clerical jobs including as a stenographer in Bloomfield, personal secretary to Elsa Maxwell, secretary to the ambassador from Ghana to the United Nations, and at the American Rocket Society in New York City while being trained to dance by classmate, Elizabeth Parent-Barber,professional Rockette and student at the New York School of Ballet. During this time she began developing her acting career.
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.
Swit's first off-broadway appearance was in the Actor's Playhouse production of "An Enemy of the People." In 1961, Swit landed a role in the Circle in the Square production of "The Balcony" written by Jean Genet and produced by José Quintero.
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. 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.
In August–September 2010, Swit starred in the world premiere of the Mark Miller play, Amorous Crossings, at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, directed by Tod Booth.
In 2017, Swit appeared in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks in Buffalo, New York.
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 a US Mobile Army Surgical 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 humor 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.
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. Swit continues to stay close to Alda, along with his wife, three daughters and seven grandchildren.
Cagney & Lacey
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, then Sharon Gless took over the role.
Other TV work
Swit also guest-starred in shows such as Bonanza, The Love Boat, Win, Lose or Draw, Password, 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. 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 outside of Jamie Farr and Alan Alda who both served there in the mid-1950s while members of the US Army. 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.
Swit guest-starred in Hawaii Five-O episode "Bait Once, Bait Twice", January 4, 1972. She also played Wanda Russell in the Hawaii Five-O episode titled "Three Dead Cows at Makapuu" which aired February 25, 1970.
|1972||Stand Up and Be Counted||Hilary McBride|
|1973||Deadhead Miles||Lady With Glass Eye|
|1974||Freebie and the Bean||Mildred Meyers, Red's Wife|
|1975||Race with the Devil||Alice|
|1986||Whoops Apocalypse||President Barbara Adams|
|1998||Beach Movie||Mrs. Jones|
|2019||Play the Flute||Mrs. Kincaid|
|1969–1972||Hawaii Five-O||Anna Schreuder / 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" (Season 3-Episode 20), "Figures in a Landscape" (Season 4-Episode 04)|
|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"|
|1972–1983||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||Match Game||Herself||Game Show Participant / Celebrity Guest Star|
|1973||Shirts/Skins||Linda Bush||TV movie|
|1973||Love, American Style||Mary Beth Scoggins||Segment "Love and the Locksmith"|
|1973–1979||Match Game||Herself||51 episodes|
|1973–1979||The Mike Douglas Show||Herself||6 episodes|
|1974||Petrocelli||Ella Knox||Episode: "By Reason of Madness"|
|1974||The Merv Griffin Show||Herself||1 episode|
|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 Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan||TV special|
|1975||The Bobby Vinton Show||Herself||1 episode|
|1975||Celebrity Bowling||Herself||2 episodes|
|1976||Good Heavens||Maxine||Episode: "Good Neighbor Maxine"|
|1977||The Hostage Heart||Chris LeBlanc||TV movie|
|1977–1978||The Love Boat||Terry Larsen / Anoushka Mishancov||2 episodes|
|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|
|1979–1980||Password Plus||Herself||Game Show Contestant / Celebrity Guest Star (4 episodes)|
|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 / Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan||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"|
|1999–2004||Hollywood Squares||Herself||6 episodes|
|2002||M*A*S*H: 30th Anniversary Reunion||Herself / Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan||TV special|
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.
Awards and honors
- In 1991, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.
- Swit received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989.
- 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.
- Passaic Herald-News, Nov 3 1941, p. 8
- Passaic Herald-News, Mar. 7, 1951, p.22
- Passaic Herald-News, Nov. 26, 1954, p.29, Dec 16, 1954 p.27, Apr 28, 1955 p.32
- Harris, Harry (August 15, 1973). "Loretta Swit - sex symbol". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). KNS. p. P4.
- Passaic Herald-News, Aug 25, 1961, p.6
- Passaic Herald-News, Aug 25, 1961, p.6
- Barnes, Clive (February 21, 1976). "Stage: 'Same Time,' 1976". The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
- Christiansen, Richard (July 26, 1990). "Loretta Swit Offers A Splendid 'Shirley Valentine'". Chicago Tribune.
- Kates, Kathryn (September 24, 2010). "Loretta Swit is Shirley Valentine". She Knows Media.
- "North Carolina Theatre". Nctheatre.com. Archived from the original on April 4, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- M*A*S*H: The Martinis & Medicine Collection – Special Features: Disc 1 – "My Favorite MASH"
- "RIP Harry Morgan [Archive]". The Gear Page. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
- Reilly, Sue (March 12, 1979). "Major Hottie". People.
- A Christmas Calendar (1987). Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 26, 2008
- The Last Day (1975), see Full Cast & Crew at IMDb
- Swit, Loretta; Appel (1986). A Needlepoint Scrapbook. ISBN 0385199058.
- Loretta Swit at IMDb
- Loretta Swit at the Internet Broadway Database
- Loretta Swit at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Loretta Swit at The Interviews: An Oral History of Television
- "SwitHeart Animal Alliance". Switheart.com.
- Thomas, Nick (Jan 5, 2017). "M*A*S*H's Loretta Swit paints to help animals". The Spectrum. Tinseltown Talks. Retrieved January 14, 2017.