Loretta Swit

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Loretta Swit
Loretta Jane Szwed

(1937-11-04) November 4, 1937 (age 86)
EducationAmerican Academy of Dramatic Arts
Alma materKatharine Gibbs College
  • Actress
  • author
Years active1967–present
Known for
(m. 1983; div. 1995)

Loretta Jane Swit (born Loretta Jane 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.

Early life[edit]

Loretta Swit was born on November 4, 1937,[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4][5] She graduated from Katharine Gibbs School in Montclair, New Jersey in June 1957, then was employed at a variety of clerical jobs including as a stenographer in Bloomfield, New Jersey; 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 a classmate, Elizabeth Parent-Barber, a Rockette and student at the New York School of Ballet. During this time she began developing her acting career.[6]

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.[7]


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.[8]

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.[9] 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.

She has played Shirley Valentine, a one-woman play, since the 1990s into the 2010s, appearing in a variety of locales and revivals.[10][11]

In October–November 2003, she starred as the title character in North Carolina Theatre's production of Mame in Raleigh, North Carolina.[12]

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 2016, Swit appeared in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks at Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania.[13]

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


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


The cast of M*A*S*H (1974); clockwise from left: Larry Linville, 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: Swit, Harry Morgan, Alan Alda, Mike Farrell.

Starting in 1972, Swit played the 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 had 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.

Her favorite episodes are "Hot Lips and Empty Arms", "Margaret's Engagement" and "The Nurses".[14]

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.[15] Swit continues to stay close to Alda, along with his wife, three daughters and seven grandchildren.[16]

Cagney & Lacey[edit]

In 1981, Swit played the role of Christine Cagney 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[edit]

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.[17] 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.

She was also in the TV movie The Last Day, 1975, with Richard Widmark and Robert Conrad.[18]

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.

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.

Personal life[edit]

Swit with her book, 2019

Swit was once linked with musician Bill Hudson.[19] She 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 is an animal rights activist.[20][21] She was a vegetarian for many years before becoming a vegan in 1981.[22]

Swit wrote a book on needlepoint, titled A Needlepoint Scrapbook.[23]



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


Year Title Role Notes
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 Pyramid Herself 90 episodes
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 Valentine Emily 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

Awards and honors[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.


  1. ^ Solomonson, Ed; O'Neill, Mark (2009). TV's M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book. Bear Manor Media.
  2. ^ Passaic Herald-News, November 3, 1941, p. 8
  3. ^ Passaic Herald-News, March 7, 1951, p.22
  4. ^ Passaic Herald-News, November 26, 1954, p.29, December 16, 1954 p.27, April 28, 1955 p.32
  5. ^ Harris, Harry (August 15, 1973). "Loretta Swit - sex symbol". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). KNS. p. P4.
  6. ^ Passaic Herald-News, August 25, 1961, p.6
  7. ^ Notable Past Students. American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Retrieved March 18, 2024.
  8. ^ Passaic Herald-News, August 25, 1961, p.6
  9. ^ Barnes, Clive (February 21, 1976). "Stage: 'Same Time,' 1976". The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  10. ^ Christiansen, Richard (July 26, 1990). "Loretta Swit Offers A Splendid 'Shirley Valentine'". Chicago Tribune.
  11. ^ Kates, Kathryn (September 24, 2010). "Loretta Swit is Shirley Valentine". She Knows Media.
  12. ^ "North Carolina Theatre". Nctheatre.com. Archived from the original on April 4, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  14. ^ M*A*S*H: The Martinis & Medicine Collection – Special Features: Disc 1 – "My Favorite MASH"
  15. ^ "RIP Harry Morgan [Archive]". The Gear Page. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  16. ^ Reilly, Sue (March 12, 1979). "Major Hottie". People.
  17. ^ A Christmas Calendar (1987). Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 26, 2008
  18. ^ The Last Day (1975), see Full Cast & Crew at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  19. ^ Dougherty, Margot; Adelson, Suzanne (June 5, 1989). "Cindy Williams and Bill Hudson Really Do Act Just Like Family". People.
  20. ^ "Local Activists Hail Anti-'Crush Video’ Law". latimes.com. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  21. ^ "TV Icon Loretta Swit On Art, Animals, And Activism". huffpost.com. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  22. ^ "The Flashback Interview: Loretta Swit". popgeeks.com. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  23. ^ Swit, Loretta; Appel (1986). A Needlepoint Scrapbook. Doubleday. ISBN 0385199058.

External links[edit]