Loretta Swit thrived under the pressure of M*A*S*H

"I guess it's the only profession that has ever given me security," said Swit.

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Being on eleven seasons of any sitcom is difficult enough. But being the female lead in a Korean war set serio-comedic sitcom about army surgeons scrambling to save their patients? Now that's pressure

Nobody was on more episodes of M*A*S*H than Loretta Swit. Along with Alan Alda's Hawkeye Pierce, Swit's Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan was in 251 episodes of the beloved series. Over the course of 11 seasons, the show relied on Swit to shake things up, ensuring M*A*S*H never felt like a "boys' club" for too long.

Some might buckle under the demands of a role like Houlihan. The schedule alone would be enough to scare off many a would-be star. But for Loretta Swit, that very same schedule was something on which she relied. For her, acting provided a much-needed stability, and steadied her throughout the show's run. 

"I guess it's the only profession that has ever given me security," Swit told the San Francisco Examiner in 1973. "I thrive on pressure, and TV is pressure."

She continued, "I even create my own pressures and deadlines." But what of the times away from set? Surely M*A*S*H didn't film 365 days a year for its 11-year run. "On the weekends, sometimes, I miss the hectic schedule of M*A*S*H. I don't like vacations. They take me away from my securities, and I don't like that." 

Loretta Swit seemingly felt her best meeting the requirements of a challenging TV schedule. That's great for fans, too, because we can't imagine anyone else on our TV screens as Margaret Houlihan on M*A*S*H. Critics agreed: Swit was awarded two Emmys, one in 1980 and again in 1982, for her role on the legendary show.

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longvc 11 months ago
Did anyone know that Loretta Swit was offered the chance to be either "Cagney or Lacy" in the 1970's and that she was very upset when CBS made her honor her contract for M*A*S*H? I am glad that CBS did that because it caused her to finally let go of Frank and Donald and become a much better actress on the show. As forMac2Nite's comment, 'walk a mile in an actor's shoes' before you criticize anyone of them. Read any of the biographies/autobiographies of them and see what they must go through. You think it is a 'walk on the beach"? It is not because they worry all of the time about their careers.
Mac2Nite 11 months ago
I get a little upset when I read about actors surviving the "pressure" of a weekly series. I am a retired RN.. and I guarantee you actors haven't a clue what REAL pressure is: delivering a baby that has died in utero, working all of the Holidays when you have children that want you home on Christmas morning... THAT'S pressure. My husband was a volunteer fireman: racing to fires at 3 in the morning, trying desperately to save lives without losing his own... THAT'S pressure... Standing around waiting to say your lines while pretending to be a Nurse... pfffhhhhttt... that is NOT pressure.
aeg100 Mac2Nite 11 months ago
Thank you for the reminder of how the performance at some jobs including RN is critically important to our functioning culture.
forthekids 11 months ago
Next to her work in the episode:"The Nurses"..Ms.Swit's best performance..is when she slips some food scraps to a little dog..sadly,the little dog gets killed by a reckless hit and run jeep driver..and it effects..Poor"Major Hoolihan"deeply(In real life..Ms.Swit is a devoted animal lover)..(Crying)That scene..where she breaks down and cries on "Hawkeye Pierce's"(Mr.Alda's)shoulder..(Crying)It makes meep just thinking about it.
Coldnorth forthekids 11 months ago
My eyes always get misty in that episode. I think it helps the viewer see a hidden side to her that she tries to not let anyone see. It’s very effective.
timothys71 11 months ago
It is not quite correct to say that "nobody was on more episodes of M*A*S*H than Loretta Swit." Alan Alda (Hawkeye) was the only actor to appear in all 256 episodes, but Swit comes in a close second in terms of total number of episodes appeared in.
Wiseguy70005 timothys71 11 months ago
Generally, the finale is not counted as an episode because of its length and that it is not rerun with the series. But you are correct that she wasn't in all episodes (obviously "The Bus" and "Hawkeye.") She actually appeared in 238/255 episodes (of course she was CREDITED in all episodes.)
CaptainDunsel 11 months ago
Swit told the San Francisco Examiner in 1973. "I thrive on pressure, and TV is pressure."

1973. A year into the show's run. It would be interesting to hear her thoughts in 1983, after the full 11 years of the run.
LoveMETV22 CaptainDunsel 11 months ago
She shared her thoughts with "Queen" before the series ended and let them create
" Under Pressure."
CaptainDunsel LoveMETV22 11 months ago
Second time in two days someone has tossed a "Queen" reference at me. My iggurrunce of the era and subject matter is starting to leave marks!
Runeshaper 12 months ago
Swit sounds like she enjoyed being comfortable in her ways vs. enjoying free time, but I can dig that.
josephbard52 12 months ago
Hey,loved Loretta SWIT like everybody else! She literally embodied the character totally!
Andybandit 12 months ago
Loretta played the of role Major Margret Houlihan very well.
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