Nobody worked harder than Loretta Swit on M*A*S*H

Loretta was "absolutely sensational" and "always just the most hard-working."

The Everett Collection

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"Who cares how much fun you're having, it's not your birthday!" Margaret Houlihan shouts at Klinger in the M*A*S*H episode "The Birthday Girls."

This outburst follows her valiant attempts for half the episode to conceal her birthday and celebrate the day in her own special way. When the stars do not align on her dream birthday plans, Houlihan and Klinger end up stranded miles away from camp, and the unlikely duo finds themselves bonding over a night spent in a broken-down jeep.

Jamie Farr told the Television Academy that Loretta Swit's performance in this fan-favorite episode was the reason Swit won an Emmy that year.

Over Swit's time on M*A*S*H, she was so incredible, she was nominated for an Emmy every year for a decade from 1974-1983, winning twice.

"Loretta as Major Houlihan was absolutely sensational," Farr said.

"She won her Emmy for a show called 'Birthday Girls,'" Farr said. "It's where she and I go off, and I'm driving the jeep and the jeep breaks down, and [we] find out it's her birthday and Klinger has a cupcake with a little candle in it. They become buddies now, all of a sudden. They become friends. They had some nice moments."

M*A*S*H fans know that Swit evolved the character of Margaret Houlihan drastically over the show's many seasons, and many people involved with the show agreed that out of everyone, she took playing the part perhaps the most seriously.

"I don't think people know how hard these people worked," M*A*S*H creator Larry Gelbart told the Television Academy. "Loretta was always just the most hard-working."

It seems like everybody can cite an example. Farr said unlike some starlets whose hair and makeup could delay set start times, Swit was always ready for cameras to roll. M*A*S*H medical consultant Walter Dishell said she was always interested in doing things exactly right to portray her character authentically, as "an excellent nurse that people depended on." Gelbart said he could always count on her to take the material he provided well beyond what even he imagined.

"I wrote her once that I polished the words, but she made them shine," Gelbart said. "She always surprised me. She always found a little something I didn't see in the line that just enhanced it and made it that much better."

Her work on the show demonstrates what can happen when a hard worker is given space to do the best job she can do. "She's a great performer," Harry Morgan chimed in during his Television Academy interview. And perhaps just as important in terms of cast chemistry: "She was fun to work with."

Commanding respect for her professionalism as an actor, endearing herself to cast and crew, and winning awards for giving the show her absolute all, Loretta Swit was clearly one-of-a-kind on a cast that quickly came to see her as one of the guys.

As a veteran actor of TV, Morgan bonded with a lot of costars in his time in Hollywood, but it was Swit who he said ended up moving just four or five houses down the street toward the end of his days.

"Loretta's a dear person," Morgan said. "I love her very much."

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Hogansucks1 10 days ago
“I’m not as think as you drunk I am” LOL. 😂 🙂
Kelley1 11 days ago
She was one reason I once considered being a nurse. But MASH is nothing like real life. It's actually harder than they were able to depict there except for a few episodes, like when the nurses had to turn thespian and play relatives of the dying, and when they couldn't save a patient. Those moments are close. I truly admire those who can hoe that row. They are brave and much stronger than I could ever be. Shout out to those on COVID's front lines. I see you.
teethclenched 11 days ago
Not to take anything away from Ms. Swit, but I can think of one person who worked harder on the series than she. Actor, director, writer...
Wilbur88 11 days ago
She was so sexy. She wore her pants so tight, you could see her "Hot Lips".
oobusdoobus Wilbur88 6 days ago
oh lawdy nobody could fill up a pair of ODs like her. first 5 or 6 seasons were the best, before hollywood dictated that to get work you had to be a 80lb rail with platinum hair. you could tell she started losing weight to compete. look for the fully filled ODs coupled with that khaki button down shirt she wore sometimes. oh boy!! talk about a beauty
1Gopher 12 days ago
She was probably the Best character on MASH! You could tell she put a lot into her performance and made it look easy! You could also tell how much she was involved in her character by knowing what she was actually doing, especially her nursing skills! I can't tell you how many times I have seen each episode and I always find myself laughing, smiling and seeing things I never saw before! Thanks ME TV for ALL the Great shows you play!
Lyssa 12 days ago
Loretta was fantastic on MASH. I couldn't imagine anyone else playing her. The best years were after she got away from Frank and really bonded with everyone else. But even before that she could be great. They said all the time on the show that they were family, and that really came through time and again. Whether they were all trying to knock a superior officer down a few pegs, trying to keep someone from transferring out or coming to the defense of someone being accused/attacked from the army. Like Iron Guts Kelly, Snap Judgement/Snappier Judgement, Potter's Retirement, Are You Now, Margaret, No Laughing Matter, The Gun, and many more. It's one of the main reasons this show is so fantastic.
Wilbur88 Lyssa 11 days ago
She played that part brilliant.
MaryMitch 12 days ago
I liked Margaret - she was good at her job and didn't take any guff. (Hated her hair, though.)
Wilbur88 MaryMitch 11 days ago
Not Military Regulation that's for sure...
oobusdoobus 13 days ago
i preferred earlier Margaret, 3rd and 4th season being my favorite. the later years dramedy all alda all the time reminded me of sanford and son, where fred had to be the hero at the end of every episode. Swit was head and shoulders above all the other 1970s era so called "actresses" in ability and beauty.
KevinButler 13 days ago
I like Ms.Swit's interpretation of"Major Hoolihan"better..when she became a nicer and more caring the later episodes.
F5Twitster 13 days ago
“It seems like everybody can cite an example. Farr said unlike some starlets whose hair and makeup could delay set start times, Swit was always ready for cameras to roll.”

You mean, unlike some ACTRESSES.

wanderer2575 F5Twitster 12 days ago
A lot of them are more starlet than actress. I think he meant exactly what he said.
StrayCat 13 days ago
Originally Swit (Houlihan) was a one dimensional caricature of a character tethered to Frank Burns, another one dimensional character with little redeeming value. It wasn’t until her character began to extricate herself from Burns’ shadow that she began to flower and grow into the profoundly interesting and indispensible character she became.
TheDavBow3 13 days ago
LS made a couple of wonderfull appearances on Mannix. Looked and acted great. A true professional early on.
Wiseguy TheDavBow3 8 days ago
Also a couple of major appearances (1970 and 1972) on Hawaii Five-0 (including a two-parter), although in her first appearance (1969) she was killed off in the first five minutes of the episode (but she did get to have her body viewed by Jack Lord). Also, her acting on a Mission: Impossible (1970) was reported to have left series regular Lesley Warren "in awe."
jaelinsmith40652 14 days ago
That is why I do like watching this show or at least Loretta switt done a nice job.
Andybandit 14 days ago
I like Margaret on Mash. I always wished Frank was not married, and Margaret could of married Frank. I liked them together
Wiseguy Andybandit 8 days ago
Always "could have," never "could of."
Mob39 14 days ago
Loved Frank & Margaret together, too funny! Frank was such a little weasel! Radar with his teddy bear! Didn’t care for the ending when Hawkeye lost his mind On the bus with the chicken/baby episode. Thought it was weird and so not necessary.
oobusdoobus Mob39 13 days ago
you obviously missed the whole point of the show. for all 11 seasons, Hawkeye was slowly going insane. the final episode he finally lost it.
Wilbur88 oobusdoobus 11 days ago
War will do that...
srrainwater 14 days ago
Love the character change in Hot Lips. But I will admit the best episodes were the first three seasons
Wiseguy srrainwater 8 days ago
Disagree. I prefer the second three years before the entire series started disintegrating the same time as BJ grew a moustache. Hard to imagine them doing episodes such as "Deluge," (with the FOX Newsreels), "The Interview," (in B&W) and "Hawkeye" (only Alan Alda) in the first three years.
There were some good episodes in the last five years but the focus and writing were so different it seems they would have turned out better if they had been done earlier.
WordsmithWorks 14 days ago
This read a little like a memorial (obviously just limited to M*A*S*H*). I had to google to make sure I didn't miss any news -- thank goodness I didn't. Loved the Frank's mistress years. The Mrs. Penobscott storyline was a bit annoying. Liked the divorce-era Margaret. They lost me after she became buddies with Hawkeye and company. I think they all were better as quasi-nemeses. Favorite Margaret episode was "The Nurses" although you never saw any of those nurse characters again. "Did you ever once offer me a lousy cup of coffee?"
Wilbur88 WordsmithWorks 11 days ago
That was her best acting for sure.
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