As befits the character she played, “MAS*H” star Loretta Swit is not shy about claiming credit where it’s due.
The actress and artist spoke with Fox News upon the release of her book of artwork, “Switheart,” in 2017. Proceeds from the book go to foundations devoted to ending animal cruelty.
And Swit revealed then that back in the day, she had hatched the idea for a major plotline about Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan.
‘M*A*S*H’ Stars Worked Collaboratively with Show’s Writers
Swit said she’s proud to have developed Houlihan from being the “other woman” with married doctor Frank Burns to a liberated feminist, and she hopes Houlihan served as a role model for girls.
“I had everything to do with making her that,” Swit explained. “We worked hand in hand with those writers.”
During a hiatus in the show, Swit was performing in a Broadway play, and she phoned in to a conference call with the writers. They got to talking about Houlihan’s future. So then the writers asked Swit what she saw happening to Houlihan from there.
“I told them, I thought the relationship with Frank Burns had reached a point of no return and that they were writing her brighter,” Swit said. “He was not a good doctor and she was in awe of the expertise of the other doctors and she was such a good nurse. He was married. It was a flawed relationship which demeaned her and it could not continue.”
“I had the idea that she would go on R&R to Tokyo and she would meet someone who had a higher rank than Frank who was single and available and she would fall in love and get engaged and married,” Swit recounted. “My producer said, ‘And then what?’ So I said, ‘Then she finds out he was cheating on her and they get divorced.’ And she gets back into town single and liberated knowing that her work was very fulfilling and she didn’t necessarily need a partner in life to fulfill herself. She was doing a good job and it filled her with self-respect and honor and she became a bigger person on her own rather than either in a demeaning relationship or one that was disloyal. For Margaret it was a tremendous growing process.”
Houlihan Was ‘A Raging Feminist,’ Swit Says
Swit said she still gets letters from people who claim they became nurses after watching Maj. Houlihan in action on “M*A*S*H.” And she’s proud to have served as an inspiration to so many young women.
“She was a raging feminist,” Swit gleefully told Fox News, “working in a man’s world and being her own person. Being strong and having integrity.”
Moreover, Swit confirmed the show’s antiwar ethos, saying that while people sometimes confused the Korean War (when the show took place) with the Vietnam War (when it aired), the underlying message was the same.
“Our reply was always the same,” Swit said. “‘It doesn’t matter. War is wrong. It’s hell. It’s ugly. Let’s stop doing it.’ So it didn’t matter.”
And the show’s stars have stayed in touch even after all these years. Swit said they knew from the beginning they were on to something special. Even so, it’s remarkable that the camaraderie on set has extended decades beyond when the show went off the air.