Life after “MAS*H” did not slow down for cast regular and talented actress Loretta Swit after the show ended in 1983.
Swit played Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan kept acting while branching out into writing books and promoting animal activism.
Though the war drama-comedy helped make Swit a national name, she never really achieved the same kind of success again. I mean, she was involved in only the most-watched American programs — and the most-watched scripted show — of all time.
But she was determined to keep working as the website Best Life recounted recently.
Swit, now 84, last played Mrs. Kincaid in the 2019 “Play The Flute” with former “Love Boat” star Fred Grandy and child TV star Clint Howard. But the star was acting in the play “Middletown” in November and December in Coral Gables, Florida.
“M*A*S*H” Star Started Working at Age 7
Yes, the New Jersey-born actress started on the stage.
She trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (she graduated in 1959) and toured a few stage productions. One notable one was as a scene-stealing “Pigeon sister” opposite Don Rickles and Ernest Borgnine in an LA production of “The Odd Couple.”
She went on to the small screen with minor roles on “Love Boat,” “Gunsmoke,” “Hawaii Five-O,” and “Bonanza” before finding success on “M*A*S*H.”
Swit even earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6240 Hollywood Blvd.
Life On ‘M*A*S*H’ Was Life-Changing
Swit, who played Houlihan, was the show’s only woman lead, and throughout the show, her character changed from feared nurse leader to friend and ally.
She told the Toronto Star in 2010 that the men on the show saw as “episodic,” but she wanted “room for growth” on the long-running show. Swit said, “Of all the places you’d be inclined to grow, I certainly think somewhere you’re in danger every day, and healing people every day would be just the right place.”
After “M*A*S*H,” she found roles on “Murder She Wrote” and “Diagnosis Murder.”
One of my favorite TV movies around the holiday season is “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” where Swit played mom Grace Bradley. The mom must take over a Christmas pageant and work with a small family of misfit children. Bradley does all that while keeping everyone in the Christmas spirit.
Since the show, she set up an animal charity named SwitHeart Animal Alliance. She explained she set it up on her website to prevent cruelty and end animal suffering. Her foundation works with other nonprofit groups and programs to care for animals while protecting their habitats.
Swit’s also got two books under her belt.
She wrote “Needlepoint Scrapbook,” a book of needlepoint designs released in 1986. Years later, in 2017, she put together a book of her watercolor paintings of animals called “SwitHeart: The Watercolour Artistry & Animal Activism of Loretta Swit. The book sales went to benefit animal charities.