Loretta Swit

Actress


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her four-hour Archive interview, Loretta Swit describes her early years as an actress, breaking into theater and television in New York and her later move to Los Angeles. She discusses getting the role of "Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan" on the acclaimed series M*A*S*H, which she played for the entirety of the series eleven-season run. She talks in detail about the evolution of her character, discusses landmark episodes, and vividly recounts what it was like working with the series ensemble. She describes her many other appearances on television in guest roles on series and in such television movies as Cagney & Lacey (for which she originated the role of "Christine Cagney") and Games Mother Never Taught You, about a woman who becomes the only female executive in a large firm. She also talks about some of her feature films including her work with Blake Edwards on his movie S.O.B. Gary Rutkowski conducted the interview on August 13, 2004 in Beverly Hills, CA.

"('Major Houlihan') was unique at that time and in her time, which was the 50's when it was really happening. She became even more unique I think because we allowed her to continue to grow - we watched her evolve. I don't think that's ever been done in quite that way, on what was labeled a 'sitcom' because other was no other word for it. I never think of it as a sitcom. If there was a category it was, but we had to be put somewhere so we were called a comedy."

Highlights
Loretta Swit on her M.A.S.H character "Margaret Houlihan": "the best damn nurse" and on her character's relationship with "Frank Burns"
Loretta Swit on women's role in wartime
Loretta Swit on the M.A.S.H episode "Comrades in Arms," written by Alan Alda in which the relationship between "Hawkeye "and "Major Houlihan" takes a dramatic turn 
02:36
Loretta Swit on the legacy of M.A.S.H
Loretta Swit on her television debut on Captain Kangaroo and working with Bob Keeshan
01:47
Loretta Swit on the M.A.S.H episode "Dreams," written by Alan Alda
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On how she became involved in acting; on her studies at the American Academy; on method acting under her teacher Gene Frankel
On the first time she saw television; on watching and later appearing on Captain Kangaroo; on her early commercial work
On landing a role on Gunsmoke at CBS

Chapter 2

On getting the role of "Margaret Houlihan" on M.A.S.H even though her previous work was dramatic acting, not comedy
On her M.A.S.H character "Margaret Houlihan": "the best damn nurse"; on her character's relationship with "Frank Burns"

Chapter 3

On the M.A.S.H episodes "Dreams" and "Comrades in Arms," both written by Alan Alda
On the impact of Larry Gelbart leaving M.A.S.H; on other changes in the cast of characters on the series; on the reaction to characters being killed off on the show
On the filming of the last episode of M.A.S.H, "Time Capsule" and the filming of the finale "Goodbye, Farewell, Amen"; on the legacy of the show

Chapter 4

On how unique M.A.S.H was to television 
On her variety show appearances 
On being offered the role of "Christine Cagney" on Cagney and Lacey; on playing the character in the television movie version; on pushing for Tyne Daly to get the role in the series; on her research for the role
On her feature film roles in "S.O.B," "Games Mother Never Taught You," and "Miracle at Moreaux"; on the television show A Killer Among Friends with Patty Duke

Chapter 5

On researching for a role; on appearing on Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury
On her proudest career achievement; on her advice to aspiring actors; on how she'd like to be remembered
Shows

Cagney & Lacey

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Loretta Swit on being offered the role of "Christine Cagney" on Cagney and Lacey and playing the character in the television film version; on pushing for Tyne Daly to get the role in the series
Loretta Swit on researching for the role of "Christine Cagney" in the original television film version of Cagney & Lacey; on the policewoman she modeled her role after
Loretta Swit on the censorship issues around the character of "Christine Cagney"

Captain Kangaroo

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Loretta Swit on her television debut on Captain Kangaroo and working with Bob Keeshan
01:47

Killer Among Friends, A

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Loretta Swit on A Killer Among Friends with Patty Duke

M*A*S*H

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Loretta Swit on how she landed the role of "Margaret Houlihan" on M.A.S.H - she was worried they would pass on her because she didn't have any comedy experience
Loretta Swit on filming the pilot of M.A.S.H
Loretta Swit on her M.A.S.H character "Margaret Houlihan": "the best damn nurse" and on her character's relationship with "Frank Burns"
Loretta Swit on women's role in wartime as portrayed on M.A.S.H
Loretta Swit on the M.A.S.H episode "The Nurses," directed by Joan Darling
Loretta Swit on the M.A.S.H episode "Dreams," written by Alan Alda
Loretta Swit on the M.A.S.H episode "Comrades in Arms," written by Alan Alda in which the relationship between "Hawkeye "and "Major Houlihan" takes a dramatic turn 
02:36
Loretta Swit on MacLean Stevenson leaving M.A.S.H and Harry Morgan joining the cast
Loretta Swit on McLean Stevenson's character being killed in the M.A.S.H series and the audience's reaction; on the opportunity for the show to express "war is hell"
Loretta Swit on the filming of the last episode of M.A.S.H, "Time Capsule"
Loretta Swit on the legacy of M.A.S.H

Murder, She Wrote

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Loretta Swit on appearing on Murder, She Wrote  with Angela Lansbury
Topics

Korean War

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Loretta Swit on women's role in wartime
Professions

Actress

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Loretta Swit on preparing for her role on M.A.S.H as a nurse
People

Larry Gelbart

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Loretta Swit on working with Larry Gelbart on M.A.S.H and after he left the series

Bob Keeshan

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Loretta Swit on her television debut on Captain Kangaroo and working with Bob Keeshan
00:33

Harry Morgan

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Loretta Swit on McLean Stevenson leaving M.A.S.H  and Harry Morgan joining the cast

McLean Stevenson

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Loretta Swit on McLean Stevenson leaving M.A.S.H and Harry Morgan joining the cast

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