Loretta Swit on the M*A*S*H boys' club

It's hard to feel heard when you're the only woman around.

M*A*S*H, like war, had a lot of dudes in it. Like, a lot of dudes. The "M" in M*A*S*H might as well stand for "Men." The credits sequence reads like a roll call of guys, especially with all the writers and producers being of the male persuasion as well.

But through it all, there was a beacon on M*A*S*H, a shining light of femininity emanating from the 4077th. Her name, of course, was Loretta Swit, the actress who brought the world Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan. While M*A*S*H undeniably made her a star, the production wasn't all wine and roses, especially for one of the very few women on set. Swit detailed those early difficulties in a 1982 interview with The Journal News.

"I went through a period in my first three years on the show when I would try to make suggestions about my character. Everyone appeared to be listening, but it was more of a "Thank you—next.'"

That kind of dismissal can be super dispiriting in a professional setting. Even if it wasn't necessarily done with malice, nobody likes being spoken over. Nobody likes having their ideas shrugged away like that.

Luckily for Loretta, she had an advocate on set.

"I'll never forget something McLean Stevenson did. I made a suggestion at the rehearsal table one day. One of the producers said no, he didn't think that would work. So 10 minutes later, McLean made the same suggestion, but in a deeper voice—which of course meant he got more respect. The same producer said it was a terrific idea. And McLean said, 'Why didn't' you think so when Loretta said the same thing 10 minutes ago?"

It's nice to know that there was someone standing up for our favorite Major on M*A*S*H.

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5 Comments

WGH 7 months ago
Loretta Swit was hired for one reason. She looked a lot like the lady that played hot lips in the movie. Even sounded a little like Sally Kellerman.

She wasn't hired because she was a great actress, or had experience writing, or anything else. She was hired because she looked like sally, sounded a little like sally, and had a great little body.

She needs to get over herself
harlow1313 7 months ago
Perhaps my least favorite moment in the show's run is when Trapper and Houlihan are trapped in a supply room, and the audience is meant to believe that Trapper is overwhelmingly sexy.
sagafrat69 7 months ago
MASH was such a sexist show in those early years. I don't see how it would've made it to air on present day t.v. Hawk asking the nurse if she wanted to play "doctor" after the operation. That's just Hawk being good 'ol Hawk. And lets not mention the pilot! Nurses were just playtoys for the doctors pleasure. The show was written primarily by men with a cast primarily of men. Can't imagine how Swit survived 11 seasons. She has my respect.
WGH sagafrat69 7 months ago
I'm a doctor. God invented nurses so doctors wouldn't have to go to singles bars. That's pretty much the way it still is. Nurses looking to marry a doctor so they don't have to do shit work anymore.
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