R.I.P. Sally Kellerman, the original Hot Lips in the M*A*S*H film

She also played an important role in the second Star Trek pilot. She was 84 years old.

The Everett Collection

Acclaimed actress Sally Kellerman, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan in the Robert Altman film M*A*S*H, has passed away.

While the actress is best remembered for her turn as the no-nonsense major, her career started where no man has gone before. For many, the image of Kellerman is in the second pilot episode of Star Trek, titled "Where No Man Has Gone Before." The image of Kellerman with glowing eyes as she is filled with godlike power is one that lingers in the mind of every TOS fan.

Kellerman in the Star Trek pilot


She picked up a few more guest-starring roles on TV, but her major breakthrough came in 1970 when she was cast in Robert Altman's Korean war drama, M*A*S*H.

However, the role almost fell into obscurity. In fact, when Kellerman received her script, Hot Lips only had four lines.

She burst into tears upon seeing the script. Once the tears faded, she got angry — angry enough to call her agent and tell them to instruct Altman to "go jump in a lake." When Altman returned her call, he assured her that she could beef up the character with improvised scenes during filming.

The expanded role turned out to be magic, and it earned Kellerman a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 1971 Oscars. She worked steadily, landing movie roles for the next few years until she ended up in the second movie for which she would become famous: the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School. 

In Back to School, Kellerman plays Dr. Diane Turner, the literary professor and love interest to Rodney Dangerfield's obnoxious lead.

Kellerman noted that when fans recognized her on the street, they would usually call out "Hey, Hot Lips!" in reference to M*A*S*H or "Call me sometime when you got no class!" from Back to School.

"I'd be lying if I said it doesn’t push a button or two every time someone calls me Hot Lips," Kellerman wrote in her memoir Read My Lips. "I've been working for more than fifty years and made at least fifty movies, but for better or worse, I'm most notably remembered as Hot Lips Houlihan."

However, as time went on, Kellerman embraced being known as the iconic major. "Recently, as I walked through New York City, a truck driver leaned out the window and yelled, 'Hey, Hot Lips!' That put a big, crooked smile on my face."

The actress was 84 years old.

Watch M*A*S*H on MeTV!

One Full Hour

This Week at 7 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

27 Comments

Post a comment
MickyFig 4 months ago
One of my absolute favorite and memorable roles of Sally Kellerman was in the original The Outer Limits series episode in 1964, "The Bellero Shield", with Martin Landau.
Such a fine, gifted and talented actress, she will be always be missed.
Matsui 4 months ago
RIP Sally Kellerman. Remember her in M*A*S*H (1970), Brewster Macloud (1970), and Back to School (1986).
Kenner 9 months ago
R.I.P. Sally! She was on 2 episodes (1964) of 12 O’clock High. And was great in those. METV used to run 12 O’clock High…Was on early Saturday mornings with Combat! about 8 or 9 years ago.
Snickers Kenner 4 months ago
Combat and 12 O'clock High air on H&I T.V on Saturday nights.
PDCougar 9 months ago
3 other interesting things about Sally Kellerman:
- She was in a 1998 episode of "Diagnosis Murder" in which she shared scenes with the TV Margaret Houlihan, Loretta Swit. That episode involved guest stars from 4 incarnations of "M*A*S*H" (the movie, the TV series, "AfterMASH" and even "Trapper John, M.D.").
- In an inverse of her "M*A*S*H" character, she also played the movie version of a character that was previously introduced on TV -- Natasha (of "Rocky and Bullwinkle") in the live-action "Boris and Natasha."
- Kellerman was scheduled as one of the guests at the 50th anniversary "Star Trek" convention in Las Vegas that was held the first week of August 2016. However, her husband suddenly died a few days before the convention (Aug. 1). Sometime on the 1st day of the convention, the main emcee of the event (and co-owner of the convention) announced to the crowd without further explanation that Sally Kellerman would not be there that week ... but he was then corrected by someone who informed him that Sally was actually at that very moment in the autograph room. She had come to the convention anyway, despite the personal tragedy that had just happened to her.
Grizz 9 months ago
The original One and only hot lips she was absolutely beautiful and sexy those eyes and that incredible smile. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing her in the original mash. Without going into to much detail as kid watching her in Star Trek my friends and I "Trekkies" thinking then she's hot...well then mash
😲. Rest in Peace lovely one besides obvious beauty you were an incredible actress both modern and classical.
kidhickey 9 months ago
Sally Kellerman , There was a Famous Movie that Glen Close Starred in Called Fatal Attraction , few years before that one , there was another movie with the same title that Starred Sally Kellerman , it was some what different story line , the woman in this which was Kellerman part was playing was going with a man , that was a little off in the head , he would talk the woman into marriage , and then leave her by not showing up to get married , but would never leave her alone either , so the ending is how the title of he movie comes about , as she was fleeing away from this mad man , she driving fast in a car , and he followed her in a car , and her knowing that he would never stop chasing her , turns the car around to go back at him at very high speed toward him to end both their lives , and that is what is met by the Title of Fatal Attraction for this Movie , that final seen was stop before the crash and there the movie ended , she was a very talented actor , and very good in that MASS movie as Hot Lips .An the Most remember seen was when she taking a shower , they had part of the tent fall to know her true hair color LOL .
WF 9 months ago
She was memorably (at least to me) the Guardian Angel of sorts in "Brewster McCloud". It was hinted at that she was some sort of Fallen Angel (scars where wings would have been on her back). No one ever seems to remember that movie. But I agree with MarkSpeck: what a sexy voice!
jacko3 9 months ago
Sally Kellerman, certainly was a fine actress .. GOD Rest her Soul and Legacy ... Amen - Alleluia!
denny 9 months ago
I remember her mainly from MASH and Back to School.

RIP Sally
Catman denny 9 months ago
As Rodney Dangerfield said to her "Why don't you call me when you have no class?"
She was great in that flick!
kb7rky 9 months ago
I'll always remember her best as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. May she rest well.
MarkSpeck 9 months ago
I'm hearing her voice in my head right now, saying 'Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing'...I don't think anyone else could make an unsexy product sound so sexy. RIP, Sally... :(
I am sad to hear about Sally
Kellerman passing away.
I am sad anytime actors and
actresses pass away including:
Dawn Wells(Mary Ann Summers)
Roy Stuart (Corporal Boyle (
Tommy Leonetti (Cpl Nick Cuccinelli)
Russell Johnson (Professor Roy Hinkley)
Al Molinaro (Al Delvecchio)
Gavan O Herlihy (Chuck Cunningham (.Eddie Cantor
Joe Penner
Howard Hesseman
Captain Kangaroo(Bob Keeshan)
Clayton Moore
Andy Griffith(Andy Taylor)
William Lantau(Ed Sawyer)
Doug Robinson(Doug on ALICE)
Radio Talk Show Host Rush Limbaugh
Garry Marshall
Beatrice Colen(Marsha Simms)
George Lindsey(Goober Pyle)
RIP To As of the actors and actresses
That I mentioned and Rest In Peace
To ALL Actors and Actresses that I
Did not mention and list.
TheDavBow3 9 months ago
Very sad to hear. She was also great in The Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis. R.I.P.
Sway 9 months ago
RIP Sally Kellerman. Fine actress and that smooth voice.
Peter_Falk_Fan 9 months ago
I was sad when I read about her death last night. I always liked her in the "Star Trek: TOS" episode 'Where No Man Has Gone Before', and the "Columbo" episode 'Ashes to Ashes'. Very good actress.

R.I.P. Sally Kellerman
LoveMETV22 9 months ago
R.I.P. Sally Kellerman. Thank You for all the contributions you made to Film and Television.
Load previous comments
Aside from Svengoolie on Saturday nights MeTV does not show movies as part of their program format anymore.
Not 100% sure but I think 20th Century Fox currently owns the distribution rights to
MASH (1970) the film. MeTV sometimes broadcasts Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (1983)
on Veterans Day. According to IMDb, Alan Alda and Loretta Swit appeared in 251 episodes.
Since Benjamin Franklin Pierce is his actual character name ("Hawkeye" is used as an informal nickname), one theory is Hawkeye is named after a character in The Last of the Mohicans.
As the B.F.Pierce name could also be theorized, a Google search should provide you with the answers you are seeking.
PDCougar LoveMETV22 9 months ago
Alan Alda was the only person to appear in every "M*A*S*H" episode, as he was the only regular cast member in the episode that was titled "Hawkeye." The character also said in another episode that he got his nickname from "Last of the Mohicans", which Pierce claimed was the only book his father ever read.
LoveMETV22 PDCougar 9 months ago
You're correct. Looks like IMDb considers (credit only) in their episode count. Thank you for the add.
That was the name his Father gave him... It was his favorite character from the book Last Of The Mohicans.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?