Loretta Swit (born Loretta Jane Swit on November 4, 1937 in Passaic, NJ) is an American Actress and Singer. She is best known to TV audiences for her role as Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on the classic CBS sitcom M*A*S*H from 1972-1983. She has appeared as a celebrity guest on the $10,000, $20,000, and $25,000 adaptations of the Pyramid Game Show.
Born in Passaic, New Jersey, of Polish descent to parents were Lester and Nellie Szwed. Swit studied with Gene Frankel in Manhattan in New York City and considered him her acting coach. She regularly returned to his studio to speak with aspiring actors throughout her career. Swit is also a singer, trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts prior to entering the theater. She graduated from Pope Pius XII High School in Passaic in 1955. In 1957, she graduated from Katharine Gibbs School in Montclair in June, then was employed as a stenographer in Bloomfield.
In the late 1960s, Loretta toured with the national company of Any Wednesday, starring Gardner McKay and continued as one of the Pigeon sisters opposite Don Rickles and Ernest Borgnine in a Los Angeles run of The Odd Couple.
In 1969, she arrived in Los Angeles and quickly landed guest starring roles on various television series including Hawaii Five-O (her first TV credit), Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible, and Mannix.
But it wasn't until 1972 when she would land her most notable role to TV audiences: tough-talking-but-sassy Head Nurse Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on the TV adaptation of M*A*S*H, debuting on September 17, 1972 on CBS. inheriting the star-making role from actress Sally Kellerman, who portrayed Maj. Margaret Houlihan in the feature film version back in 1970. Loretta was one of four cast members to remain for the entire 11-year run of the show, from 1972 to 1983 (the others being Alan Alda, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher).
She and Alda were also the only actors to have appeared in both the pilot episode and the finale; she appeared in all but 11 of the 256 episodes of the series. Playing the role of Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan has won Swit two Emmy Awards in 1980 and 1982. Later, she was also the first M*A*S*H star to visit South Korea, when she narrated the documentary Korea, the Forgotten War.
In 1981, during a hiatus period from M*A*S*H, Loretta played the character role of Christine Cagney in the TV movie pilot for the television series Cagney & Lacey, but she was precluded by contractual obligations from continuing the role as the character of Christine Cagney was first portrayed by actress Meg Foster for the first six episodes then Sharon Gless for the remainder of the series run. Years later, Loretta admitted in an interview that she indeed wanted to part ways with M*A*S*H and that she would've left to do the Cagney & Lacey series but CBS refused to release her from her contract.
Some of Swit's other TV appearances include guest starring roles on The Love Boat, Diagnosis Murder, and Murder She Wrote. She has also spent time in the Game Show world, she has appeared as a celebrity guest on The $10,000 Pyramid, The $20,000 Pyramid, and The $25,000 Pyramid with host Bill Cullen. Loretta also appeared as a celebrity panelist on the game shows Match Game, Win Lose or Draw, and Hollywood Squares.
She has only married once. In 1983, she married actor Dennis Holahan and divorced in 1995. Holahan played Per Johannsen, a Swedish diplomat who became briefly involved with Swit's character in an episode of M*A*S*H. Loretta has never remarried and has no children.
She is also a very strong advocate for animals and animal rights, donating much of her time to animal-related causes.