Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘M*A*S*H’: How McLean Stevenson Helped Loretta Swit Navigate the ‘Boys’ Club’ on Set

‘M*A*S*H’: How McLean Stevenson Helped Loretta Swit Navigate the ‘Boys’ Club’ on Set

During her time on M*A*S*H, Loretta Swit did her part to help advance the cause of women on the show itself. It’s kind of funny that Swit, who played Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, was sometimes dismissed by men on the set. Why? Because she’s a woman.

Yet that didn’t stop Swit from trying to make suggestions about her character on the show. Little did she know that a fellow male cast member would be on her side. “I went through a period in my first three years on the show when I would try to make suggestions about my character,” Swit said, according to MeTV. “Everyone appeared to be listening, but it was more of a ‘Thank you—next.’”

All of that changed, though. In a script reading session, Swit found herself supported by one of her co-stars on the show.

“I’ll never forget something McLean Stevenson did,” she said of the Col. Henry Blake actor. “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?”

Loretta Swit Character Grows Up On ‘M*A*S*H’

Swit continued onward on M*A*S*H, staying on there through the show’s final episode. As the show continued to look at some serious problems for soldiers in war zones, Swit’s character grew up, too. Margaret’s shenanigans she’d pull to help Major Frank Burns, played by Larry Linville, ultimately faded away. She became more responsible in her personal life, even getting married.

Yet, Margaret also showed off the difficulties when it came to relationships. Her marriage did not last, so we get to see how she adapts. M*A*S*H, in its later seasons, veered away from the slapstick silliness when it debuted on CBS. The show, too, took on a more adult look and feel.

For his part, Stevenson helped Swit out in a pinch. Yet he started to get itchy feet and wanted to star in his own show. NBC offered him that spot with Hello, Larry, which was not a ratings hit. Stevenson played Blake wonderfully and could have been on M*A*S*H for a long time.

Seeing him leave probably wasn’t a happy moment for Swit. She saw an advocate taking off from one show for potential stardom. M*A*S*H wrote Stevenson out of the show for good. He’d never return to the 4077th, but fans could watch him forever in reruns.