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Major Margaret J. "Hot Lips" Houlihan is a fictional character first created in the book M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker. Actress Sally Kellerman portrayed the character in the Robert Altman film adaptation (where she is sometimes referred to as O'Houlihan). Houlihan was later portrayed by Loretta Swit in the long-running television series.

The character of "Hotlips Houlihan" was inspired by real-life Korean War MASH head nurse Hotlips Hammerly, also a very attractive blonde, of the same disposition, and also from El Pasomarker, Texasmarker.

Position

Major Houlihan is a member of the Army Nurse Corps and in charge of all the nurses at the MASH 4077 unit. She is devoted to her Army career, having been born into the tradition.

Her father, Colonel Alvin "Howitzer Al" Houlihan, was her role model for her career. Little is said about her parents' marriage, with the exception of their wedding night; two different episodes tell that on their wedding night, each gave gifts to each other—her mother received a whiskey flask and her father received a pearl handled pistol about as big as a cigarette lighter. Both parents are divorced and the mother is an alcoholic/kleptomaniac. In episode 3.16, Margaret states she has a younger sister who—engaged to be married—was "only" a Captain. As an army brat, she was born in an Army hospital and grew up on Army bases, most notably Fort Ord. In episode 10.12, stranded with Klinger on her birthday, she confesses that she envies Klinger for having something she never had-a hometown. In 4.3, she has been in the service 10 years, and thus, presumably, was in World War II. She is also a hidden alcoholic (3.9) and not only became roaring drunk on three occasions, but showed up in the operating room drunk as well. In episode 9.15, however, when she tried to console a friend with alcohol problems, she presumably recognized her own problem. She does have a gift for learning to speak the Korean language. Despite the fact that all three of her MASH relationships with men end in disaster--Frank Burns, Donald Penobscot, Jack Scully—she does confess to Hawkeye that one day she hopes to find the right man to stay with (8.14). She can be kind and considerate to children and dogs, is lucky at bingo games and winning at baby "gambling" pools, has a fear of loud noises, her favorite song is The Army Goes Rolling Along, and is an expert bowler. In episode 10.19, Sherman Potter's latent chauvinism towards Houlihan of bowling against men nearly results in MASH 4077 having a Charlie Brown "record of losing" every competition game against the USMC.

Relationship with others

Margaret can be very strict and deplores anyone who does not live up to her standard of military discipline, but she also displays her passionate side, especially in the early days of the series in her relationship with Frank Burns. This eventually ran its course and Margaret became engaged to, and later married, Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscot (which precipitated Frank's nervous breakdown and departure). Colonel Potter, and even Hawkeye and BJ feared she was making a mistake, caught up in the euphoria of being too happy and of being in love with the idea of being in love. In the end, they were right as the marriage did not last very long, as Donald mistreated and cheated on her.

After her divorce from Penobscot, Margaret had occasional affairs with other men including a U.N. representative from Sweden, a reporter from Stars & Stripes who had come to camp to do a story on Major Winchester, and more notably two brief encounters with Sergeant (later Private) Jack Scully, but that did not last very long either as he tended to come on a little too strong. She initially admired Major Winchester and his skill as a surgeon, and, early on, it appeared the feeling was mutual as Winchester made several overtures to her for a dating relationship. However, the chemistry between the two was not there, and Margaret and Charles maintained a platonic relationship through the rest of the series, as they both shared an interest in romantic poetry.

In early seasons of the television show, it was shown that Margaret had a crush on Captain Trapper John McIntyre, professing how attractive she found his crooked smile and sturdy frame. She also had a brief relationship with Hawkeye Pierce, whose talent for kissing often left her speechless. In the later seasons, the two developed a close friendship and seemed to be developing feelings for each other, but kept their relationship mostly platonic. In the show's final episode, Houlihan and Pierce bid farewell to each other with a prolonged, passionate, open-mouthed kiss.

Hot Lips spent the early part of the series battling Hawkeye and Trapper alongside Frank and, additionally, criticizing Lt. Col. Henry Blake for his lack of authority when she wasn't busy going over his head, filing formal complaints. Many early jokes on the show were at her expense. While she didn't seem to hate Henry as an individual, she once described him as a "golf playing figurehead" and later, a "fly-fishing impostor." She also referred to him as "Col. Bubble-Head." Henry generally let her criticisms roll off his back, but at one point, he mocked Hot Lips by saying that she'd gone over his head so many times she'd given him "athlete's scalp." Even so, she and Frank both wept for Henry when they heard of his death. By contrast, she got along exceptionally well with Blake's replacement, Colonel Sherman T. Potter (regular army himself), who became something of a father figure to her.

Margaret's relationship with Frank Burns exhausted itself when in one episode Frank's wife wrote a letter demanding a divorce after hearing rumors about him and Margaret from a homecoming GI. Frank immediately called his wife to reconcile and referred to Margaret as a "war-horse" and an "Army mule with bosoms" all the while with Margaret listening in and then blew-up on him. At this point, her character began to take more of a serious tone. In especially the last five seasons, her moniker of "Hot Lips" was used less and less frequently to the point of not being used at all. The last instance of the name occurred in Season 8 during Radar O'Reilly's last day, when Margaret planted a kiss on him in Post-Op, to which he replied to Winchester, "Wow, hot lips!"

She was almost branded as a "communist sympathizer" by legislative aide, R.T. Williamson (Lawrence Pressman). He branded her as such due to a long-ago relationship with Walter Philip Creighton, a college boy she dated while she was a student nurse. The vicious smear by Williamson incurred the wrath of everyone in the 4077th, who knew Margaret to be a loyal and patriotic American. Colonel Potter outright condemned the charges pressed by Williamson as a "busload of bushwah!"

With the help of Hawkeye, B. J.; Charles; and Corporal Klinger, the 4077th unveiled Williamson as the malicious troublemaker that he really was, using photographs of his so-called "fact finding mission" that Klinger had taken, which were used as blackmail. Klinger and the doctors would have had the pictures mailed to his wife, which would have been, in Hawkeye's words, suitable for hanging!

Margaret developed a reputation of getting physically defensive with some of the men around her that either took advantage of her or just rubbed her the wrong way. She punched Frank Burns in the chin, decked a helicopter pilot in the officer's club and an enlisted man in Rosie's Bar. Usually after punching them, she would walk away and do a lady-like gesture of fixing her hair or collar. Col. Potter, at one point, scolded her telling to "stop getting bombed and beating-up our officers".

Interestingly enough, Margaret, Blake and Burns were the only major characters on the show who were never featured in a "letter home" episode.

Changes

Over the run of the show, Margaret mellowed from a completely "by-the-book" head nurse (who was also not above using her romantic contacts with superior officers in attempts to get her way), to a more relaxed member of the cast who tempered her authority with humanity. Key episodes in this development were "The Nurses", in which Margaret gave an emotional tirade to her nurses about how their disdain of her hurt her and thus stuns them, and "Comrades In Arms", where Hawkeye and Margaret make peace once and for all while lost in the wilderness. When the show ended, Margaret was on her way back to the US to take up a position in an Army hospital. Not coincidentally, the change for her character came when Linda Bloodworth-Thomason joined the show's writing team. The last time she took a hardline stance with one of her nurses was in Episode 8.7, "Nurse Doctor", where she tells nurse Gail Harris, "If you think I was tough on you before you're in for 7 weeks of 'You ain't seen nothing yet'. If you even think of stepping out of line your butt will be tattooed with my boots." Unlike some other times, this chewing out was deserved and immediately after it Margaret offered to help Gail with her medical studies.

There have also been criticisms that the then contemporary second-wave feminist views she held in latter seasons were a glaring anachronism in the show's early 1950s setting.

Rear

The most noticeable of her physical feminine attributes among her male counterparts was her well-shaped, voluptuous buttocks housed in very tight Army pants and was often the subject of jokes. One had Hawkeye needing to give her an inoculation shot. When he saw her bare buttocks, he exclaimed, "Magnificent!" Another was when a rash of practical jokes was sweeping through the camp, including an unknowing Margaret parading around the camp in her bathrobe with the seat cut out, resulting in several whistles, howls and a marriage proposal. (It was revealed later in the episode that Margaret made up the incident as part of B.J.'s elaborate practical joke on Hawkeye.) When climbing into a jeep for a camp picture taken by Hawkeye, Margaret instructs Hawkeye "Be sure you get my best side." Hawkeye nods and gives her a pat on the seat of the pants. When bending over in the OR, Hawkeye cracked "Ever thought of leaving your behind to science?"

Subsequent development

In the series of novels co-written with (or ghosted by) William E. Butterworth, Houlihan reappears as the twice-widowed Margaret Houlihan Wachauf Wilson, both husbands having expired untimely on the nuptial couch through over-strain caused by excessive indulgence in her still-outstanding physical charms. Her career has taken a new direction as the Reverend head of the "God Is Love In All Forms Christian Church, Incorporated", a cult or sect with the unusual distinction that its entire congregation consists of homosexual men. Most of these are extremely flamboyant and the Reverend Mother herself is conspicuously glitzy and glittery. However, it appears that Margaret genuinely cares for her flock and is not merely shaking them down in pursuit of material gain.

Nickname

The name "Hot Lips" originates from an infamous scene in M*A*S*H, the movie, in which Margaret Houlihan is played by Sally Kellerman. During sex with Frank Burns, Margaret is initially unaware that the public address microphone has been planted beneath their cot, broadcasting graphic details of their rendezvous throughout the camp on its public address system. Other members of the camp overhear her saying to Frank "kiss my hot lips."

The origin of the nickname is different in the television series. At the beginning of the pilot episode, the nickname has already been established in Margaret's past, though it is apparently unknown to members of the 4077th. In the second half of the episode, a visiting general spots Margaret, and happily exclaims, "Hot Lips!", leading Trapper and Hawkeye to glance at each other and exclaim, "Hot Lips!?", even though Hawkeye refers to Margaret as "Hot Lips" once before this happens, when Margaret is looking for the missing Frank Burns; though Hawkeye and trapper's tone gives the impression that it was mere coincidence.

This nickname was used in the earlier seasons of the TV series, but less and less as time went on due to the growing respect for her in the eyes of the audience.

Decorations

Several times throughout the series, the awards that Major Houlihan had earned during her service in the Army could be seen on her uniform. She had earned the:



As a World War II veteran she would also have the World War II Victory Medal. It is unknown what additional World War II decorations she would have been entitled to, as there are no details of her World War II service-except that she joined in 1942 (1952-10=1942) -presumably after graduating from nursing college.

References



External links




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