There are, for those of us who’ve watched a lot of the show, little markers about whether it’s our preferred era of M*A*S*H. Which colonel. Which major. Radar or no Radar. Various other bits and pieces. And, always, whether Margaret is called Hot Lips or not. As the show went on, they phased the nickname out; by the end of the series, it was gone entirely. By halfway through, it was used only sparingly. It seems, in fact, to have been used relative to how much respect her character was given. The difference between her and Frank was that there was always at least a little room for respect.
As for Swit herself, she has been acting in one way or another since she was seven. Apparently, her parents were less than thrilled, but her calling as an actress was as strong as Margaret’s as an Army nurse. She knew what she wanted to do, and she went out and did it. Yeah, some of it has been luck; some of it is, when it comes to an acting career. But she also stuck to it.
I would also say that there’s obvious skill involved. Margaret in the first few seasons took an actress with one set of skills. Margaret in the last few took an actress with a different set. The transition from one to the other took a third. And there are a few episodes scattered throughout that took skills not prominent anywhere else in the series, such as in “Movie Tonight,” where she sings “C’est Magnifique.” Not the best rendition I’ve heard, but still. Or “Comrades in Arms,” which involves a wide array of emotions over the course of the two-part episode, from passion to terror to fury and on and on.
Swit wanted to leave the show and go on Cagney and Lacey, apparently, and Fox wouldn’t let her out of her contract. She must’ve had a different contract than a lot of the men on the show, I guess. But the difference between Margaret and Frank is that, even from the outset, there was something to be made from Margaret. At her most unlikable, it was still apparent that Margaret was competent. In fact it seemed as though most of her unpleasant traits stemmed from being regular Army among people who didn’t want to be in the Army at all and from trying to be an authority figure among people who didn’t respect authority.
I’m not familiar with most of the rest of her career, you see. I really need to see the adaptation of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at some point, since I’m so fond of the book. And I’m annoyed that Batman: The Animated Series has been taken off Prime before I got to her episode, much less finished my watch-through. But honestly, most of the rest of what she’s done looks pretty dire, and her upcoming Christian movie doesn’t look any better. Oh, well. We’ll always have Margaret.
Still, help me afford episodes of M*A*S*H; consider supporting my Patreon!