Sally Kellerman, the Oscar-nominated actress and singer best known for playing US Army Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, died Thursday morning at an assisted living home in Woodland Hills following a battle with dementia, according to her son, Jack Krane.
Sally Kellerman Early Life
Sally Claire Kellerman was born in Long Beach, California, on June 2, 1937. Her mother was a piano instructor, while her father was a Shell Oil executive. She added, “I came out of the womb singing and performing.”
While attending Hollywood High School, Kellerman starred in a production of Meet Me in St. Louis and sent a tape to jazz producer Norman Granz. He offered her a recording deal at Verve, but she turned it down when she was 18.
“At the time, I was young and afraid,” she explained. “I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem, and I’d already started acting classes.” This seminar, taught by Jeff Corey, offered me the opportunity to mature. He had a few classmates (Jack Nicholson, James Coburn, and Robert Blake were among them.)
Sally Kellerman made her film debut in the Samuel Z. Arkoff criminal thriller Reform School Girl in 1957, and went on to star in a number of television shows and plays, including The Marriage Go-Round and Call Me by My Rightful Name.
Sally Kellerman starred in a stage version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1966 with Richard Chamberlain and Mary Tyler Moore. The show was canceled in previews before it reached Broadway because producer David Merrick didn’t want to “subject the drama critics and the public to an excruciatingly boring evening.”
Nonetheless, her previous experience gave her confidence when she auditioned for Altman.
“I was ready to take any kind of risk before M*A*S*H,” Sally Kellerman remarked. “I went out for the Lieutenant Dish portion, which was the larger of the two.” But I was wearing lipstick, and producer Ingo Preminger was repeating, in his German accent, “Hot Lips!” while I was talking a mile a minute. “Hot Lips,” shouted [Altman] as well.”
Of course, the picture and Hooker’s novel inspired the CBS series M*A*S*H, which aired from 1972 to 1983. Almost all of the characters from the film were recast for television, notably Hot Lips, who was played by Loretta Swit, who won two Emmys and was nominated for 10 of the show’s 11 seasons. (Walter “Radar” O’Reilly was played by Burghoff again.)
Because “it was the polar opposite of my principal motive for creating this picture — and that was to talk about a foreign war, an Asian conflict, that was going on at the time,” Altman remarked. And, no matter what platitudes they say about their small messages and everything, the primary image and message is that the brown folks with narrow eyes are the enemy every Sunday night. As a result, I believe that series was pretty racist. “
Sally Kellerman’s filmography also included The Boston Strangler (1968), The April Fools (1969), Slither (1973) opposite James Caan, Charles Jarrott’s Lost Horizon (1973), Welcome to L.A. (1976) with Harvey Keitel and Sissy Spacek, The Big Bus (1976), Foxes (1980), Blake Edwards’ That’s Life! (1986), All’s Fair (1989), and Boynton Beach Club (1989).
Sally Kellerman received a Daytime Emmy nomination in 2015 for her role as Constance Bingham, an old woman confined to a wheelchair on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless.
Sally Kellerman did eventually become a singer, and her first album, Roll With the Feelin’, came out in 1972.
“I enjoy acting…” But my dream is to have a couple of kids and make an album and maybe a painting every year, “she remarked in 1973. “I don’t want to miss out on either.”
Sally Kellerman was dating Grand Funk Railroad singer-guitarist Mark Farner at the time, and he composed the 1976 hit song “Sally” about her. Sally, her second album, was released in 2009.
Sally Kellerman also did vocal work in commercials, most notably for Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing, as well as for animated films such as The Mouse and His Child (1977), Happily Ever After (1990), and Delgo (1993). (2008).
Sally Kellerman married writer-director Rick Edelstein (Starsky & Hutch) in December 1970, but their relationship was rocky from the start. “We’ve argued every day since we met,” she said years ago, “and I’ve wondered if my wedding gown would be black with blood splotches.” In 1972, they divorced.
In 1980, she married Jonathan D. Krane (Look Who’s Talking, Face/Off), a late producer. Hannah, who died in 2016, and Jack, twins, were adopted.
More about Sally Kellerman’s career
In the third Star Trek episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Kellerman starred as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, a human Starfleet officer aboard the USS Enterprise. “I’m sorry,” Dehner says to Captain Kirk (William Shatner) as she sacrifices her life. You can’t imagine what it’s like to be on the verge of being a god. “
In addition, Sally Kellerman also starred as Diane Turner, a free-spirited college literature professor who is the love interest of Rodney Dangerfield’s abrasive rags-to-riches businessman, Thornton Melon, in the 1986 comedy Back to School.
“All I had to do was love him and be honest about it,” Kellerman said in 2016 on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.(On Maron’s IFC sitcom, she played his eccentric mother.)
When fans saw Kellerman in public, they exclaimed, “Hey, Hot Lips!” or recited a classic Dangerfield line from Back to School: “Call me later when you don’t have any class.”
When Sally Kellerman won the role of the bookish Houlihan in M*A*S*H, an adaptation of Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel about Army surgeons saving lives during the Korean War, she had already guest-starred on a number of 1960s TV shows, including The Outer Limits, 12 O’Clock High, Ben Casey, That Girl, and Mannix.
One of her most well-known incidents in the film occurred when she was humiliatingly pranked in the shower. Altman came up with distractions for the shot because Kellerman said she had never been nude on screen before, she said.
In 2016, she recounted, “When I looked up, there was actor Gary Burghoff, absolutely naked, standing in front of me.” “On the next take, [Altman] had Tamara Horrocks, the more well-endowed nurse, without her shirt on….” As a result, I credit my Academy Award nomination to the folks who made my mouth droop.”
Sally Kellerman remarked of her character’s humiliation, “I adored Bob, but he was a real male chauvinist, maybe the worst.” I’m joking. Kind kinda joking. But I believe Hot Lips was spared from such torment. After that, she matured. She’d been so tense, so inflexible, with no sense of humour — and then everything happened, and she started enjoying a genuine life. “
In a 2013 interview, as the M*A*S*H crew was watching the dailies, Altman told Kellerman, “You’re going to get nominated for an Oscar for this one, Sally.” Helen Hayes of Airport, the sentimental favorite that year, defeated her.
She collaborated with Altman on the films Brewster McCloud (1970), The Player (1992), and Pret-a-Porter (1994), as well as an episode of Gun, an ABC anthology series on which he served as executive producer in 1997.the other hand, Kellerman squandered another chance to work with the legendary director.
“Bob called me one day at home,” she claimed in her 2013 biography, Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life, after an ill-fated encounter with Alan Arkin in the Neil Simon comedy Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972), directed by Gene Saks. “‘Sally, do you want to be in my next picture?’ he inquired. I answered, ‘Only if it’s a good portion.’
“I got a call from him, and he hung up on me.” At the time, Bob was just as headstrong and egotistical as I was, but the unfortunate part is that I missed out on working with someone I adored, someone who made acting enjoyable and easy while also trusting his cast. For Bob Altman, stars would queue up to labor for nothing.
“Oh, the Altman film I turned down?” she continued. Nashville, I would have been able to sing in that scene. “Wrong decision.”