Just before the final season of MAS*H, Loretta Swit was starting to feel done with the show.
She even considered quitting during the 10th season.
But something told her to stick with the show, and then, in the 11th season, she was filming an episode called “U.N., the Night and the Music” when a guest star named Dennis Holahan appeared on the show and suddenly, Swit heard not a gong signaling the end of her time on MAS*H, but wedding bells.
“There were times when I wanted to leave MAS*H and do other things,” Swit told The Post-Crescent in 1988. “When I met Dennis I said to myself, ‘so that’s why I’m still here.’”
Most people know that Swit ended up marrying Holahan the very same year after they fell in love onset of MAS*H.
On the show, he played her character’s love interest, and Swit confirmed that she recognized that he was her soulmate the moment she stumbled into her first scene with him.
“All I know is, when I met Dennis, suddenly I was bumping into furniture,” Swit said. “I was behaving like a kid. A week later, I knew I could live with him for the rest of my life.”
What many fans may have missed, though, was this Eighties interview where Swit actually went into detail about how she was feeling when she filmed those first scenes with Holahan.
Reading her reactions in real life can change the way you watch the MAS*H episode.
“Dennis played a Swedish army officer who came to visit the MAS*H unit,” Swit said. “Margaret Houlihan immediately developed an enormous crush on him. Dennis’ character liked Margaret too, but he had been injured when his jeep went over a mine. He had nerve damage, he was impotent. Margaret didn’t care, she was in love.”
“Suddenly I realized, so was I…” Swit said.
For Swit, this was quite the epiphany.
She said that her whole life, marriage had never really been a goal of hers the way that Swit said she always felt it was a goal of Margaret’s.
“For all her G.I. ways, Margaret Houlihan was always looking for a lasting relationship,” Swit said. “She wanted to get married and have babies. But I wasn’t aware I was looking. Maybe that’s the best way to find someone special, when love is the last thing on your mind.”
She wasn’t the only one who felt Cupid’s arrow hit.
“Call it a state of shock,” Holahan said, about meeting Swit that way onset.
“That first morning we started to rehearse a love scene,” Holahan said. “Nothing has ever happened so easily for me, it was so natural, so magical. It was as if it weren’t just characters falling in love … but real people.”
At first, Holahan thought maybe they both were just a little too good at acting?
“I was quite worried for a while,” Holahan said. “I wondered if this might not be another case of actors believing in their characters too much.”
But like Swit, soon he found their true feelings became undeniable.
“The emotions stirred by that first rehearsal never waned, however, they seemed to set the tone for everything that was to come,” Holahan said.
Soon, they became inseparable, and when the road did separate them, Swit found the distance unbearable. It was that kinda love.
“They say absence makes the heart grow fonder … I say absence doesn’t do anything,” Swit said. “I miss Dennis even if he’s in the next room.”
Although their marriage started out so strong, by 1989, their love had waned and they filed for divorce.
Reporters claimed Holahan was envious of Swit’s success.
In the filings, he asked for the 50% of her income he was entitled to as her husband, stating that his earnings were radically lower than hers and requesting at least $8,000 in monthly payments to keep up the lifestyle he was accustomed to from being her husband.
Swit famously never remarried, but she did say that falling in love onset of MAS*H helped her understand why so many people aspire to marriage.
“When I met Dennis, the concept of marriage became clearer for me,” Swit said. “It was the concept of living very happily with a partner for the rest of your life in a relationship that will always be fresh and challenging and interesting and … terrific!”