Sally Kellerman, the original Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in the 1970 Robert Altman film “M*A*S*H*,” died Thursday from heart failure, her manager and publicist Alan Eichler confirmed to USA TODAY. She was 84.
The actress died in her sleep in her Woodland Hills, California home, her manager said.
Kellerman earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for her stand-out Houlihan role in the army comedy, which also starred Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould. In the “M*A*S*H*” film she played a by-the-book nurse who carries on a torrid affair with the equally uptight Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) demanding that he kiss her “hot lips” in a moment secretly broadcast over the camp’s public address speakers, earning her the nickname.
Loretta Swit took the role over in the popular TV version of “M*A*S*H*,” which ran from 1972 to 1983.Swit paid tribute to Kellerman, tweeting a broken heart emoji and adding the hashtags “#OG #HotLipsHoulihan.”
The “Hot Lips” role had a lasting impact on Kellerman’s career. But the actress told The Desert Sun, part of the USA TODAY Network, in 2013 that she feared she would be looked at as “a one-trick pony.”
That was far from the case, for a career that spanned over 60 years, including attaining cult status for her memorable starring role in an early episode of “Star Trek” in 1966, titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Kellerman portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, a human Starfleet officer on the USS Enterprise.
The actress starred as a college professor who was returning student Rodney Dangerfield’s love interest in the 1986 comedy “Back to School” and in a slew of Altman films including 1970’s “Brewster McCloud,” 1992’s “The Player,” 1994’s “Prêt-à-Porter” and “Ready to Wear.”
The California native had an initial interest in jazz singing and submitted a demo to Verve Records head Norman Grantz which landed her a contract at 18.
Kellerman recorded her first album,1972’s “Roll With the Feelin.” Singer Barry Manilow produced her single “Triad” in 1973 and in 2009 she released the jazz-influenced album “Sally.” Outside of acting and singing, Kellerman added the title of author to her credits with her 2013 memoir, titled after the “M*A*S*H*” line that earned her character’s nickname, “Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life.”
Most recently, the actress appeared on the TV series “Decker” in 2016 and IFC’s “Maron,” playing Marc Maron’s bohemian mother Toni, from 2013 to 2016.
“Sally Kellerman was radiant and beautiful and fun and so great to work with,” Maron wrote on Twitter Thursday. “My real mom was very flattered and a bit jealous. I’m sad she’s gone.”
Sally Kellerman was radiant and beautiful and fun and so great to work with. She played my mom on my series ‘Maron.’ My real mom was very flattered and a bit jealous. I’m sad she’s gone. RIP pic.twitter.com/MY9HC1IVzs
— marc maron (@marcmaron) February 25, 2022
In 2014, Kellerman was nominated for a guest performer Emmy for her appearances on the CBS daytime drama “The Young and the Restless.”
Kellerman was married to “Starsky and Hutch” producer Rick Edelstein from 1970 to 1972. Her second marriage was to producer Jonathan D. Krane in 1980, a marriage that lasted until Krane’s death in 2016.
Kellerman is survived by son Jack, daughter Claire and mother-in-law Lorraine Krane.
Contributing: Beth Roessner, The (Palm Springs) Desert Sun; Andrew Dalton, Associated Press