Sally Kellerman, the husky-voiced actress recognized for her Oscar-nominated portrayal of U.S. Army Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, has died. She was 84.
Kellerman, who additionally sang and had a Grand Funk Railroad tune written for her, died Thursday morning at an assisted care facility in Woodland Hills after a battle with dementia, her son, Jack Krane, instructed The Hollywood Reporter.
A local Californian, Kellerman had a memorable function in the third Star Trek episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” in which she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, a human Starfleet officer aboard the USS Enterprise. When Dehner sacrifices her life, her dying phrases to Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) are, “I’m sorry … you can’t know what it’s like to … be almost a god.”
And in the comedy Back to School (1986), Kellerman was great because the free-spirited faculty literature professor Diane Turner, the love curiosity of Rodney Dangerfield’s obnoxious rags-to-riches businessman, Thornton Melon.
“This is my one brag in life: The director [Alan Metter] said he felt that I helped make Rodney human, believable in a relationship. Because I just had to love him and be sincere about it,” Kellerman said in 2016 on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. (She performed Maron’s eccentric mother on his IFC comedy.)
Kellerman additionally famous that when followers encountered her in public, they both yelled, “Hey, Hot Lips!” or recited a basic Dangerfield line from Back to School: “Call me sometime when you got no class.”
Kellerman had appeared in guest-starring stints on many TV exhibits of the Sixties, together with The Outer Limits, 12 O’Clock High, Ben Casey, That Girl and Mannix, when she received the function of the by-the-books Houlihan in M*A*S*H, an adaptation of Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel about Army surgeons saving lives through the Korean War.
One of her extra well-known scenes in the film got here when she is embarrassingly pranked in the shower. Kellerman had by no means been nude onscreen, so Altman devised distractions for the shot, she mentioned.
“When I looked up, there was [actor] Gary Burghoff stark naked standing in front of me,” she recalled in 2016. “The next take, [Altman] had Tamara Horrocks — she was the more amply endowed nurse — without her shirt on. … So I attribute my Academy Award nomination to the people who made my mouth hang open.”
Regarding the humiliation her character endured, Kellerman mentioned: “I loved Bob, but he was a real male chauvinist, probably the worst. I’m kidding. Sort of kidding. But I think that [torment] really saved Hot Lips. She grew up after that. She’d been so uptight, so rigid, no sense of humor — and after all that went down, she started having a really good time, a real life.”
In a 2013 interview, Kellerman remembered that when the M*A*S*H crew was watching the dailies, Altman instructed her, “You’re going to get nominated for an Oscar for this one, Sally.” She wound up dropping to the sentimental favourite that yr, Helen Hayes of Airport.
She and Altman additionally collaborated on the options Brewster McCloud (1970), The Player (1992) and Pret-a-Porter (1994) and on a 1997 episode of Gun, an ABC anthology sequence that he govt produced. Kellerman, although, squandered one other alternative to work with the famed director.
After she had an ill-fated rendezvous with Alan Arkin in the Neil Simon comedy Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972), directed by Gene Saks, “Bob called me one day at home,” she recalled in her 2013 memoir, Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life. “‘Sally, do you want to be in my picture after next?’ he requested. ‘Only if it’s half,’ I mentioned.
“He hung up on me. Bob was as stubborn and arrogant as I was at the time, but the sad thing is that I cheated myself out of working with someone I loved so much, someone who made acting both fun and easy and who trusted his actors. Stars would line up to work for nothing for Bob Altman.”
She added, “Oh, the Altman film I turned down? Nashville. In that part I would have been able to sing. Bad choice.”
Sally Claire Kellerman was born on June 2, 1937, in Long Beach, California. Her mom was a piano instructor and her father an govt for Shell Oil. “I came out of the womb singing and acting,” she mentioned.
While attending Hollywood High School, Kellerman starred in a manufacturing of Meet Me in St. Louis and submitted a demo to jazz impresario Norman Granz. He supplied her a recording contract at Verve, however, simply 18, she turned it down.
“I was young and scared at the time,” she said. “I had very little self-esteem, and I had already started this acting class. This class, taught by Jeff Corey, really gave me the chance to grow up.” (Classmates included Jack Nicholson, James Coburn and Robert Blake.)
In 1957, Kellerman made her movie debut in the Samuel Z. Arkoff crime drama Reform School Girl, then appeared repeatedly on tv and in a number of performs, together with The Marriage Go-Round and Call Me by My Rightful Name.
She had a task in a 1966 stage manufacturing of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, starring Richard Chamberlain and Mary Tyler Moore, however the present was closed in previews earlier than it made it to Broadway when producer David Merrick mentioned he didn’t wish to “subject the drama critics and the public to an excruciatingly boring evening.”
Still, all of her expertise to that time emboldened her as she auditioned for Altman.
“Before M*A*S*H, I was ready to take any kind of chance,” Kellerman mentioned. “I went out for the Lieutenant Dish part, which was bigger. But I happened to be wearing lipstick, and while I was talking a mile a minute, producer Ingo Preminger kept muttering in his German accent, ‘Hot Lips!’ … [Altman] yelled ‘Hot Lips’ too.”
The movie and Hooker’s novel, after all, additionally impressed the CBS sequence M*A*S*H, which ran from 1972-83. Nearly all the characters from the film have been recast, together with Hot Lips, portrayed on TV by Loretta Swit, who received two Emmys and was nominated for her work on 10 of the present’s 11 seasons. (Burghoff did reprise his function as Walter “Radar” O’Reilly.)
Altman said that he disliked the present “because [it] was the opposite of my main reason for making this film — and this was to talk about a foreign war, an Asian war, that was going on at the time. And to perpetuate that every Sunday night — and no matter what platitudes they say about their little messages and everything — the basic image and message is that the brown people with the narrow eyes are the enemy. And so I think that series was quite a racist thing.”
Kellerman’s movie résumé additionally included The Boston Strangler (1968), The April Fools (1969), Slither (1973) reverse James Caan, the Charles Jarrott-directed 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 (2005).
On the CBS cleaning soap opera The Young and the Restless, she performed Constance Bingham, an aged girl confined to a wheelchair, and landed a Daytime Emmy nomination in 2015.
Kellerman finally did pursue a singing profession and in 1972 launched her first album, Roll With the Feelin’.
“I love acting … but my fantasy is to have a couple of babies and make an album a year, and maybe a picture a year, too,” she mentioned in 1973. “I don’t want to not do either one.”
Around that point, Kellerman dated Grand Funk Railroad singer-guitarist Mark Farner, who wrote the 1976 pop track “Sally” about her. Her second album, Sally, was launched in 2009.
Kellerman additionally did voiceover work in commercials — most famously for Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing — and for such animated movies as The Mouse and His Child (1977), Happily Ever After (1990) and Delgo (2008).
Kellerman wed writer-director Rick Edelstein (Starsky & Hutch) in December 1970, however the marriage was troubled from the beginning. “We’ve fought every day since we’ve met,” she mentioned years in the past, “and sometimes I wondered whether my wedding dress would be black with red splotches.” They divorced in 1972.
In 1980, she married the late producer Jonathan D. Krane (Look Who’s Talking, Face/Off). They adopted twins Hannah, who died in 2016, and Jack.