Sally Kellerman, the willowy, sultry-voiced actress and singer whose portrayal of Maj. Margaret (Hot Lips) Houlihan within the 1970 darkish comedy “MASH” earned her an Oscar nomination, died on Thursday at an assisted-living facility in Los Angeles. She was 84.
Her son, Jack Krane, stated the trigger was coronary heart failure.
In her decades-long profession in movie and tv, Ms. Kellerman was finest identified for her function because the strait-laced however alluring Army nurse in “MASH,” which landed her rave critiques and a Golden Globe Award.
The movie, directed by Robert Altman, broke floor with its irreverence and its graphic depiction of a gaggle of hotshot surgeons struggling to save lots of horribly wounded troopers at an Army surgical unit through the Korean War. (When “MASH” was tailored into the tv sequence “M*A*S*H,” Ms. Kellerman’s character was performed by Loretta Swit.)
Ms. Kellerman went on to look in a number of different movies directed by Mr. Altman, together with “Brewster McCloud” (1971), “The Player” (1992) and “Prêt-à-Porter” (1994). Like different actors, she was interested in working with Mr. Altman due to the leeway he allowed in decoding scripts and improvising scenes.
After her star-making function in “MASH,” Ms. Kellerman sought to revive her profession as a singer, performing in nightclubs just like the Grand Finale in New York.
On the cabaret circuit, her performances garnered combined critiques. Robert Palmer wrote in The New York Times in 1977 that she had “an intriguingly husky voice” and “the makings of an effective pop singer,” however he criticized her for a few of the similar qualities she was identified for as an actor, reminiscent of her “breezy superficiality.”
Ms. Kellerman continued to work in movie and on TV, accumulating greater than 150 credit, together with, previously decade, on the sequence “Maron” (through which she performed the comic Marc Maron’s mom) and “Decker,” and on the cleaning soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” At occasions she lamented being so recognized along with her “MASH” function.
“Did you know,” she stated in an interview with The Times in 1980, “that when I started out on television, I could never get a comedy part? I was always a sophisticated, hard-bitten drunk, or the wife being beaten by her husband. But I’m still Hot Lips to everyone.”
Sally Kellerman was born on June 2, 1937, in Long Beach, Calif., to John Helm Kellerman, a salesman, and Edith Kellerman, who taught piano.
In her 2013 memoir, “Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life,” Ms. Kellerman described desirous to be a performer from an early age, when she was a “skinny little kid growing up in Granada Hills in the San Fernando Valley.”
“I must have come out of the womb singing and acting,” she wrote.
As a tall, chubby teenager, she harbored desires of performing onstage however held them in secret till she was a senior at Hollywood High School, when she acted in its manufacturing of “Meet Me in St. Louis.”
At 18, then a self-described “jazz groupie,” she was provided a contract with the outstanding jazz label Verve Records, however by her account it was severed by her debilitating stage fright.
Still, she continued to pursue her dream of performing, learning with the revered appearing trainer Jeff Corey whereas taking faculty programs on the aspect to please her mother and father. Mr. Corey’s roster of scholars included future family names, amongst them Jack Nicholson, with whom Ms. Kellerman shared a goofy streak.
“In class it was almost always impossible for me to work on scenes with Jack because I’d be laughing so hard,” she wrote in her memoir. “If we had to kiss, forget about it. I’d fall off the couch in hysterics.”
She made her movie debut in a 1957 film referred to as “Reform School Girl,” through which she had one line. In the Nineteen Sixties she racked up greater than 30 tv appearances on reveals together with “The Outer Limits,” “My Three Sons” and “Star Trek.”
According to Dale Sherman’s 2016 e book, “MASH FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Best Care Anywhere,” Ms. Kellerman initially auditioned for a distinct function in “MASH,” that of Lieutenant Dish, and was miffed when Mr. Altman provided her Hot Lips; she thought that the half was minor and that Hot Lips was principally there to be a goal of abuse by different characters. He advised her that she may have the ability to make extra of it than appeared on the web page.
“You could end up with something or nothing,” Mr. Altman was quoted as advising her. “Why not take a chance?”
She did. As promised, Mr. Altman gave her leeway to beef up the half, and it grew to become one of many movie’s most memorable performances. At the 1970 Cannes Film Festival, the place the film received the coveted Palme d’Or, Ms. Kellerman prompted a sensation when she turned up.
“The bored paparazzi, tired of photographing actors from movies about peasants trying to save enough money to buy a tractor, followed her like hound dogs because in a festival full of true allegorical grit, the girl they called ‘Hot Lips’ was pure Hollywood gold,” Rex Reed, who was overlaying the pageant for The Times, wrote. “She came on like a hippie Venus de Milo, waving her arms around her body like Carole Lombard, smiling like Veronica Lake, and walking like an anchovy. For three days the flashbulbs never stopped flashing.”
Ms. Kellerman’s different films included “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” (1972) and “Slither” (1973). She had a busy yr in 1980, showing within the movies “Foxes,” “Serial,” “Loving Couples,” “It Rained All Night the Day I Left” and “Head On.” She was the voice of Miss Finch within the Sesame Street film “Follow That Bird” in 1985. She was the faculty professor who turns into Rodney Dangerfield’s love curiosity within the hit 1986 comedy “Back to School.”
In addition to her son, she is survived by a daughter, Claire Kellerman Krane. Another daughter, Hannah Krane, died in 2016. Ms. Kellerman’s husband, Jonathan Krane, additionally died in 2016. A earlier marriage, to Rick Edelstein, led to divorce.
In a 2013 interview with The Star-Ledger of Newark, Ms. Kellerman reminisced in regards to the filming of “MASH” and the sunshine ambiance that Mr. Altman had cultivated, significantly on the anybody’s-welcome gatherings to view the dailies, the footage of the day’s work.
“He made it like a picnic,” she stated. “A picnic with a genius.”
“Bob took the importance out of everything,” she added. “He’d call out: ‘Boy, I bet you hate yourself in this, Sally.’ ‘Boy, I bet you really think you look ugly there.’ It wasn’t life or death, you know. And then one day he called out, ‘You’re going to get nominated for an Oscar for this one, Sally.’ I liked that.”
Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.