Kellerman died of heart failure at her home in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles, her manager and publicist Alan Eichler said. She was 84.
Kellerman had a career of more than 60 years in film and television. She played a college professor who was returning student Rodney Dangerfield’s love interest in the 1986 comedy “Back to School.” And she was a regular in Altman’s films, appearing in 1970’s “Brewster McCloud,” 1992’s “The Player” and 1994’s “Ready to Wear.”
But she would always be best known for playing Major Houlihan, a straitlaced, by-the-book Army nurse who is tormented by rowdy doctors during the Korean War in the army comedy “MASH.”
In the film’s key scene, and its peak moment of misogyny, a tent where Houlihan is showering is pulled open and she is exposed to an audience of cheering men.
“This isn’t a hospital, this is an insane asylum!” she screams at her commanding officer.
She carries on a torrid affair with the equally uptight Major Frank Burns, played by 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.
Kellerman said Altman brought out the best in her.