Publicity photo of Pleshette from the television program The Contenders (ca. 1963)
January 31, 1937|
New York City, New York, US.
|Died||January 19, 2008
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Respiratory Failure|
|Resting place||Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery Culver City, California|
(1968–2000; his death)
(2001–2007; his death)
Suzanne Pleshette (January 31, 1937 – January 19, 2008) was an American actress and voice actress. After beginning her career in the theatre, she began appearing in films in the early 1960s, such as Rome Adventure (1962) and Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). She later appeared in various television productions, often in guest roles, and played Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show from 1972 until 1978, receiving several Emmy Award nominations for her work. She continued acting until 2004, four years before her death.
Pleshette was born in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York City. Her parents were Jewish and the children of immigrants from Russia and Austria-Hungary. Her mother, Geraldine (née Kaplan), was a dancer and artist who performed under the stage name Geraldine Rivers. Her father, Eugene Pleshette, was a stage manager, network executive and manager of the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn. She graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts and then attended Syracuse University for one semester before transferring to Finch College. She later graduated from Manhattan's prestigious acting school, The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, and was under the tutelage of renowned acting teacher Sanford Meisner.
Reviewers described her appearance and demeanor as sardonic and her voice as sultry. She began her career as a stage actress. She made her Broadway debut in Meyer Levin's 1957 play Compulsion, adapted from his novel inspired by the Leopold and Loeb case.
The following year she performed in the debut of The Cold Wind and the Warm by S. N. Behrman at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, directed by Harold Clurman and produced by Robert Whitehead. In 1959 she was featured in the comedy Golden Fleecing starring Constance Ford and Tom Poston. (Poston would eventually become her third husband.) That same year, she was one of two finalists for the role of Louise/Gypsy in the original production of Gypsy. During the run of The Cold Wind and the Warm she spent mornings taking striptease lessons from Jerome Robbins for the role in Gypsy. In his autobiography, the play's author Arthur Laurents states, "It came down to between Suzanne Pleshette and Sandra Church. Suzanne was the better actress, but Sandra was the better singer. We went with Sandra."
Pleshette's first screen role was in the episode "Night Rescue" (December 5, 1957) of the CBS adventure/drama television series, Harbormaster, starring Barry Sullivan and Paul Burke. Her other early screen credits include The Geisha Boy, Rome Adventure, Fate Is the Hunter, and Youngblood Hawke, but she was best known at that time for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's classic suspense film The Birds. She worked with Steve McQueen in the 1966 western drama film Nevada Smith, was nominated for a Laurel Award for her starring performance in the comedy If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium opposite Ian McShane, and co-starred with James Garner in a pair of films, the drama Mister Buddwing and the western comedy Support Your Local Gunfighter.
She provided the voices of Yubaba and Zeniba in the English dub of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's Academy Award-winning film Spirited Away and the voice of Zira in Disney's The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and sang the song "My Lullaby".
Her early television appearances included Playhouse 90, Decoy, Have Gun – Will Travel, One Step Beyond, Riverboat, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Channing, Ben Casey, Naked City, Wagon Train, and Dr. Kildare, for which she was nominated for her first Emmy Award. She guest-starred more than once as different characters in each of these 1960s TV series: Route 66, The Fugitive, The Invaders, The F.B.I., Columbo (1971) and The Name of the Game.
Pleshette was the co-star of the popular CBS sitcom The Bob Newhart Show (1972–1978) for all six seasons, and was nominated twice for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She reprised her role of Emily Hartley in the memorable final episode of a subsequent comedy series, Newhart, in which viewers discovered that the entire series had been her husband Bob's dream when he awakens next to Pleshette in the bedroom set from the earlier series.
Her 1984 situation comedy, Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs, was canceled after seven episodes. In 1989, she played the role of Christine Broderick in the NBC drama, Nightingales, which only lasted one season. In 1990, Pleshette portrayed Manhattan hotelier Leona Helmsley in the television movie Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean, which garnered her Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations. In addition, she starred opposite Hal Linden in the 1994 sitcom The Boys Are Back.
She had a starring role in Good Morning, Miami, as Mark Feuerstein's grandmother Claire Arnold in season one and played the mother of Katey Sagal's character in the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter following John Ritter's death, and appeared as the estranged mother of Megan Mullally's character Karen Walker in three episodes of Will & Grace. The role would prove to be her last.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
A native New Yorker, Suzanne Pleshette had already experienced a full career on stage and screen by 1971 when TV producers saw her on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and they noticed a certain chemistry between Suzanne and another guest, Bob Newhart. She was soon cast as the wife of Newhart’s character, and the series ran for six seasons from 1972 to 1978 as part of CBS television's Saturday night lineup. Pleshette's down-to-earth but elegant manner was caught during an anecdote that Carson was relating to her about working with a farm tractor in Nebraska. When he asked her, "Have you ever ridden on a tractor?" she replied smoothly, "Johnny, I've never even been in a Chevrolet."
Pleshette's 1964 marriage to her Rome Adventure and A Distant Trumpet co-star Troy Donahue ended acrimoniously after just eight months. Her second husband was Texas oilman Tom Gallagher, to whom she was wed from 1968 until his death from lung cancer on January 21, 2000. She suffered a miscarriage during her marriage to Gallagher, and the couple were childless. Asked about children in an October 2000 interview, Pleshette stated: "I certainly would have liked to have had Tommy’s children. But my nurturing instincts are fulfilled in other ways. I have a large extended family; I'm the mother on every set. So if this is my particular karma, that's fine." In 2001, she married former Newhart star Tom Poston. They were married until his death from respiratory failure in Los Angeles on April 30, 2007. She died the following year and they are buried together.
She was the cousin of the actor John Pleshette.
Illness and death
On August 11, 2006 her agent, Joel Dean, announced that Pleshette, a long-time smoker, was being treated for lung cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. On August 14, 2006, New York Newsday reported that Dean claimed the cancer was the size of "a grain of sand" when it was found during a routine X-ray, that the cancer was "caught very much in time", that she was receiving chemotherapy as an outpatient, and that Pleshette was "in good spirits".
She was later hospitalized for a pulmonary infection and developed pneumonia, causing her to be hospitalized for an extended period. She arrived at a Bob Newhart Show cast reunion in September 2007 in a wheelchair, causing concern about her health, although she insisted that she was "cancer free". (She was seated in a regular chair during the actual telecast.) During an interview in USA Today given at the time of the reunion, Pleshette stated that she had been released four days earlier from the hospital where, as part of her cancer treatment, part of one of her lungs had been removed.
Pleshette died in the early evening of January 19, 2008, at her Los Angeles home, twelve days before her 71st birthday. She is buried next to her third husband, Tom Poston, in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television on January 31, 2008. On the January 22 edition of Entertainment Tonight, her former co-star and longtime friend Marcia Wallace announced she would be attending the ceremony on Pleshette's behalf. Pleshette received the walk's 2,355th star. Bob Newhart, Arte Johnson, and Marcia Wallace spoke at the star's unveiling, which had been planned before Pleshette's death. Tina Sinatra accepted the star on Pleshette's behalf. Others in attendance included Peter Falk, Dick Van Dyke, and her costars from The Birds: Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren.
|1959||Summer of Decision||Susan||First television movie|
|1967||Wings of Fire||Kitty Sanborn|
|1968||Flesh and Blood||Nona|
|1970||Along Came a Spider||Anne Banning
|Hunters Are for Killing||Barbara Soline|
|1971||River of Gold||Anna|
|In Broad Daylight||Kate Todd|
|1975||The Legend of Valentino||June Mathis|
|1976||Law and Order||Karen Day|
|Richie Brockelman: The Missing 24 Hours||Elizabeth Morton|
|1978||Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid||Kate Bliss|
|1979||Flesh & Blood||Kate Fallon|
|1980||If Things Were Different||Janet Langford|
|1981||The Star Maker||Margot Murray|
|1982||Help Wanted: Male||Laura Bingham|
|1983||Dixie: Changing Habits||Dixie Cabot|
|One Cooks, the Other Doesn't||Joanne Boone|
|1984||For Love or Money||Joanna Piper|
|1985||Bridges to Cross||Tracy Bridges|
|The Belarus File||Dana Sutton|
|1987||A Stranger Waits||Kate Bennington|
|1988||Alone in the Neon Jungle||Capt. Janet Hamilton|
|1990||Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean||Leona Helmsley||Based on the life of hotel magnate Leona Helmsley
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
|1992||Battling for Baby||Marie Peters|
|1993||A Twist of the Knife||Dr. Rachel Walters|
- Anita Gates (January 21, 2008). "Suzanne Pleshette, 70, Newhart Actress, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-03.
Suzanne Pleshette, the husky-voiced actress who redefined the television sitcom wife in the 1970s, playing the smart, sardonic Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show, died Saturday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 70. Ms. Pleshette died of respiratory failure, her lawyer, Robert Finkelstein, told The Associated Press. Ms. Pleshette had undergone chemotherapy in 2006 for lung cancer.
- Ancestry of Suzanne Pleshette
- Belanger, Camyl Sosa (2005). Eva Gabor an Amazing Woman: Unscrupulous. iUniverse. p. 120. ISBN 0-595-34160-8.
- Katz, Ephraim (1994). The Film Encyclopedia. HarperCollins Publishers. p. 1085. ISBN.
- "Suzanne Pleshette - Family and Companions". Yahoo.com. Retrieved 2008-03-04.[dead link]
- McLellan, Dennis (January 21, 2008). "Suzanne Pleshette, sultry-voiced comic partner of Newhart; at 70". The Boston Globe (Boston.com). Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- "New Play Is Staged At Shubert", Hartford Courant, November 15, 1958: 4B
- "Anita Loos: From Lorelei Lee to Lea; Lorelei to Lea", The New York Times, October 11, 1959
- Lyons, Leonard (February 11, 1959), "Ike Chooses Welk And Leader Butchers Song About His State", Lawrence Journal-World, The Lyons Den: 4
- "Awards for Suzanne Pleshette". IMDb. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- "Route 66-The Strengthening Angels (1960)". IMDb. Retrieved 2008-03-05.
- "Route 66-Blue Murder (1961)". IMDb. Retrieved 2008-03-05.
- "Suzanne Pleshette Biography (1937-)". FilmReference.com. Retrieved 2008-03-05.
- "The Invaders & Roy Thinnes". andybrouwer.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- "Suzanne Pleshette". IMDb. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- Brooks, Tim; and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network Shows, Ballantine Books, pp. 762–763, ISBN 0-345-35610-1
- Edwards, Ian (6 October 2000). "Suzanne Pleshette—The Iron Lady". ScreenIndia.com. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
- "Wedding Bells-Suzanne Pleshette Wedding Album". Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- Keck, Will (2007-09-06). "Suzanne Pleshette has her edge back". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
- Thomas, Bob (2008-01-20). "Suzanne Pleshette Dies in Los Angeles". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-01-20.[dead link]
- "Suzanne Pleshette Gets Hollywood Star". AOL News. February 1, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-04.[dead link]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Suzanne Pleshette.|
- Suzanne Pleshette at the Internet Broadway Database
- Suzanne Pleshette interview video at the Archive of American Television
- Suzanne Pleshette at the Internet Movie Database
- Obituary in The Times, 22 January 2008
- BroadwayWorld Article: Suzanne Pleshette Dies at 70
- Audio of Hollywood Walk of Fame star dedication for Suzanne Pleshette
- 5-Part Oral History Interview with Suzanne Pleshette on her TV career on YouTube