Thomas Gordon Poston
October 17, 1921
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||April 30, 2007 (aged 85)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Thomas Gordon Poston (October 17, 1921 – April 30, 2007) was an American television and film actor. He starred on television in a career that began in 1950. He appeared as a comic actor, game show panelist, comedy/variety show host, film actor, television actor, and Broadway performer.
According to USA Today Life editor Dennis Moore, Poston appeared in more sitcoms than any other actor. In the 1980s, he played George Utley opposite Bob Newhart's character on the CBS sitcom Newhart, receiving three Emmy Award nominations for the role.
After completing high school, Poston attended Bethany College in West Virginia, but did not graduate. While there, he joined the Sigma Nu fraternity. He joined the United States Army Air Forces in 1941. Accepted to officer candidate school and then graduating from flight training, Poston served as a pilot in the European Theater in World War II; his aircraft dropped paratroopers for the Normandy invasion.
In 1953, as Thomas Poston, he was cast as "Detective" in the film City That Never Sleeps. In 1957, Poston gained recognition as a comedic "Man in the Street" (along with his colleagues Louie Nye, Dayton Allen and Don Knotts) on The Steve Allen Show. For these performances, Poston won the 1959 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series. In the fall of 1959, when the Allen program moved west to Los Angeles, Tom remained in New York, appearing frequently on Broadway and television game shows.
His film career was limited, with appearances in films such as William Castle's Zotz! (1962), The Old Dark House (1963), Soldier in the Rain (1963), Cold Turkey (1971), The Happy Hooker (1975), Rabbit Test (1978), Up the Academy (1980) and Carbon Copy (1981). He was cast as Michael Carrington's uncle Tom Anderson in Grease 2 (1982), but his scenes were deleted.
However, his television career was expansive, covering the better part of five decades. When Mel Brooks submitted his idea for Get Smart to the ABC network, ABC wanted Poston for the lead role of Maxwell Smart. When ABC passed on the show, NBC picked it up and the lead went to Don Adams. Poston, however, made a guest appearance on the show as a KAOS villain. He appeared in Thriller during its second season in 1961. The episode, number six, was entitled "Masquerade" and starred Elizabeth Montgomery.
In 1968, Poston played the role of the Scarecrow, at The Municipal Opera Association of St. Louis, production of The Wizard of Oz. Lana Cantrell played Dorothy Gale, and Betty Low played the Sorceress of the North, also known as Glinda.
Poston was a recurring guest star on The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s, playing "The Peeper," a buddy of Bob's since college. Whenever the Peeper came from Vermont to visit Newhart's Chicago-based character, Dr. Bob Hartley, the two middle-aged men would still try to one-up each other with practical jokes. Poston later played the role of Franklin Delano Bickley on Mork & Mindy.
A longtime friend of Bob Newhart, Poston played George Utley, a simple country handyman of the Stratford Inn, on Newhart, and appeared with Newhart in Cold Turkey as the town drunk, Edgar Stopworth. He was nominated for an Emmy Award three times for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance on Newhart in 1984, 1986, and 1987. He had a third role with Newhart in the short-lived Bob.
Poston had regular roles on many other television series: Family Matters, Murphy Brown, Home Improvement, Cosby, Malcolm & Eddie, ER, Grace Under Fire, That '70s Show (as Kitty Forman's father, Burt Sigurdson), Will & Grace, and guest starred in an episode of The Simpsons as the Capital City Goofball. He played dentist/jeweler, Art Hibke, on ABC's Coach, for which he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1991. He guest-starred on Home Improvement as a surly airport clerk in Alpena, Michigan when Tim and Al get stuck there during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve, and again as that character's brother in the episode "The Tool Man Delivers", and again as the third brother in the episode “Thanksgiving”.
In 2001, he appeared on The Lone Gunmen episode "The Cap'n Toby Show" and in King of the Hill episode "Now Who's The Dummy?" as Mr. Popper (voice). In 2005, he played the character "Clown" on the brief-lived NBC series Committed and guest-starred on the ABC series 8 Simple Rules as Rory's unlawful friend Jake in the episode "Good Moms Gone Wild". In 2006, Poston guest-starred on an episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, entitled "Ah! Wilderness" as Merle, which was his final role.
Personal life and death
Poston married Doris Sward in 1949. They later divorced.
Poston began dating Kay Hudson in the spring of 1961, when she was 17 and he was 39. The couple married in 1968. They had two children, son Jason Poston (born 1969) and daughter Hudson Poston (born 1972). They divorced in 1976 but remarried in 1980 and remained together until her death at age 54 in 1998 from ALS.
In 2001, Poston married actress Suzanne Pleshette, who played the wife of Newhart's character Bob Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show. It was his fourth marriage, and her third marriage. Pleshette and Poston had dated briefly in 1959 and got back together in 2000.
After a brief illness, Poston died of respiratory failure on April 30, 2007, in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 85. He pre-deceased Pleshette by nine months. Although he was not Jewish, he is interred in the Jewish Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery alongside Pleshette, who was Jewish.
|1953||City That Never Sleeps||Detective||Credited as Thomas Poston|
|1962||Zotz!||Professor Jonathan Jones|
|1963||The Old Dark House||Tom Penderel|
|Soldier in the Rain||Lieutenant Magee|
|1971||Cold Turkey||Mr. Stopworth|
|1975||The Happy Hooker||J. Arthur Conrad|
|1980||Up the Academy||Sisson|
|1981||Carbon Copy||Reverend Hayworth|
|1989||Murphy's Laws of Golf||George||Short Film|
|1998||Krippendorf's Tribe||Gordon Hargrove|
|1999||The Story of Us||Harry|
|2003||Beethoven's 5th||John Giles / Selig|
|2004||The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement||Lord Palimore|
|Christmas with the Kranks||Father Zabriskie|
|1950||Tom Corbett, Space Cadet||The Alkarian||Episode: "The Mystery of Alkar"|
|1950–1951||Lights Out||Sir John||2 episodes|
|1951||Studio One in Hollywood||Sentry / Alec Gordon||2 episodes|
|1953||Hawkins Falls: A Television Novel||Toby Winfield||Unknown episodes|
|1955||Goodyear Playhouse||Currently Unknown||Episode: "Tangled Web"|
|1956||Playwrights '56||Fletcher||Episode: "You Sometimes Get Rich"|
|Robert Montgomery Presents||Currently Unknown||Episode: "Who?"|
|1956–1957||The Phil Silvers Show||Guard House Lieutenant / The Lieutenant||2 episodes|
|1956–1960||The Steve Allen Plymouth Show||Comedian / Guest / Himself||44 episodes|
|1957||The United States Steel Hour||Chester||Episode: "The Change in Chester"|
|The Steve Allen Show||Comedian||Episode: "#3.11"|
|1958||The Christmas Tree||Tom||Television Film|
|1958–1966||What's My Line?||Himself / Mystery Guest / Panelist||10 episodes|
|1959||The Ed Sullivan Show||Lieutenant Ferguson Howard||Episode: "#13.9"|
|1959–1960||Split Personality (Game Show)||Himself / Host||Studio: NBC Studio 8H, New York City, NY|
|1959–1967||To Tell the Truth||Himself / Panelist||317 episodes|
|1960||The Tempest||Trinculo||Television Film|
|Play of the Week||Supervisor||Episode: "The Enchanted"|
|1961||Thriller||Charlie Denham||Episode: "Masquerade"|
|1963–1964||Match Game||Himself / Team Captain||35 episodes|
|Missing Links||Himself / Panelist||27 episodes|
|1964||The Defenders||Sheldon Lowell||2 episodes|
|1965||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Janitor / Lieutenant Courtney||Episode: "Double Jeopardy"|
|1968||Gentle Ben||Joe Cardigan||Episode: "Trophy Bear"|
|1969||The Good Guys||Julian Brent||Episode: "The World's Second Greatest Lover"|
|Get Smart||Doctor Zharko||Episode: "Shock It to Me"|
|1974||Bobby Parker and Company||His Psychiatrist||Television Film|
|1975||Harry and Maggie||Arlo Wilson||Television Short|
|1975–1976||On the Rocks||Mister Sullivan||13 episodes|
|1975–1977||The Bob Newhart Show||Cliff Murdock||5 episodes|
|1976||Alice||Jerry Dittmeyer||Episode: "Vera's Mortician"|
|1976–1977||Match Game||Himself / Panelist||10 episodes|
|1977||All's Fair||Harold Banks||Episode: "Save the Yak"|
|The Magnificent Magical Magnet of Santa Mesa||William Bensinger||Television Film|
|1977–1978||We've Got Each Other||Damon Jerome||13 episodes|
|1977–1987||The Love Boat||Tom Poston / Daniel Baker / Mickey O'Day||3 episodes|
|1978||A Guide to the Married Woman||Marty Gibson||Television Film|
|Flying High||Zarky||Episode: "The Vanishing Point"|
|Fame||Car Salesman||Television Film|
|1979||$weepstake$||Leeds||Episode: "Dewey and Harold and Sarah and Maggie"|
|CHiPs||Bill Conner||Episode: "Quarantine"|
|Beane's of Boston||Mister Frank Beane||Pilot Episode|
|1979–1980||The Hollywood Squares (Daytime)||Center Square / Himself / Panelist||21 episodes|
|1979–1981||Mork & Mindy||Franklin Bickley||54 episodes|
|1980||Good Time Harry||Ben Younger||Episode: "Ben Younger"|
|1981||The Girl, the Gold Watch & Dynamite||Omar Krepps||Television Film|
|1981–1982||Password Plus||Celebrity Contestant / Himself||11 episodes|
|1982||King's Crossing||Brian Gunshore||Episode: "The Home Front"|
|I've Had It Up to Here||Currently Unknown||Television Film|
|1982–1990||Newhart||George Utley||184 episodes|
|1983–1984||Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour||Himself / Panelist||24 episodes|
|1984–1985||Body Language||Himself||15 episodes|
|1984–1989||Super Password||Celebrity Contestant / Himself||70 episodes|
|1985||Hotel||Tommy Rooney||Episode: "Pathways"|
|1986||Crazy Like a Fox||Currently Unknown||Episode: "A Fox at the Races"|
|Fresno||Doctor Parseghian||Miniseries 4 episodes|
|1987||D.C. Follies||Tom Poston||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1988||Save the Dog!||Currently Unknown||Television Film|
|St. Elsewhere||Jim Morrison||Episode: "The Abby Singer Show"|
|1990||A Quiet Little Neighborhood, a Perfect Little Murder||Don Corman||Television Film|
|The Simpsons||Capital City Goofball (voice)||Episode: "Dancin' Homer"|
|1990–1991||Good Grief||Ringo Prowley||13 episodes|
|1990–1995||Coach||Dr. Art Hibke / Art Hibke||4 episodes|
|1991||Harry and the Hendersons||Currently Unknown||Episode: "Harry and the Homeless Man"|
|1992–1993||Bob||Jerry Fleisher||4 episodes|
|1993||Dream On||Sidney 'Uncle Bouncy' Barish||Episode: "Oral Sex, Lies and Videotape"|
|Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman||Mysterious 'Dead Man'||Episode: "Halloween"|
|1994||Big Daddy's Barbecue||Virgil||Television Film|
|1994–1995||Family Matters||Mr. Looney||3 episodes|
|1994–1996||Murphy Brown||Old Man Swenson||2 episodes|
|1995||Aaahh!!! Real Monsters||Ralph / Burly Man (voices)||Episode: "Eau de Krumm/O'Lucky Monster"|
|1995–1997||Home Improvement||Ted / Ned / The Clerk||3 episodes|
|1995–1998||Grace Under Fire||Floyd Norton||32 episodes|
|1996||The Larry Sanders Show||Tom Poston||Episode: "My Name Is Asher Kingsley"|
|1997||George and Leo||Traffic Cop||Episode: "The Pilot Episode"|
|Sabrina the Teenage Witch||Mortgage Banker||Episode: "Witch Trash"|
|1998||Just Shoot Me!||Herb||Episode: "Jack's Old Partner"|
|Touched by an Angel||Ed Yablonsky||Episode: "Cry and You Cry Alone"|
|Suddenly Susan||Mr. Vance||Episode: "Sleeping with the Enemy"|
|Maggie Winters||Lester Mulford||Episode: "Mama's Got a Brand New Bag"|
|Rugrats||Roy (voice)||Episode: "Baking Dil/Hair!"|
|Contempt of Court||Coroner||Television Film|
|Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show||Uncle Cosmo||Episode: "Honey, It's the Ghostest with the Mostest"|
|Diagnosis: Murder||Tom Porter||Episode: "The Roast"|
|1999–2000||Malcolm & Eddie||Garth Dubin||2 episodes|
|2000||Dharma & Greg||Dr. Gillespie||Episode: "The Spy Who Said He Loved Me"|
|Normal, Ohio||Stanley||Episode: "Just Another Normal Christmas"|
|2001||The Drew Carey Show||Roscoe Harvey||Episode: "Oswald's Dad Returns"|
|King of the Hill||Mr. Popper (voice)||Episode: "Now Who’s the Dummy?"|
|The Lone Gunmen||Captain Toby / Fred Tabalowski||Episode: "The 'Cap'n Toby' Show"|
|The Ellen Show||Joe||Episode: "Joe"|
|2002||Apple Valley Knights||Justice Knight Sr.||Unknown episodes|
|Becker||Joe Willakie||Episode: "Talking Points"|
|Will & Grace||Norman||Episode: "Went to a Garden Potty"|
|Liberty's Kids: Est. 1776||Currently Unknown (voice)||5 episodes|
|2002–2003||That '70s Show||Burt Sigurdson||3 episodes|
|2003||Good Morning, Miami||Lenny||2 episodes|
|8 Simple Rules||Jake||Episode: "Good Moms Gone Wild"|
|2006||The Suite Life of Zack & Cody||Merle||Episode: "Ah! Wilderness!"|
- Moore, Dennis (August 5, 2013). "Which American Actor Appeared in the most TV Sitcoms?". USA Today. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
- "Tom Poston profile". filmreference.com. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
- Astor, Gerald (1999). The Greatest War - Volume II: D-Day and the Assault on Europe. New York: Warner Books. p. 247. ISBN 044661047X.
- Fox, Margalit (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston, Virtuosic Comic Actor, Is Dead at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
- Parish, James Robert (February 28, 2008). It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks. John Wiley & Sons. p. 165. ISBN 978-0470225264.
- "Northampton County Marriage Licenses". Allentown, Pennsylvania. September 20, 1949. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.
- Actor Tom Poston, Wife Are Separated The Miami News, August 28, 1959
- "Ask TV Scout". Fort Lauderdale News. May 18, 1962.
- Bernstein, Adam (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston; Played the Comically Clueless". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
- Donnelley, Paul (September 1, 2010). Fade to Black: A Book of Over 1500 Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1849382465.
- Archerd, Army (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston Farewell". Variety. Retrieved November 15, 2019.