Tom Poston

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Tom Poston
Tom Poston 1965.JPG
Poston in 1965.
Thomas Gordon Poston

(1921-10-17)October 17, 1921
Columbus, Ohio, United States
DiedApril 30, 2007(2007-04-30) (aged 85)
Years active1950–2006
Tom Poston, Constance Ford, and Robert Elston in the Broadway production of Golden Fleecing (1959), written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.

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.[1] 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.

Early life[edit]

Poston was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of George and Margaret Poston. His father was a liquor salesman and dairy chemist.[2]

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.[3]

Poston served in North Africa, Italy, France, and England. After his discharge, he began studying acting in New York City, graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[4]


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.[5] 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.

The handprints of Tom Poston in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

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.[citation needed]

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”.[citation needed]

In 2001, he appeared on The Lone Gunmen episode "The Cap'n Toby Show"[6] 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[edit]

Poston and actress Jean Sullivan were married in 1955 and divorced in 1968. Their daughter is actress Francesca Poston.

Poston married Kay Hudson in 1968. They had two children, daughter Hudson Poston and son Jason Poston. They divorced in 1975 but remarried in 1980 and remained together until her death in 1998 from ALS.[7]

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.[8]

After a brief illness, Poston died of respiratory failure on April 30, 2007, in Los Angeles, California at the age of 85.[9] He predeceased Pleshette by nine months. Although he was not Jewish, he is interred in the Jewish Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery alongside Pleshette, who was Jewish.[citation needed]


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Skirts Ahoy! Walk-on Uncredited
1953 City That Never Sleeps Detective
1962 Zotz! Prof. Jonathan Jones
1963 The Old Dark House Tom Penderel
1963 Soldier in the Rain Lt. Magee
1971 Cold Turkey Mr. Stopworth
1975 The Happy Hooker J. Arthur Conrad
1978 Rabbit Test Minister
1980 Up the Academy Sisson
1981 Carbon Copy Reverend Hayworth
1998 Krippendorf's Tribe Gordon Hargrove
1999 The Story of Us Harry
2004 The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement Lord Palimore
2004 Christmas with the Kranks Father Zabriskie


  1. ^ Moore, Dennis (August 5, 2013). "Which American Actor Appeared in the most TV Sitcoms?". USA Today. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  2. ^ "Tom Poston profile". Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  3. ^ Astor, Gerald (1999). The Greatest War - Volume II: D-Day and the Assault on Europe. New York: Warner Books. p. 247. ISBN 044661047X.
  4. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston, Virtuosic Comic Actor, Is Dead at 85". New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  5. ^ 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 9780470-225264.
  6. ^ "Tom Poston". Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  7. ^ Bernstein, Adam (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston; Played the Comically Clueless". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  8. ^ Donnelley, Paul (September 1, 2010). Fade to Black: A Book of Over 1500 Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1849382465.
  9. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston, Virtuosic Comic Actor, Is Dead at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-21.

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