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Suzanne Pleshette

at the 43rd Emmy Awards, 25 August 1991
Born January 31, 1937(1937-01-31)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 19, 2008 (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1957–2004
Spouse(s) Troy Donahue
(1964–1964) (divorced)
Tommy Gallagher
(1968–2000) (his death)
Tom Poston
(2001–2007) (his death)

Suzanne Pleshette (January 31, 1937 – January 19, 2008) was an American actress, on stage, screen and television.

After beginning her career in 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 the role of Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show from 1972 until 1978, receiving Emmy Award nominations for her work.

She continued acting until 2004, and died from respiratory failure as a result of lung cancer in 2008.[1][2][3]

Contents

Early life

Pleshette was born in Brooklyn Heights, New York City,[4] of Russian Jewish heritage.[5] [6] 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.[7][8] She graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts and then attended Syracuse University for one semester before transferring to Finch College.[4]

Acting career

Reviewers described her appearance and demeanor as sardonic and her voice as sultry.[9]

Pleshette 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. Two years later she was featured in the comedy Golden Fleecing starring Tom Poston, who eventually would 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. 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." In February 1961, she replaced Anne Bancroft opposite 14-year-old Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker which debuted to rave reviews.[10]

Pleshette's first screen role was in the episode "Night Rescue" (December 5, 1957) of the CBS adventure/drama television series, Harbourmaster, 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 most recognized at that time for her role of schoolteacher Annie Hayworth opposite Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock's classic suspense film The Birds.

She later worked with Steve McQueen in the western drama Nevada Smith and co-starred with James Garner in a pair of films, the mystery Mister Buddwing and the comedy Support Your Local Gunfighter.

Pleshette 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 the Disney sequel The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.

Her early television appearances included Playhouse 90, Have Gun - Will Travel, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Channing, Ben Casey, Naked City, Wagon Train, and Dr. Kildare, for which she was nominated for her first Emmy Award.[11] She guest-starred more than once as different characters in each of these 1960s TV series: Route 66,[12][13] The Fugitive,[14] The Invaders,[15] The F.B.I., and The Name of the Game.[16]

Pleshette was one of the stars 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 a dream of Bob Newhart when he awakens next to Pleshette in the bedroom set from The Bob Newhart Show.

Her 1984 situation comedy, Suzanne Pleshette is Maggie Briggs, was cancelled after seven episodes.[17] 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 recurring role in Good Morning, Miami, as Mark Feuerstein's grandmother Claire Arnold 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.

Tonight Show with 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,[10] and they noticed a certain chemistry between Suzanne and another guest, Bob Newhart.[10] She was soon cast as wife to Newhart’s character, and the series ran for six seasons from 1972 to 1978 as part of CBS television's Saturday night lineup.[10] 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."

Personal life

Pleshette's 1964 marriage to her Rome Adventure 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."[18] In 2001, she married Bob Newhart's former Newhart co-star Tom Poston.[19] They were married until his death from respiratory failure in Los Angeles on April 30, 2007.

She was the cousin of the actor John Pleshette.

Illness and death

On August 11, 2006, her agent Joel Dean announced that Pleshette 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, a part of one of her lungs had been removed.[20]

Pleshette died early in the evening of January 19, 2008 of respiratory failure at her Los Angeles home. She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television on January 31, 2008, what would have been her 71st birthday. 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.[21] 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 Rip Taylor, Peter Falk, Dick Van Dyke and Tippi Hedren, her co-star from The Birds.[22]

She was interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Filmography

Feature films

Year Film Role Notes
1958 The Geisha Boy Sgt. Betty Pearson First feature film
1962 Rome Adventure Prudence Bell
40 Pounds of Trouble Chris Lockwood
1963 The Birds Annie Hayworth Supporting role in an Alfred Hitchcock film
Won — Laurel Award – Top New Female Personality
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress
Wall of Noise Laura Rubio
1964 A Distant Trumpet Kitty Mainwarring
Youngblood Hawke Jeanne Greene
Fate Is the Hunter Martha Webster
1965 A Rage to Live Grace Caldwell Tate
1966 The Ugly Dachshund Fran Garrison
Nevada Smith Pilar
Mister Buddwing Fiddle Corwin
1967 The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin Arabella Flagg
1968 Blackbeard's Ghost Jo-Anne Baker
The Power Prof. Margery Lansing
1969 Target: Harry Diane Reed
If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium Samantha Perkins Nominated — Laurel Award – Female Comedy Performance
1970 Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? Ramona
1971 Support Your Local Gunfighter Patience
1976 The Shaggy D.A. Betty Daniels
1979 Hot Stuff Louise Webster
1980 Oh, God! Book II Paula Richards
1998 The Lion King II: Simba's Pride Zira (voice) Nominated — Annie Award – Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting
2001 Spirited Away Yubaba / Zeniba

Television films

Year Film Role Notes
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 / Janet Furie
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
Fantasies Carla Webber
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

Television series

References

  1. ^ "Suzanne Pleshette - Character actress (Emily Hartley)" Hollywood Memoir, January 2008, states "died early in the evening of January 19, 2008 of respiratory failure", webpage: HMemoir-SPles.
  2. ^ Associated Press 2008-01-19
  3. ^ "Suzanne Pleshette, 70; Actress Played Bob Newhart's TV Wife". The Washington Post. January 21, 2008. p. Page B06. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/20/AR2008012000071.html. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  4. ^ a b Gates, Anita (January 21, 2008). "Suzanne Pleshette, Actress, Dies at 70". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/21/arts/21pleshette.html. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  5. ^ Ancestry of Suzanne Pleshette
  6. ^ Belanger, Camyl Sosa (2005). Eva Gabor an Amazing Woman: Unscrupulous. iUniverse. pp. 120. ISBN 0595341608.  
  7. ^ Katz, Ephraim (1994). The Film Encyclopedia. HarperCollins Publishers. pp. 1085. ISBN.  
  8. ^ "Suzanne Pleshette - Family and Companions". Yahoo.com. http://au.movies.yahoo.com/Suzanne+Pleshette/biography/81658/family/. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  9. ^ ""Suzanne Pleshette, sultry-voiced comic partner of Newhart; at 70"". Boston.com. January 21, 2008. http://www.boston.com/ae/celebrity/articles/2008/01/21/suzanne_pleshette_sultry_voiced_comic_partner_of_newhart_at_70/. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  10. ^ a b c d "Suzanne Pleshette, 70, 'Newhart' Actress, Dies" (bio), Anita Gates, The New York Times, 2008-01-21, webpage: NYTimes-21cnd-Pleshette.
  11. ^ "Awards for Suzanne Pleshette". IMDb. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0687189/awards. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  12. ^ ""Route 66-The Strengthening Angels (1960)"". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0690501/. Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  13. ^ ""Route 66-Blue Murder (1961)"". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0690430/. Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  14. ^ "Suzanne Pleshette Biography (1937-)". 1964. http://www.filmreference.com/film/76/Suzanne-Pleshette.html. Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  15. ^ "The Invaders & Roy Thinnes". andybrouwer.co.uk. http://andybrouwer.co.uk/invaders.html. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  16. ^ "Suzanne Pleshette". IMDb. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0687189/. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  17. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network Shows by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, Ballantine Books, pp. 762-63 ISBN 0-345-35610-1
  18. ^ Edwards, Ian (6 October 2000). "Suzanne Pleshette—The Iron Lady". ScreenIndia.com. http://www.screenindia.com/old/20001006/inter.htm. Retrieved 2009-12-26.  
  19. ^ "Wedding Bells-Suzanne Pleshette Wedding Album". http://www.meredy.com/suzannepleshette/wedding051101.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  20. ^ Keck, Will (2007-09-06). "Suzanne Pleshette has her edge back". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2007-09-06-suzanne-pleshette_N.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  21. ^ Thomas, Bob (2008-01-20). "Suzanne Pleshette Dies in Los Angeles". Associated Press. http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hR-orOZKA0H0lJUYeJLS4nenaFwQD8U9G31O0. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  22. ^ "Suzanne Pleshette Gets Hollywood Star". AOL News. February 1, 2008. http://news.aol.com/entertainment/story/_a/pleshette-gets-posthumous-hollywood-star/n20080131232709990003. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  

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