( b. Jan 31, 1937 New York, New York, USA - d. Jan 19, 2008 Los Angeles, California, USA ) Female
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,” has died. She was 70.
A native New Yorker, Ms. Pleshette already had a full career on stage and screen in 1971 when producers saw her on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” and noticed a chemistry between her and another guest, Mr. Newhart. She was soon cast as the wife of Mr. Newhart’s character, a mild-mannered Chicago psychologist, and the series ran six seasons, from 1972 to 1978, as part of CBS’s ratings-winning Saturday night lineup.
Moviegoers knew Ms. Pleshette from a string of Hollywood features, and her low-key performances often transcended thankless roles in bad movies. She made her film debut in a 1958 Jerry Lewis comedy, “The Geisha Boy,” in a supporting role as a romantic WAC sergeant. She came to teenage audiences’ attention in her second movie, “Rome Adventure” (1962), a good-girl, bad-girl romance opposite Troy Donahue, the beautiful blond heartthrob of the moment. (Ms. Pleshette played the virgin.) Alfred Hitchcock fans knew Ms. Pleshette best as the pretty small-town teacher who not only loses the guy (Rod Taylor) to the blonde (Tippi Hedren), but is also pecked to death by an angry flock in “The Birds” (1963).
Suzanne Pleshette was born Jan. 31, 1937, in Brooklyn Heights. She attended the New York High School of the Performing Arts, then Syracuse University and transferred to Finch College. She also studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York and with its teaching star Sanford Meisner.
Her professional career began in 1957 with her television debut, a single episode in a short-lived adventure series, “Harbourmaster,” and her Broadway debut in “Compulsion,” a drama about the Leopold and Loeb murder case, in which she played Fourth Girl but soon moved up to a supporting role. In 1959, she appeared in “Golden Fleecing,” a comedy set in Venice, opposite Tom Poston, whom she would marry four decades later.
Her real Broadway triumph came in February 1961 when she replaced Anne Bancroft (who had just won a Tony Award) as Annie Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker,” opposite 14-year-old Patty Duke. Her reviews were admiring.
Ms. Pleshette returned to Broadway once more, some two decades later. “Special Occasions” (1982), a play about a divorced couple, was so ravaged by theater critics that it closed after a series of previews and one regular performance. Frank Rich, writing in The New York Times, excoriated the play but praised Ms. Pleshette’s performance: “The throaty voice, wide-open smiles and quick intelligence are as alluring as ever,” he wrote.
Ms. Pleshette had an active film career in the 1960s and the first half of the ’70s. She starred in several Disney movies, including “The Shaggy D.A.” (1976). Early on, she dealt with heavier subjects, playing a flight attendant who survives an airline crash in “Fate Is the Hunter” (1964), a sexually compulsive heiress in “A Rage to Live” (1965) and a book editor trying to save a successful young author from himself in “Youngblood Hawke” (1964). Eventually, though, she seemed to settle into comedies, like “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” (1969), about a busload of unhappy American tourists.
But it was in television that she received the greatest recognition. She was nominated for an Emmy Award four times, first in 1962 for a guest performance in “Dr. Kildare,” twice for “The Bob Newhart Show” (1977 and 1978) and in 1991 for playing the title role in the television movie “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean.”
She continued to appear in television movies and as a guest in popular series into the 21st century. Her last role was as Megan Mullally’s estranged mother in several episodes of NBC’s “Will & Grace” from 2002 to 2004.
Source: NY Times