PROFILE
Name:
Suzanne Pleshette
Birth Date:
January 31, 1937
Birth Place:
New York, New York, USA
Nationality:
American
BIOGRAPHY
Show more
Suzanne Pleshette
The Bob Newhart Show's Wife

Background:

“I don't sit around and wait for great parts. I'm an actress, and I love being one, and I'll probably be doing it till I'm 72, standing around the back lot doing Gunsmoke.” Suzanne Pleshette

American actress of stage, television and film Suzanne Pleshette, born in 1937, died in 2008, is best recalled for playing Emily Hartley on the highly acclaimed CBS sitcom “The Bob Newhart Show” (1972-1978), from which she amassed two Emmy nominations and the TV Land Icon Award. Receiving her first Emmy nomination for portraying a nurse who was a drug addict in a 1961 episode of “Dr. Kildare,” Pleshette gained her fourth and last Emmy nomination after playing Leona Helmsley on the 1990 TV film “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean,” in which she was also nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance. Pleshette began as a stage actress in the late 1950s and continued to work in many films during the 1960s and 1970s and until early 1980s before shifting focus on the small screen. Her notable film performances included “Rome Adventure” (1962), “The Birds” (1963) and “If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” (1969). After “The Bob Newhart Show,” Pleshette made several tries at continued sitcom success with the short lived series “Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs” (1984), “Nightingales” (1989) and  “The Boys Are Back” (1994-1995). Prior to her death, she had recurring roles in the television shows “Will & Grace,” “8 Simple Rules” and “Good Morning, Miami.” 

Pleshette received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to television, posthumously, on her birthday, January 31, 2008.

Pleshette had been married three times in her life time. She had as short lived marriage with actor Troy Donahue in 1964. She next married Texas oil billionaire Thomas J Gallagher III from 1968 until his death in 2000. She married third husband actor Tom Poston from 2001 to his death in 2007.   She had no children.  


Truckline Café

Childhood and Family:

An only child, Suzanne Pleshette was born on January 31, 1937, in New York City, New York, to Eugene Pleshette (1914-1991) and Geraldine Kaplan (1918-1987). In her childhood, her father was the manager for Paramount and Brooklyn Paramount theaters, which he helped transform into a showcase for rock n’ roll shows during the 1950s. He later joined ABC-TV as vice president and developed a new marketing format for TV shows, became vice president of Don Reid Productions and, in 1974, he moved to California to become managing director of the Shubert Theater in Century City. Her mother had been a professional dancer who performed under the stage name Geraldine Rivers. Introduced to show business at an early age by her parents, young Suzanne started her acting lessons with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where she performed in a production of the postwar drama “Truckline Café” when she was 10 years old. By age 12, she had attended the New York High School of the Performing Arts. After high school, she spent one semester at the Syracuse University before transferring to Finch College. She also trained at The Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC.

On January 4, 1964, Suzanne was married to actor Troy Donahue, her co-star in the films “Rome Adventure” (1962) and “A Distant Trumpet” (1964). They divorced on September 8, 1964, after  less than a year of marriage. Suzanne next married Texas oilman Thomas J Gallagher III on March 16, 1968. The couple remained together until his death from lung cancer on January 21, 2000.  Suzanne married her third husband television and film actor Tom Poston on May 11, 2001.  They were married until his death from respiratory failure on April 30, 2007.

Suzanne, who had received treatments for lung cancer in August 2006, passed away in early evening of January 19, 2008 at her Los Angeles home due to respiratory failure. She was 70 years old.  She is buried in a family plot at Hillside Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA, between her two late husbands, Tom Gallagher and Tom Poston.


The Queen of Mean

Career:

Suzanne Pleshette kicked off her career on stage. In 1957, she made her Broadway debut in Meyer Levin's play “Compulsion,” adapted from his novel inspired by the Leopold and Loeb case. In the following year, she had her first taste in front of the film cameras when she was cast as Sgt. Pearson  in the Jerry Lewis comedy “The Geisha Boy.” The same year, she also appeared in a new production of S. N. Behrman's “The Cold Wind and the Warm,” opposite Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach, at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. The play was directed by Harold Clurman and produced by Robert Whitehead. In 1959, appeared alongside Constance Ford and Tom Poston in the Broadway production of comedy “The Golden Fleecing.” She went on to replace Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker” in 1962.

Around this period, Pleshette also started taking guest spots in anthology dramas like “General Electric Theater,” “Playhouse 90,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Play of the Week,” among other shows. In 1961, she delivered a remarkable turn as a drug addicted nurse named Julie Lawler in an episode of NBC's “Dr. Kildare” called “Shining Image.”  She picked up an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for the performance.

Back to features following an absence for four years, Pleshette played the leading role of Prudence Bell on the film adaptation of Irving Fineman's novel, “Rome Adventure” (1962), directed, scripted and produced by Delmer Daves. Her performance won over her co-star heartthrob Troy Donahue and the two had a short lived marriage shortly after the film's release. Pleshette next starred with Tony Curtis in “40 Pounds of Trouble” (1962), the directorial debut of Norman Jewison, but she did not receive significant recognition until  Alfred Hitchcock cast her as Annie Hayworth, the brunette schoolteacher jilted by the film's hero in “The Birds” (1963), loosely based on the 1952 story of the same name  by Daphne du Maurier. The role brought her Laurel Award for Top New Female Personality and a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer – Female. The same year, she also starred as Laura Rubio in the Richard Wilson directed drama film “Wall of Noise,” starring Jean Byron, Fred Carson and Roy Engel, and played the recurring role of college student Lori Moore on the ABC drama series “Channing,” starring Jason Evers and Henry Jones.

The remainder of the 1960s saw roles on such films as “A Distant Trumpet” (1964, with Troy Donahue and William Reynolds), “Youngblood Hawke” (1964, with James Franciscus and Genevieve Page), “Fate Is the Hunter” (1964, starred Glenn Ford, Nancy Kwan and Rod Taylor), “A Rage to Live” (1965, with Bradford Dillman), Disney's “The Ugly Dachshund” (1966, with Dean Jones and Charlie Ruggles), “Nevada Smith” (1966), “Mister Buddwing” (1966), “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin” (1967), “Blackbeard's Ghost” (1968), “The Power” (1968), “If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” (1969), where she was nominated for a Golden Laurel for Female Comedy Performance for her portrayal of Samantha Perkins, and “Target: Harry” (1969). The actress also appeared in many television series, such as “The Wild Wild West,”  “The Fugitive,” “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre,” “Run for Your Life,” “Cimarron Strip,” “The Invaders” and “It Takes a Thief.” She starred as Kitty Sanborn on the NBC made for television film “Wings of Fire” (1967).

In early 1970s, Pleshette appeared in the TV films “Along Came a Spider,” “Hunters Are for Killing,” “ River of Gold,” “In Broad Daylight” as well as in episodes of “Love, American Style,” “Gunsmoke,” “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “The Courtship of Eddie's Father,” “The F.B.I.,” “Columbo,” “Medical Center,” “ Ironside” and “Bonanza.” On the big screen, she supported Brian Keith and Tony Curtis in the comedy/drama film “Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?” (1970) and appeared as Patience Barton on the James Garner vehicle “Support Your Local Gunfighter” (1971), which marked her last feature film appearance for five years.

Pleshette enjoyed a huge break on television when she was cast as Emily Hartley on the CBS sitcom “The Bob Newhart Show” (1972-1978), starring stand up comedian Bob Newhart as psychologist Dr. Robert Hartley. Playing Newhart's supportive school teacher wife, the actress was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series twice in 1977 and 1978. She later also jointly netted the 2005 TV Land Icon Award.

During the show's run, Pleshette also took some acting projects. In 1975, she portrayed June Mathis in the biographical television movie “The Legend of Valentino,” starring Franco Nero  as actor Rudolph Valentino. In the following year, she co-starred with Darren McGavin, Keir Dullea and Robert Reed in the TV film “Law and Order” and portrayed Elizabeth Morton in the TV movie “Richie Brockelman: The Missing 24 Hours” (1976), starring Dennis Dugan. She also returned to the Disney fold with a lead in “The Shaggy D.A.” (1976), a sequel to the 1959 film “The Shaggy Dog.”     

After “The Bob Newhart Show” came to its demise, Pleshette played the title role in the made for television film “Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid” (1978) and made her television miniseries debut in CBS' “Flesh and Blood” (1979), playing  Kate Fallon. She also portrayed Louise Webster on the comedy film “Hot Stuff” (1979), opposite Dom DeLuise and Jerry Reed, and Paula Richards in Gilbert Cates' comedy film, “Oh, God! Book II” (1980), which was her last film credit to date.  Pleshette went on to to appear in a string of television films, such as “If Things Were Different” (1980),    “ The Star Maker” (1981), “Help Wanted: Male” (1982), “Fantasies” (1982), “Dixie: Changing Habits” (1983, as Dixie Cabot), “One Cooks, the Other Doesn't” (1983) and “For Love or Money” (1984). She returned to Broadway when she was cast as Amy Ruskin in the Bernard Slade written play “Special Occasions” (1982), directed by Gene Saks, but the production was closed after one performance.

In 1984, Pleshette returned to series television as a regular with the CBS sitcom “Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs,” where she played the starring role of Maggie Briggs. The show, however,  only had a short life. Five years later, she starred as Christine Broderick in the NBC drama series  “Nightingales” (1989), but the show, unfortunately, was also soon canceled. In between, Pleshette appeared in the TV films “Kojak: The Belarus File” (1985), “A Stranger Waits” (1987) and “ Alone in the Neon Jungle” (1988) and in an episode of “Bridges to Cross” (1985).   

In 1990, Pleshette was put back on the limelight thanks to her portrayal of Leona Helmsley on the CBS television film “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean.” She was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for her performance. In the following year, she reprised her role as Emily Hartley in the TV film “ The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary Special.” She next played Marie Peters and Dr. Rachel Walters on the television films “Battling for Baby” (1992) and “ A Twist of the Knife” (1993), respectively. From 1994 to 1995, Pleshette starred as Jackie Hansen in the short lived CBS sitcom “The Boys Are Back.”  In 1997, she hosted the CBS special “Where Are They Now?” In 1998, she provided the voice of Zira on the direct to video animated film “The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride,” where she was nominated for an Annie for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production for her work.    

After providing the English version voice of Yubaba in Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's Academy Award winning film “Spirited Away” (2001), Pleshette had a recurring role as Lois Whitley, the long lost barkeeper mother of Karen Walker in two episodes of the NBC hit sitcom “Will & Grace” (2002). She followed it up with a recurring role as Mark Feuerstein's grandmotherClaire Arnold  on the NBC sitcom “Good Morning, Miami” (2002-2003). In 2003, she played the mother of Katey Sagal's character in the ABC sitcom “8 Simple Rules.” She returned to “Will & Grace” to portray Lois Whitley for an episode in 2004 called “Looking for Mr. Good Enough,”which became her last acting job before she died in 2008.
            

Awards:

TV Land: Icon Award, “The Bob Newhart Show,” 2005
Golden Laurel: Top New Female Personality, 1963 Show Less

TOP