Suzanne Pleshette (January 31, 1937 – January 19, 2008) was an American actress and voice actress.[1] After beginning her career in the 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 Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show from 1972 until 1978, receiving several Emmy Award nominations for her work. She continued acting until 2004, four years before her death.


 [hide*1 Early life

Early life[edit]Edit

Pleshette was born in Brooklyn HeightsNew York City.[1] Her parents were Jewish and the children of immigrants fromRussia and Austria-Hungary.[2][3] 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 theParamount Theater in Brooklyn.[4][5] She graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts and then attendedSyracuse University for one semester before transferring to Finch College.[1] She later graduated from Manhattan's prestigious acting school, The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, and was under the tutelage of legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner.

Acting career[edit]Edit

[1]Pleshette in 1969

Reviewers described her appearance and demeanor as sardonic and her voice as sultry.[6] She 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.

The following year she performed in the debut of The Cold Wind and the Warm by S. N. Behrman at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, directed by Harold Clurman and produced by Robert Whitehead.[7] In 1959 she was featured in the comedy Golden Fleecing starring Constance Ford and Tom Poston.[8] (Poston would eventually 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. During the run ofThe Cold Wind and the Warm she spent mornings taking striptease lessons from Jerome Robbins for the role in Gypsy.[9] 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 succeeded Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan Macy opposite 14-year-old Patty Duke's Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.[1]

Pleshette's first screen role was in the episode "Night Rescue" (December 5, 1957) of the CBS adventure/drama television seriesHarbourmaster, starring Barry Sullivan and Paul Burke. Her other early screen credits include The Geisha BoyRome AdventureFate Is the Hunter, and Youngblood Hawke, but she was best known at that time for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's classic suspense film The Birds. She worked with Steve McQueen in the 1966 western drama film Nevada Smith, was nominated for a Laurel Award for her starring performance in the comedy If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium opposite Ian McShane, and co-starred with James Garner in a pair of films, the drama Mister Buddwing and the western comedy Support Your Local Gunfighter.[citation needed]

She 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 Disney's The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and sang the song "My Lullaby".

Television work[edit]Edit

[2]at the 43rd Emmy Awards, August 25, 1991

Her early television appearances included Playhouse 90DecoyHave Gun – Will TravelOne Step BeyondRiverboatAlfred Hitchcock PresentsChanningBen CaseyNaked City, Wagon Train, and Dr. Kildare, for which she was nominated for her first Emmy Award.[10] She guest-starred more than once as different characters in each of these 1960s TV series: Route 66,[11][12] The Fugitive,[13] The Invaders,[14] The F.B.I., "Columbo" (1971) and The Name of the Game.[15]

Pleshette was the co-star 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 her husband Bob's dream when he awakens next to Pleshette in the bedroom set from the earlier series.

Her 1984 situation comedySuzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs, was canceled after seven episodes.[16] In 1989, she played the role of Christine Broderick in the NBC drama, Nightingales, which only lasted one season. In 1990, Pleshette portrayed Manhattan hotelierLeona Helmsley in the television movie Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean, which garnered her Emmy and Golden Globe Awardnominations. In addition, she starred opposite Hal Linden in the 1994 sitcom The Boys Are Back.

She had a starring role in Good Morning, Miami, as Mark Feuerstein's grandmother Claire Arnold in season one 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.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson[edit]Edit

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, and they noticed a certain chemistry between Suzanne and another guest, Bob Newhart.[1] She was soon cast as the wife of Newhart’s character, and the series ran for six seasons from 1972 to 1978 as part of CBS television's Saturday night lineup.[1] 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[edit]Edit

Pleshette's 1964 marriage to her Rome Adventure and A Distant Trumpet co-star Troy Donahue ended acrimoniously after just eight months. Her second husband wasTexas 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."[17]In 2001, she married former Newhart co-star Tom Poston.[18] 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.


On August 11, 2006 her agent, Joel Dean, announced that Pleshette, a long-time smoker, 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, part of one of her lungs had been removed.[19]


Pleshette died in the early evening of January 19, 2008, at her Los Angeles home, twelve days before her 71st birthday.[1] She is buried next to her third husband in theHillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television on January 31, 2008. 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.[20]Pleshette received the walk's 2,355th star. Bob NewhartArte 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 Peter FalkDick Van Dyke, and Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren, her co-stars from The Birds.[21]


Feature films[edit]Edit

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

Laurel Award for 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
1989 The Queen of Mean Leona Helmsley
1998 The Lion King II: Simba's Pride Zira (voice) Nominated — Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting
2001 Spirited Away Yubaba

Zeniba (voice)

Television films[edit]Edit

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[edit]Edit

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