Suzanne Pleshette (Suzanne Pleshette)

Suzanne Pleshette

Reviewers described her appearance and demeanor as sardonic and her voice as sultry. Suzanne 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. 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. In 1959 she was featured in the comedy Golden Fleecing starring Constance Ford and Tom Poston. (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 of The 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.

Suzanne Pleshette’s first screen role was in the episode “Night Rescue” (December 5, 1957) of the CBS adventure/drama television series, Harbormaster, 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 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. 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”. 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. 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. 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.”

On August 11, 2006 her agent, Joel Dean, announced that Suzanne 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. Suzanne Pleshette died in the early evening of January 19, 2008, at her Los Angeles home, 12 days before her 71st birthday. She is buried next to her third husband, Tom Poston, in the Hillside 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. 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 Peter Falk, Dick Van Dyke, and her costars from The Birds: Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren.

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Born

  • January, 31, 1937
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Died

  • January, 19, 2008
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • respiratory failure

Cemetery

  • Hillside Memorial Park
  • Culver City, California
  • USA

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