Suzanne Pleshette

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Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery

Suzanne Pleshette (January 31, 1937 – January 19, 2008) was an American actress and voice actress. 

Pleshette started her career in the theatre and began appearing in films in the late 1950s and later appeared in prominent films 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, which was four years before her death at age 70.


  • Troy Donahue (m. 1964;div. 1964)
  • Tommy Gallagher (m. 1968;d. 2000)
  • Tom Poston (m. 2001; d. 2007)

Relatives - John Pleshette, cousin

Early life

Pleshette was born in 1937 in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York City. Her parents were Jewish, the children of emigrants from Russia and Austria-Hungary. 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, manager of the Paramount Theater in New York City, manager of the Paramount Theaterin Brooklyn, and later, a network executive. She graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Artsand attended Syracuse University for one semester before transferring to Finch College. She later graduated from Manhattan's prestigious acting school, the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and was under the tutelage of renowned acting teacher Sanford Meisner.

Acting career


The Boston Globe described her appearance and demeanor as sardonic and her voice as sultry. 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. 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 stripteaselessons from Jerome Robbins for the role in Gypsy. In his autobiography, Arthur Laurents, the play's author stated, "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.


Her 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. She also starred in a number of Walt Disney family films.

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 Prideand sang the song "My Lullaby".


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. Other early television appearances include 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. She guest-starred more than once as different characters in each of the following 1960s TV series: Route 66The FugitiveThe InvadersThe F.B.I.Columbo (1971) and The Name of the Game.

On May 19, 1971,[23] TV producers saw her on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and noticed a certain chemistry between Suzanne and others. She was cast as the wife of Newhart’s character on the popular CBS sitcom The Bob Newhart Show (1972–1978) for all six seasons, as part of CBS television's Saturday night lineup. She 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 Newhart's subsequent comedy series, Newhart, in which viewers discovered that the entire later series had been her husband Bob's dream when he awakens next to her in the bedroom set from the earlier series.

Her 1984 situation comedy, Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs, was canceled after seven episodes. In 1989, she played the role of Christine Broderick in the NBC drama, Nightingales, which 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 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.

Personal life

Pleshette's 1964 marriage to her Rome Adventure and A Distant Trumpet co-star Troy Donahue ended acrimoniously after just eight months.

Pleshette designed sheets for J. P. Stevens.

Her second husband was Texas oilman Tom Gallagher, to whom she was married 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." 

In 2001, Pleshette married fellow actor Tom Poston. Poston was a recurring guest star on The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s (Pleshette was one of the series' stars) and Poston was later a Newhart cast member (Pleshette was a guest star once). But long before they worked together on TV, Poston and Pleshette had been involved romantically—as early as the late 1950s, when they acted together in a Broadway play. During the subsequent 40 years, they married others but remained friends. After they were both widowed, the deaths of their spouses brought Poston and Pleshette together again, and they married in 2001. They remained married until his death from respiratory failure in Los Angeles on April 30, 2007. She died the following year, and they are buried together. 

Suzanne Pleshette is the cousin of the actor John Pleshette.

Illness and death

Pleshette was a long-time smoker. On August 11, 2006, her agent Joel Dean announced that she was being treated for lung cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Three days later, 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, which caused her to be hospitalized for an extended period. She arrived at a Bob Newhart Show cast reunion in September 2007 in a wheelchair, which raised 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.

Pleshette died in the early evening of January 19, 2008, at her Los Angeles home, 12 days before her 71st birthday. She was buried next to her third husband, Tom Poston (who had predeceased her the previous year), in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. She received a 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, placed at her request, in front of Frederick's of Hollywood. 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.


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        Relation nameRelation typeBirth DateDeath dateDescription
        Tommy GallagherHusband00.00.2000
        2Tom PostonTom PostonHusband17.10.192130.04.2007
        3Troy DonahueTroy DonahueHusband27.01.193602.09.2001

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