Suzanne Pleshette was an American actress and voice-over artist. Over the course of her nearly five-decade-long career, she had accumulated over a hundred credits on her résumé. A native of New York, Pleshette began her acting career on stage and later made a gradual transition to the screen. Some of her most prominent films are ‘Rome Adventure’, ‘The Birds’, ‘Fate Is the Hunter’, If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium,’ and ‘Support Your Local Gunfighter’. She had also played a variety of roles in TV shows and television movies. She was nominated for Emmy Awards four times and Golden Globe Awards twice. Having been nominated twice, Pleshette won the Laurel Award in 1963 for ‘The Birds’. Pleshette passed away in 2008 and was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on January 31, 1937, in Brooklyn, New York, USA, Suzanne Pleshette was the only child of Eugene Pleshette and Geraldine (née Kaplan). Both her parents were Jewish and their own parents had immigrated from Russia and Austria-Hungary.
A dancer and an artist, Pleshette’s mother adopted the professional name, Geraldine Rivers. Eugene, on the other hand, worked as the manager of the Paramount Theater in New York City and the manager of the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn, before becoming a network executive.
Pleshette was a graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, a highly prestigious acting school located in Manhattan, New York. It is there that she had the opportunity to be taught under the renowned acting teacher Sanford Meisner.
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Suzanne Pleshette got her start as an actress on stage and had her Broadway debut in Meyer Levin's 1957 play ‘Compulsion.’ In the ensuing years, she also appeared in the productions of ‘The Cold Wind and the Warm’ by S. N. Behrman, comedy ‘Golden Fleecing’, and ‘The Miracle Worker’.
Pleshette debuted on the small screen in a 1957 episode of ABC’s adventure drama series ‘Harbormaster’. In 1962, she earned her first Primetime Emmy nomination for portraying Julie Lawler in the season one episode ‘A Shining Image’ of NBC’s medical drama ‘Dr. Kildare’.
Pleshette made her cinematic debut in the 1958 film ‘The Geisha Boy’. Her breakthrough role came in 1962 when she shared screen space with Troy Donahue and Angie Dickinson in the romantic comedy ‘Rome Adventure’.
For her performance as Annie Hayworth in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror-thriller ‘The Birds’, she received the Laurel Award for Top New Female Personality.
She earned another Primetime Emmy nomination as well as a Golden Globe nomination for playing the eponymous character in the telefilm ‘Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean’ (1990).
In the later stage of her career, she lent her voice to Zira in ‘The Lion King II: Simba's Pride’ and earned an Annie Award nomination for her role. Her final screen appearance was as the recurring character Lois Whitley in the NBC sitcom ‘Will & Grace’.
In CBS’ sitcom ‘The Bob Newhart Show’ (1972-78), Pleshette starred opposite Newhart, portraying the role of his wife, Emily (née Harrison) Hartley. At the start of the show, she is a school teacher, but as the series progresses, she becomes the assistant principal of the school.
Pleshette portrayed Emily as a supportive spouse but she also infused her with wit and sarcasm. For her performance in the show, Pleshette received two Emmy nominations.
Family & Personal Life
Suzanne Pleshette had been married three times in her life. Her first husband was her ‘Rome Adventure’ and ‘A Distant Trumpet’ co-star Troy Donahue, whom she married on January 4, 1964. They divorced only eight months later, on 8 September.
She subsequently tied the knot with oil baron Thomas J Gallagher III on March 16, 1968. Gallagher passed away on January 21, 2000, after losing his battle to lung cancer. Pleshette miscarried once while she was married to Gallagher and did not have any children.
Her third husband was actor Tom Poston. They had known each other since the 1950s and had even briefly dated. However, they went on to marry different people. After they both became widowed, they grew close once more and exchanged wedding vows on May 11, 2001. Poston died from respiratory failure on April 30, 2007.
Death & Legacy
In August 2006, Pleshette’s agent, Joel Dean, told the media that she was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. In an interview with ‘USA Today’ during a ‘Bob Newhart Show’ cast reunion in September 2007, she revealed that a part of one of her lungs had been surgically taken out.
Pleshette died on January 19, 2008. At the time, she was 70 years old. She is interred close to Poston in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.