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"Telephone operators have called me 'sir' since I was 6."

- Suzanne Pleshette

Suzanne Pleshette was the producers' original choice for the role of Catwoman on the Batman (1966) TV show. When negotiations broke down, the part went to Julie Newmar.

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

Pleshette was born in Brooklyn Heights, New York City. Her parents were Jewish and the children of immigrants 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, network executive and manager of the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn. She graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts and then 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 Theater, and was under the tutelage of legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner.

Reviewers described her appearance and demeanor as sardonic and her voice as sultry (her husky voice would become her trademark). 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 striptease lessons from Jerome Robbins for the role in Gypsy. 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.

Pleshette's first screen role was in the episode "Night Rescue" (December 5th, 1957) of the CBS adventure/drama television series, Harbourmaster, starring Barry Sullivan and Paul Burke. Her other early screen credits include The Geisha Boy, Rome Adventure, Fate Is the Hunter, Youngblood Hawke and 40 Pounds of Trouble with Tony Curtis (above), but she was best known at that time for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's classic suspense film The Birds (below). 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.

Her early television appearances included Playhouse 90, Have Gun – Will Travel, Riverboat, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey, Naked 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 these 1960s TV series: Route 66, The Fugitive, The Invaders, The F.B.I., "Columbo" (1971) and The Name of the Game.

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 final episode of a subsequent comedy series, Newhart.

The series finale of Newhart, entitled "The Last Newhart", has been described as one of the most memorable in television history. The entire town is purchased by a visiting Japanese tycoon, who turns the hamlet into a huge golf course and recreation resort. Dick and Joanna are the only townspeople who refuse to leave and continue to run the Stratford Inn, which is now located in the middle of the golf course. At one point Dick gets knocked out by a golf ball, when he awakens he is next to Pleshette in bed on the set previously seen on The Bob Newhart Show and explains his "weird dream" to Emily. "Honey, you won't believe the dream I just had." Pleshette turns on the light and rolls over to speak with him reviving a bit from The Bob Newhart Show, in which one of the Hartleys incredulously flicks back on a bedside light and restarts a conversation.

Interviews with Newhart, Pleshette and director Dick Martin reveal that the final scene was kept a secret from the cast and most of the crew. A fake ending was written up to throw off the tabloids and Pleshette was kept hidden until her scene was shot. When the scene began, many people in the audience recognized the set as the bedroom from "The Bob Newhart Show" and burst into spontaneous applause and Pleshette and Newhart did the scene in one take.

In November 2005, the series finale was named by TV Guide and TV Land the most unexpected moment in TV history. In 2011, the finale was ranked No. 4 on the TV Guide Network special, TV's Most Unforgettable Finales, and in 2013 was ranked number 1 in Entertainment Weekly's 20 Best TV Series Finales Ever.

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 only 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 (left). The role would prove to be her last.

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."

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 was Texas oilman Tom Gallagher, to whom she was wed from 1968 until his death from lung cancer on January 21st, 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." After becoming a widow, she and widower Tom Poston (a Newhart regular) rekindled an old romance they had enjoyed when appearing together in "The Golden Fleecing", a 1959 Broadway comedy. They were married from 2001 until Poston's death, in April 2007.

On August 11st, 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 14th, 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.

Pleshette died in the early evening of January 19th, 2008, at her Los Angeles home, twelve 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 31st, 2008. 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 Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren, her co-stars from The Birds.

    Selected Suzanne Pleshette TVography

8 Simple Rules... for Dating My Teenage Daughter
- The First Thanksgiving (2003)
- Goodbye: Part 1 and 2 (2003)

Adventures in Paradise
- The Lady from South Chicago (1959)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
- Hitch Hike (1960)

Alcoa Premiere
- The Contenders (1962)

Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond
- Delusion (1959)

Ben Casey
- Behold a Pale Horse (1962)

Black Saddle
- The Long Rider (1959)

Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre
- After the Lion, Jackals (1966)
- Corridor 400 (1963)

The Bob Newhart Show
- series star as Emily Hartley (142 episodes 1972-1978)

- A Place to Hide (1972)

The Boys Are Back
- series star as Jackie Hansen (18 episodes 1994-1995)

Bridges to Cross
- Memories of Molly (1985)

- The Potato Bash World (1963)

Cimarron Strip
- Till the End of Night (1967)

- Dead Weight (1971)

The Courtship of Eddie's Father
- Hello, Miss Bessinger, Goodbye (1970)

- The Sound of Tears (1958)

The Dick Powell Show
- Days of Glory (1962)

Dr. Kildare
- Goodbye, Mr. Jersey (1964)
- The Soul Killer (1962)
- A Shining Image (1961)

The F.B.I.
- The Inheritors (1970)
- The Mercenary (1968)
- List for a Firing Squad (1966)

The Fugitive
- All the Scared Rabbits (1965)
- World's End (1964)

General Electric Theater
- Love Is a Lion's Roar (1961)
- The World's Greatest Quarterback (1958)

Good Morning, Miami
- series regular as Claire Arnold (9 episodes 2002-2003)

- Stark (1970)

- Night Rescue (1957)

Have Gun - Will Travel
- Death of a Gunfighter (1959)

Hong Kong
- Lesson in Fear (1961)

The Invaders
- The Pursued (1968)
- The Mutation (1967)

- But When She Was Bad, ... (1971)

The Islanders
- Forbidden Cargo (1960)

It Takes a Thief
- A Sour Note (1968)

Love, American Style
- Love and the Fly (1970)

Maggie Briggs
- Maggie's Theater Review (1984)
- Double Date (1984)
- A New Leaf (1984)
- Roman Holiday (1984)
- Wrong, Bad, Dumb, Stinks (1984)
- Maggie Meets Geoff (1984)

Marcus Welby, M.D.
- Daisy in the Shadows (1970)

Matinee Theatre
- The Quiet Street (1958)

Medical Center
- Conspiracy (1971)

Naked City
- The Pedigree Sheet (1960)

The Name of the Game
- A Capitol Affair (1971)
- The Skin Game (1970)
- The Suntan Mob (1969)

- The Last Newhart (1990)

-as Christine Broderick (13 episodes 1989)

Play of the Week
- The House of Bernarda Alba (1960)

Playhouse 90
- Diary of a Nurse (1959)

- The Two Faces of Grey Holden (1960)

Route 66
- Blue Murder (1961)
- The Strengthening Angels (1960)

Run for Your Life
- Baby, the World's on Fire (1967)

The Single Guy
- Mother Love (1997)
- Like Father... (1997)
- The Deepest Cut (1996)

Sunday Showcase
- Murder and the Android (1959)

The Tab Hunter Show
- Weekend on Ice (1961)

Target: The Corruptors
- Viva Vegas (1962)

The Third Man
- Listen for the Sound of a Witch (1959)

Wagon Train
- The Myra Marshall Story (1963)

The Wild Wild West
- The Night of the Inferno (1965)

Will & Grace
- Looking for Mr. Good Enough (2004)
- Something Borrowed, Someone's Due (2002)
- Someone Old, Someplace New (2002)

    Selected Suzanne Pleshette Filmography


The Geisha Boy


Summer of Decision (TV Movie)


40 Pounds of Trouble

Rome Adventure


The Birds

Wall of Noise


Youngblood Hawke

Fate Is the Hunter

A Distant Trumpet


A Rage to Live


Nevada Smith

Mister Buddwing

The Ugly Dachshund


The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin

Wings of Fire (TV Movie)


Blackbeard's Ghost

The Power

Flesh and Blood (TV Movie)


If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

Target: Harry


Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?

Hunters Are for Killing (TV Movie)

Along Came a Spider (TV Movie)


Support Your Local Gunfighter

In Broad Daylight (TV Movie)

River of Gold (TV Movie)


The Shaggy D.A.

Richie Brockelman: The Missing 24 Hours (TV Movie)

The Legend of Valentino (TV Movie)


Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid (TV Movie)


Flesh & Blood (TV Movie)

Hot Stuff


Oh, God! Book II

If Things Were Different (TV Movie)


The Star Maker (TV Movie)


Fantasies (TV Movie)

Help Wanted: Male (TV Movie)


One Cooks, the Other Doesn't (TV Movie)

Dixie: Changing Habits (TV Movie)


For Love or Money (TV Movie)


Kojak: The Belarus File (TV Movie)


A Stranger Waits (TV Movie)


Alone in the Neon Jungle (TV Movie)


Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean (TV Movie)


The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary Special (TV Movie)


Battling for Baby (TV Movie)


A Twist of the Knife (TV Movie)


The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride (voice)


Spirited Away


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