Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Suzanne Pleshette!

Picture Legend
1. Ms Suzanne Pleshette
2. Young
3. Cheesecake
4. In “The Geisha Boy” with Jerry Lewis
5. With 14 year old Patty Duke in “The Miracle Worker”
6. In “The Birds” with Tippi Hedren
7. Suzanne and Troy Donahue
8. In “The Wild Wild West” with Robert Conrad
9. In “Nevada Smith” with Steve McQueen
10. Alien stripper
11. Suzanne’s spaceship
12. In “Support Your Local Gunfighter” with James Garner
13. Suzanne looking pretty
14. “The Bob Newhart Show” with Bob Newhart, Bill Daily, Marcia Wallace, and Peter Bonerz
15. Suzanne and Bob on the “Newhart” finale, May 21st, 1990
16.  With Bob at The Emmys in 2002
17. Ms Suzanne Pleshette

   It is my great pleasure and honor to give a great big happy birthday shout out today to one of my favorite actresses, Ms Suzanne Pleshette!
   Ms Pleshette would have been 77 years old today if she hadn’t been taken from us on Saturday, January 19th, 2008, of respiratory failure at her Los Angeles home, (just down Wilshire Blvd. from where I’m writing this) twelve days before her 71st birthday.
   Like some of us, Suzanne was born at a very early age as a small female infant, in a little town called Brooklyn Heights, which is an upper middle class residential neighborhood borough (borough, not burro, which is a small donkey) of Brooklyn, which is one of the 5 boroughs which comprises the city of New York, which is in the state of New York... what a strange and amazing coincidence!
   Brooklyn Heights is famous for being the site of the famous Battle of Brooklyn Heights, wherein the British kicked George Washington’s revolutionary ass so bad he had to retreat to Manhattan. It also boosts a concentration of over 600 pre-Civil War houses, and is where the Jehovah's Witnesses (a millenarian (or chiliasm in Greek, is a belief held by some Christian denominations that there will be a Golden Age or Paradise on Earth in which "Christ will reign" for 1000 years prior to the final judgment and future eternal state) restorationist (the belief that Christianity should be restored along the lines of what is known about the apostolic early church, which restorationists see as the search for a more pure and more ancient form of the religion) Christian denomination with nontrinitarian (refers to monotheistic belief systems, primarily within Christianity, which reject the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Trinity, namely, the teaching that God is three distinct hypostases or persons who are co-eternal, co-equal, and indivisibly united in one being or ousia (the Ancient Greek noun formed on the feminine present participle of εἶναι (to be); it is analogous to the English participle being, and the modern philosophy adjectival ontic)) beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity) have their world headquarters, and is, or has been the home of such nice people as the musician Björk, the poet W. H. Auden, the married actors Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany (my arch rival), former devil Gabriel Byrne, “Breakfast at Tiffanys” author Truman Capote, former John Adams Paul Giamatti, “The Executioner's Song” author Norman Mailer, former husband of Marilyn Monroe and author of “The Crucible” Arthur Miller, former wife of Dick Van Dyke... Mary Tyler Moore, former girlfriend of Ferris Bueller Mia Sara, humanist Walt Whitman, author of “Look Homeward, Angel” Thomas Wolfe, more married actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Ferris Bueller, soviet spy Keri Russell, and the wonderful actress Suzanne Pleshette.
   Her parents were Jewish (a nation and ethnoreligious group (an ethnic group of people whose members are also unified by a common religious background) originating from the Israelites (Hebrews) of the Ancient Near East), the children of immigrants from Russia and Austria-Hungary. Her father, Eugene Pleshette, was a stage manager, network executive,  and manager of the Paramount Theater (now the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Athletic Center)  in Brooklyn during the big band era (approximately between 1935 and 1946). Her mother, under the stage name "Geraldine Rivers," was an artist and dancer.
    Suzanne was born on a Sunday, so she started off the week, and the month of February quite nicely. 
   She had stated that she was not a natural actor, but found herself attending the High School of the Performing Arts in Manhattan (a public alternative high school). The famous actors Jennifer Aniston, and Ving Rhames trained there as well. After graduating Suzanne attended Syracuse University (where Joe Biden attended law school so he could be close to his future wife,  Neilia Hunter. Dick Clark, Peter Falk, and Aaron Sorkin also attended) for a semester before returning to Manhattan in order to attend Finch College, an elite finishing school for rich young ladies.
   Suzanne dropped out after her first semester at Finch to take acting lessons from Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in Manhattan. 
   Sanford had worked with many actors before, or taught them, and some of them became well known, like current Academy Award nominee for Best Actress Sandra Bullock, Dylan McDermott, James Caan, Steve McQueen (the bastard), Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck, Bob Fosse, Diane Keaton, Peter Falk (again... perhaps Peter was stalking Suzanne... just saying), Jon Voight, Jeff Goldblum, Grace Kelly, Scotty James Doohan, Tony Randall and Sydney Pollack. 
   Suzanne began her career as an actress in theater, making her Broadway debut in Meyer Levin's 1957 play “Compulsion,” adapted from his novel inspired by the Leopold and Loeb case (two wealthy University of Chicago law students who kidnaped and murdered 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks in 1924 in Chicago), and starring Roddy McDowall and Dean Stockwell. Reviewers described her appearance and demeanor as sardonic and her voice as sultry, which is true, she did have a sardonic demeanor and her voice was sultry... sexy too! She was initially cast as "The Fourth Girl", but eventually took over the ingénue role (defined as an innocent or unsophisticated young woman) during the play's run. She also made her television debut that year on the short lived series, “Harbormaster,” starring Barry Sullivan, in an episode called “Night Rescue,” which aired on December 5th.
   In 1958 Suzanne appeared with Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach (who played Calvera, the Mexican bandit and bad guy in 1960‘s “The Magnificent Seven.” The producers had ran out of Mexican actors and hired Eli who was, and still is (98 years old at this time) Polish), in the play “The Cold Wind and the Warm,” at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.  
   She also made her film debut that year with Jerry Lewis (who I once had the pleasure of seeing live at The Greek Theater) in “The Geisha Boy.” Here’s a clip.
   Suzanne found a good deal of work in television, working on shows like “Have Gun - Will Travel” with Richard Boone, “Playhouse 90“ with Mary Aster and Inger Stevens, “One Step Beyond” with Norman Lloyd, and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” with Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Morse, and many, many others.  
   On stage she appeared with Constance Ford and Tom Poston (who she would work with again in the 70‘s “The Bob Newhart Show," and who would become her third and last husband, marrying in 2001, and remaining so until his death, also from respiratory failure, in Los Angeles on April 30, 2007, at the age of 85) in the comedy “Golden Fleecing.”
   She also learned how to be a stripper in preparation for the stage role of Gypsy Rose Lee in the first stage production of the musical “Gypsy,” with Ethel Merman and Jack Klugman, but the part went to another actress (Sandra Church). Our dear friend Natalie Wood starred in the 1962 film version. 
   In 1961 she took over the role of Anne Sullivan Macy from Anne Bancroft, in “The Miracle Worker, with 14 year old Patty Duke as Helen Keller. 
   That year she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her appearance as Julie Lawler on the TV show “Dr. Kildare,” starring Richard Chamberlain.
   Her next film role was in 1962‘s “Rome Adventure,” with Troy Donahue,  Angie Dickinson and Constance Ford again (was Constance stalking Suzanne? I don’t know... just saying)
    That year she also starred with Tony Curtis in the comedy “40 Pounds of Trouble.” So within a period of 4 years Suzanne was now getting regular work and leading roles in films. Not bad, not bad at all.
   Alfred Hitchcock must have remembered Suzanne from his TV show because he gave her the supporting actress role in his 1963 classic, “The Birds,” also starring Tippi Hedren (who Hitch thought of as his personal property according to the 2012 BBC/HBO film “The Girl,” featuring Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as Hitchcock) and Time Traveler Rod Taylor.
   This film is probably the movie role Suzanne is most remembered for. When I first saw it I thought it was a simple suspense and horror tale concerning a bunch of birds who were fed up with the way humans were running things and started to do something about it by attacking them (and poor Suzanne in particular). Thank goodness humanities scholar Camille Paglia taught me that “The Birds” is an ode to the many facets of female sexuality and, by extension, nature itself, noting that women play pivotal roles in the film. Mitch, played by Rod, is defined by his relationships with his mother, sister and ex-lover... a careful balance which is disrupted by his attraction to the beautiful Melanie, played by Tippi. 
   It always comes back to female sexuality, doesn’t it?
   Freaking birds.
   Especially those salty ass seagulls, with their beady salty ass eyes.
   Here’s a clip.
   Suzanne was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer for her work in “The Birds.”
   She then went on to star opposite Troy again in 1964‘s “A Distant Trumpet.” They must have liked working together because they got married, which is a form of liking. However, the marriage ended badly after only eight months (Donahue died of a heart attack at the age of 65 on September 2nd, 2001). Her next marriage in 1968 to Texas oilman Tom Gallagher lasted a little longer, until his death from lung cancer on January 21, 2000. 
   That year (1964) she appeared with Glen Ford, Rod Taylor again, Jane Russell, and Wally Cox in the denial film “Fate Is the Hunter.”  
   In 1965, September 17th specifically, Suzanne appeared on the very first episode of one of my favorite television shows of the 1960s, “The Wild Wild West,” starring Robert Conrad (who knew my mom) as Jim West, and heavy breather, and crappy fencer, Ross Martin, as Artemus Gordon. The episode was entitled “The Night of the Inferno,” and I remember seeing it, but have no recollection of Suzanne. 
   My only defense is that I was only 9 years old at the time of airing and beautiful and talented brunette women were not yet a priority for me. 
   That would change soon enough.
   Also in 64 and 65 she appeared on 2 episodes, and 2 different characters (they must have been twins) of one of the greatest TV shows of all time, “The Fugitive,” starring David Janssen as Harrison Ford... uh... Dr Richard Kimble. I don’t remember her in either episode.
   I do remember, and will never forgive Steve McQueen (the actor, not the director of “12 Years a Slave”) for causing Suzanne’s death in 1966‘s “Nevada Smith.” 
   The miserable son of a bitch!
   This was the first film I noticed Ms Pleshette’s work. And she made me sad.
   I would see her again and again in future years. 
   She was the producers' original choice for the role of Catwoman on the 1966 Television series “Batman,” starring Adam West. Negotiations broke down however and the part went to the lovely and talented Julie Newmar.
   She appeared as 2 different characters in 2 different episodes again, of another of my favorite television shows of the 60s, “The Invaders,” starring Roy Thinnes, the true story of aliens invading us here on Earth and giving those who stand in their way cerebral hemorrhages. Suzanne played a mutant alien stripper in the third episode of season one which aired in 1967 (it was hard to keep that girl’s clothes on), and a dissident alien  prone to violent rages in the second to last episode of the show’s second and last season, in 1968. Unfortunately she’s murdered by Grandpa Walton, of the Walton family, in that episode. 
   These were two totally different characters because Suzanne’s mutant alien stripper was killed by her alien buddies in the first season’s show (here’s a clip of her demise), making both performances a testament to her versatility as an actress (not many actresses can come back from the dead... it’s very difficult). 
   She also appeared on “It Takes a Thief,” with Robert Wagner in 1968, a show wherein I used to sneak on the set to watch it being filmed at Universal studios. Everyone on the set assumed I was one of the producer’s sons so they left me alone.  
   By that as it may, in 1969 Suzanne was nominated for a Laurel Award (cinema awards to honor pictures, actors, actresses, directors and composers. The award was created by the Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine, and ran from 1958 to 1968, then 1970 and 1971) for her starring performance in the comedy “If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” with Ian McShane, and a whole bunch of other people. 
   If you happen to enjoy westerns that are also funny then I recommend 1971‘s “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” starring Suzanne, James Garner (who also knew my mother... she certainly got around, didn’t she), Jack Elam, and Henry Morgan.  
   And if you liked “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” then I know you’ll love 1969's “Support Your Local Sheriff!” starring James Garner, Walter Brennan, Joan Hackett (who also starred in my absolute favorite western, “Will Penny” with Charlton Heston), Jack Elam, Bruce Dern, and Henry Morgan. 
   Wonderful, wonderful movies. I’d watch them right now if I wasn’t so busy writing this.
   In 1971 she also guest starred on the episode of “Columbo,” with Eddie Albert of “Green Acres” (one of the most underrated shows in television history), and starring stalker Peter Falk. Here Suzanne discusses working with Peter at this time.
   The very next year Suzanne was chosen to play opposite the comedic recording star, Bob Newhart,  in a television sitcom, that became “The Bob Newhart Show,” which would air on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), on Saturday nights after “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and before “The Carol Burnett Show” (I happen to know this because myself and my friends would always stop whatever it was we were doing (nefarious things more than likely) in order to watch. After October 11th, 1975, our Saturday nights could be rounded off with the addition of “Saturday Night Live”). 
   Some say the shows producers saw her on “The Tonight Show,” in 1971 and noticed a certain chemistry she manifested with another guest, Mr. Newhart. And that’s what got her the part. 
   The show premiered on September 16th, 1972, and ran for 6 seasons, until April 1st, 1978, with a total of 142 episodes. It is considered a television classic. 
   I happened to be familiar with Mr. Newhart’s work, probably from watching him on shows like “The Tonight Show,” so much so that I stole one of his routines involving a veteran visiting an old army buddy who happens to own an overly large aggressive dog who is fond of jelly beans. The comedy kicks in when the implication of running out of jelly beans is realized. I performed this routine for my parents who thought it was hilarious as only parents can.
   Remember that bit Bob?
   "Why yes, Mr. Joyce, I do... and I'd like to take this opportunity..."
   Thanks Bob.
   My dear mother would later enjoy my rendition of a gangster’s moll who received a lemon meringue pie in the face, a skit I did while in the Boy Scouts. I’m a natural performer. 
   Ms Pleshette was nominated for an Emmy Award twice, in 1977 and 1978, for her performances as Emily Hartley.  
      Here’s a clip of the kind of stuff that got Mr. Newhart the gig, from The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour.
   Here’s a clip featuring Suzanne, Bob, Marcia, and her future husband, Tom Poston.
   Here’s what the good folks at the Internet Movie Data Base had to say about her: “Suzanne Pleshette, the actress who achieved television immortality in her role as Bob Newhart's wife in the 1970s classic situation-comedy, The Bob Newhart Show (1972), will be remembered as a gregarious, down-to-earth person who loved to talk and often regaled her co-stars with a naughty story. Newhart and his producers had picked her for the role of "Emily" in "The Bob Newhart Show" after watching her appearances with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), where she showed herself to be a first-rate raconteuse. Because she could hold her own with Newhart's friend Carson, they thought she would be a perfect foil as Newhart's TV wife.”
   Well said IMDB, well said.
   After “The Bob Newhart Show” ended, Bob went on to star in another sitcom entitled “Newhart,” which was a big success, airing from October 25th, 1982 to May of 1990, for 8 seasons, and 184 episodes. The show was about an author and his wife who owned and operated an inn located in a small, rural Vermont town that was home to many eccentric characters... sort of like “Green Acres” without the pig. The show starred Bob, Mary Frann, as his wife, that Tom Poston guy again as the handyman, and William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss, and John Voldstad as brothers Larry, Darryl, and Darryl.
   The show’s May 21st finale in 1990 had an unexpected guest. Here’s the clip.
   Suzanne continued working steadily, appearing on shows and movies like: “Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs” starring... Suzanne Pleshette, “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean” for which she won Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations in 1990, “The Boys are Back” with Hal Linden, “Good Morning, Miami” with Constance Zimmer, the voice of Zira in “The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride,” “8 Simple Rules,” and “Will & Grace” in which she gust starred in 2002 and 2004. The 2004 performance, an episode entitled “Looking for Mr. Good Enough” was her last.
   Here are clips from an appearance on “The tonight Show,” from 1978, after she had finished “The Bob Newhart Show,” and when she was married to Tom Gallagher. Part 1 and Part 2.
   And here she is talking about being cast on the Newhart show, and here about the end of “The Bob Newhart Show.”
   Suzanne was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent chemotherapy in the summer of 2006, and recovered. However, she barely survived a bout of pneumonia in late 2007.  She passed away at home, here in Los Angeles, in early 2008.
   She is buried in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. 
   Suzanne received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television on January 31st, 2008, 12 days after her death. Her star is located at 6755 Hollywood Blvd, just east of Highland Ave, and very close to Fredrick’s of Hollywood, a well known retailer of woman’s sexy lingerie. 
   I think Suzanne may have liked that (the star had been planned before her death).
   Arte Johnson (of “Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In” fame), and Marcia Wallace spoke at the star's unveiling. Tina Sinatra accepted the star on Suzanne’s behalf. Others in attendance included Peter Falk, Dick Van Dyke, and Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren, her co-stars from “The Birds." 
   All of us here at Joyce’s Take will always cherish the precious contribution she has made to our lives, and will always remember her fondly and with much love.
   Happy birthday Suzanne!


  1. May your soul rest in peace Suzanne Pleshette.
    Thanks for the joy you have given.

  2. Loved you as a funny, sexy, earthy, irreverent, young woman, middle age, but never elderly.....RIP Dear