Meredy's random ramblings about classic film and other interests, book reviews and meredy.com updates.
January 31, 2008
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. ― Suzanne Pleshette posthumously received the 2,355th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday, which would have been her 71st birthday.
Bob Newhart and Marcia Wallace were among those who spoke at the late-morning ceremony in front of Frederick's of Hollywood, a site Pleshette requested. Tina Sinatra accepted the star on behalf of Pleshette, who died Jan. 19 of respiratory failure. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
"The thought of her with Johnny Grant really makes me feel better," Sinatra said, referring to the late honorary mayor of Hollywood who died last year. "And it was Johnny who said to me not three and a half months ago, 'Suzie doesn't have a star. We ought to do something about that.' And we were shot out of a cannon and thanks to Johnny, who was always doing something good for somebody, and I'm sure he still is, that we got this on the fast track."
Pleshette is best known for her portrayal of Newhart's wife on the 1972-78 CBS comedy "The Bob Newhart Show," a role for which she received two Emmy nominations.
"The only thing that exceeds her talent and her beauty was her bravery, because she was one of the greatest women," Newhart said.
Wallace, who also appeared in "The Bob Newhart Show," said Pleshette left a definite impression on her.
"Many people walk through your life and very few people leave footprints on your heart," she said. "She left footprints on my heart, and now we can all leave our footprints on her star. She'd love it." Comedian Arte Johnson also attended the ceremony, noting, "Suzanne Pleshette deserves
not just one star, she deserves a whole bunch of stars. She was a terrific wonderful girl."
Born Jan. 31, 1937, in New York City, Pleshette began her career on the New York stage.
She made her movie debut in the 1958 Jerry Lewis comedy "The Geisha Boy" and appeared in such films as "The Birds," "Nevada Smith," "Youngblood Hawke," "A Rage to Live" and "Fate Is the Hunter."
Pleshette also appeared with Troy Donahue -- her first husband, to whom she was married for eight months in 1964 -- in the 1962 romantic drama "Rome Adventure" and the 1964 western "A Distant Trumpet."
On Broadway in 1961, Pleshette replaced Anne Bancroft in the role of Annie Sullivan in "The Miracle Worker," opposite Patty Duke as Helen Keller.
Among her lighter screen credits are "40 Pounds of Trouble," "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium," "Support Your Local Gunfighter," "The Shaggy D.A.," "The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin," "The Ugly Dachshund" and "Blackbeard's Ghost."
Pleshette also received Emmy nominations for a 1961 guest appearance on the NBC medical drama "Dr. Kildare" and her starring role in the 1991 made-for-television movie, "Leona Helmsley: Queen of Mean."
Pleshette had been the producers' original choice to play Catwoman on ABC's campy adaptation of "Batman" in 1966, but negotiations broke down and the role went to Julie Newmar.
After "The Bob Newhart Show" ended its run, Pleshette also starred in the short-lived sitcoms "Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs" (1984) and "The Boys Are Back" (1994-95) and the dramas "Bridges to Cross" (1986) and "Nightingales" (1989).
More recently, she had a role on "Good Morning, Miami" (2002-03).
I'd never seen anything like it before as I arrived at Hollywood Blvd. this morning.
All this for the dedication of Suzanne Pleshette's star on the Walk of Fame?!!
The media trucks were lined up for blocks. Traffic was down to one lane from La Brea to Highland and jammed to the east as well. As I passed the Kodak theater, the cause for the media madness and its traffic tie up became evident. The Democrats were readying to ply their wares in the afternoon. But there was indeed a crowd on hand for Suzanne. The friends were gathered a half block east in front of Frederick's of Hollywood where Suzanne had promised me, on Jan.2, "You'll find it easily, instead of flying a flag outside, they will hang a bra!"
The sad events which followed my conversations that day with both Suzanne and Johnny Grant were almost like a B-script as Johnny's death was soon followed by Suzanne's. Johnny had promised me if Suzanne was not strong enough, he'd pipe the star ceremony to her wherever she was on the 31st, also her birthday. The star ceremony was the same as the hundred which had proceeded -- but no star-- and no Johnny.
The Chamber of Commerce's president Leron Gubler subbed as m.c., but Ana Nicole Martinez -- VP of media relations and as Johnny called her, "The Queen of the Walk of Fame" -- twice introduced Gubler as "Johnny." After all they had dedicated hundreds of stars together over the decades.
It was almost hopeless trying to hear the speeches by celebs lauding Suzanne. The noise from the heavy equipment passing on the one lane closest to the sidewalk drowned out most of their speeches. Bob Newhart finally gave up trying to talk over the noise as an ambulance with shrieking siren stopped directly in front of the gathering.
No one knew immediately that the ambulance had come to the aid of Gary Owens, who had suffered a sugar deficiency. I spoke with him at the ceremony's finale as he sat on the curbside attended by paramedics. He assured me he'd be OK. (I left messages for him or wife Arlette to call -- I'll keep you informed. At 5:11 p.m., Gary called to say he is OK and thanks for all of your interests.)
Marcia Wallace who costarred with Suzanne and Newhart recalled when she'd suffered a nervous breakdown and all friends and coworkers sent sentimental messages and gifts, "Suzanne sent me a fruit cake!" (Marcia has recovered from her own cancer bout "years ago,") she reassured all.
Longtime (50 years) friend -- she slept on his couch -- Arte Johnson sadly said Suzanne died on his birthday. Others on hand included Peter Donerz, Dick Van Dyke, Nancy Sinatra, Rip Taylor. Teary Tina Sinatra, who organized the Star event for friend Suzanne, said as she pointed to Suzanne's star, "We almost made it." Also there Patricia Barry...
A lunch followed in the Roosevelt Hotel's Oscar Room where speeches, mostly salty, told of Suzanne's sexy involvement with all. Dick Van Dyke reminded she turned him and Tom Poston got a role. Neile McQueen told of Suzanne and Steve McQueen -- before he married Neile, George Schlatter revealed a story about Suzanne and the celebrity father of one of his celebrity friends Sandra Moss, Barbara Davis Nikki Haskell and Peter Marshall also peppered the tribute with salty reminiscences.
Also on hand Suzanne's cousins John Pleshette and Ira Kaoplan -- who met for the first time at Suzanne's star ceremony. We all left the tribute to Suzanne Pleshette -- and Johnny Grant -- and moved a half block west to the Kodak theater where the warmth for the Hollywood duo was about to be replaced by a cold version of showbiz -- the political debates.
January 26, 2008
HOLLYWOOD - Despite her death, Suzanne Pleshette's star ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is going ahead as planned.
It's set for Thursday, which would have been her 71st birthday.
Pleshette died January 19th.
Her co-stars from "The Bob Newhart Show," Bob Newhart and Marcia Wallace, will speak at the ceremony.
Her friend, Tina Sinatra, will accept the star for Pleshette.
Most of the new stars are along the revitalized western stretch of Hollywood Boulevard near the Kodak Theatre. But, Pleshette requested that her star be in front of the lingerie store, Frederick's of Hollywood. That's farther east in a less desirable section of the famous street.
January 23, 2008
January 20, 2008
Bob Newhart remembers the chemistry he had with Suzanne Pleshette and the way she could make him blush.
In a 2006 interview with AP Radio, Newhart said he and Pleshette just clicked.
He said they had "mutual respect for each other and loved each other."
Newhart said Pleshette in real life was just like she was on TV "except for the swearing."
He joked that he saw "grown Marines faint" when she'd let loose with a string of dirty words.
Pleshette played Newhart's wife for six years on "The Bob Newhart Show" and was there when Newhart woke up from his dream in the surprise series finale of "Newhart."
She died before she could get her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The ceremony was scheduled on her birthday, Jan. 31.
Suzanne Pleshette was a lot saltier than Emily Hartley. She'd be the person you'd want to sit next to a party because you were sure to hear some choice comments, delivered with sass.
Pleshette died Saturday at age 70 of respiratory failure. She had been treated for lung cancer two years ago.
She made movies ("The Birds," "Support Your Local Gunfighter"), TV movies ("Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean") and numerous guest-star shots ("Gunsmoke," "Columbo"). She played the mother of Karen (Megan Mullally) on "Will & Grace."
But Pleshette will always be most prized for Emily Hartley, the ingratiating wife on "The Bob Newhart Show." She reprised that role in the series finale of "Newhart." That show's conclusion, which aired in 1990, is still the most imaginative in TV history.
Pleshette met the press six years ago to promote another sitcom, "Good Morning, Miami." That NBC show was forgettable. Pleshette wasn't.
Time had given her this way-out-there vitality. With her deep voice, hearty laugh and intense stare, she could have taught the Golden Girls -- or female impersonators -- a thing or two. You might remember that ribald quality if you ever saw her chatting with Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show."
She wasn't the glamorous young actress anymore; she was an earthy dame, an Auntie Mame who wasn't afraid to tell a dirty story.
In talking about the new show, Pleshette said, "I'm just here for the ride, whatever it is. I don't want to work too hard because I want to go home to daddy."
That was Tom Poston, who died in April. He was a familiar TV presence for "Newhart," "Mork & Mindy," "To Tell the Truth" and "The Steve Allen Show."
Poston and Pleshette (pictured) had been involved romantically more than 40 years before when they acted in a Broadway play. They married others but remained friends. They acted together on "The Bob Newhart Show" -- he was Bob's college roommate, and Emily despised him.
After they were both widowed, Poston and Pleshette reunited. They were married in 2001. That's what I'll remember about Pleshette: how happy she was to be with Poston at a party in 2002. They were a delightfully zany couple.
"My uncle delivered his oldest child," Pleshette said of Poston. "My cousin is his jeweler. We've been friends all these years."
The deaths of their spouses brought them together. She lost her husband, Tom Gallagher, in 2000.
"He was sick for six years," Pleshette said. "He had cancer, which he survived. He died of the E. coli bacteria from a hamburger. He was so brave. And Kay, Tom's wife, had Lou Gehrig's disease. Both catastrophic illnesses. Two vital, wonderful people. So we're so grateful for every moment."
Poston said he called when her husband died to commiserate. "We started seeing each other and ended up married and happy as I've ever been in my life," he said.
Pleshette said he hoped to work with Poston on "Good Morning, Miami."
"I'm hoping I wake up in bed with him instead of Bob Newhart," Pleshette said, referring to the famous ending of "Newhart." "We have to rehearse a lot first."
Pleshette feigned concern over playing a grandmother, then explained her practical approach to taking roles.
"I work for wardrobe," she said. "Whenever I need clothes, I take a job. If I get maybe like six changes, then I'll be a grandmother, I don't care."
In marrying Poston, she became the stepmother of three children. Poston said, "She has a son who's a lawyer and a daughter who's a doctor."
"And a daughter who's a waitress-singer," Pleshette said, finishing his thought. "He's got the best kids."
"The children knew her all these years, love her and are so happy she's their stepmom," Poston said.
Pleshette blithely told a story about taking that 33-year-old stepson to the tailor, a bawdy story that couldn't be repeated in a family newspaper. But then she was an unconventional speaker.
Consider what she did when she spoke at a tribute to the late Lew Wasserman, the Hollywood titan and her longtime friend. She was the lone woman giving a speech in a group that included former President Clinton, director Steven Spielberg and mogul Barry Diller.
"Darling, you know how shy I am," she said. "It's so hard for me to speak. I did mention bikini waxes. Maybe that wasn't the appropriate place for it, but it got a laugh. Not for Lew -- I mean, he didn't get a bikini wax."
What do fans remember her for? "Leona Helmsley, 'The Birds' and probably Newhart," Pleshette said. "And then those porno films that Tom and I have been doing. You asked if he was working, didn't you?"
Poston: "I had to give that up. I got makeup poisoning."
Pleshette: "It doesn't show, though, darling. OK, we're going home. We have to feed the dog."
And so they left a Hollywood party. She was the life of the party -- and so different from Emily Hartley.
Her face had ready-made drama: jet-black hair framing kabuki-white skin. Her gray-blue eyes could smolder on cue or, more readily, crease into a smile. The sultry voice and famously knowing laugh suggested a woman who had been places, had fun there and come back intact. Suzanne Pleshette was a perfect fit for the movies' golden age, in sophisticated romantic comedy (think of a brunette Carole Lombard, a springier Rosalind Russell) or the kind of elevated soap opera where she could lure a man to hell or sacrifice all in a tearful close-up. I see her swapping love banter with Cary Grant, taming Gary Cooper.
Unfortunately for her, Hollywood had stopped making the kinds of films that would have made Pleshette a star two decades before she got there. So she played Bob Newhart's wife Emily on his-six-year sitcom in the 1970s. That's how Pleshette is being remembered, on her death Saturday from respiratory failure. In 2006 she had undergone chemotherapy for lung cancer. But I prefer to think of her as one of those stars who got away — away from stardom, when the old dream factory forgot how to manufacture domestic glamour. She had all the goods, but at the wrong time.
She was born in New York City, the daughter of the manager of the Paramount Theatre in its movie-and-big-band heyday. She was on TV and on Broadway by her 20th birthday. She replaced Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker, as Helen Keller's teacher Annie Sullivan, and played opposite the young Tom Poston in The Golden Fleecing. Warner Bros. signed her to help fill its burgeoning TV production slate, which included such effluvia as 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye. But Warners was in the young-blond business, promoting girls (Diane McBain, Connie Stevens) and boys (Edd Byrnes, Troy Donahue) who embodied California's Aryan ethos. The very New York Pleshette had just arrived, and already she didn't fit.
More often than not, she was cast as the nice, bright girl whose charisma can't match the snazzy blondes the hero has fallen for. As a frumpy spinster in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), she loses Rod Taylor to up-market Tippi Hedren, then loses her life to the avian horde. She seems to have secured Donahue's love in the 1962 Rome Adventure until she catches him being kissed by mantrap Angie Dickinson. (Pleshette was married to Donahue for eight months in 1964.) Somehow her intelligence, which should have registered as high voltage — "intense" — was perceived by the studio as low-wattage: "sensible. " Being considered comfortable instead of dangerous had its compensations. It meant she would be a welcome presence in America's homes.
Annie Sullivan had a deaf-mute for her student; The Bob Newhart Show's Emily Hartley, also a teacher, had a class full of difficult charges. Husband Bob, a Chicago psychologist, was a ditherer whose tone mixed resignation with exasperation. The personalities of his patients and neighbors mostly verged on the clinical. The show's mild joke was that they were all dependent on Bob, who was dependent on Emily — the one grownup on the show. In a famous episode, Bob frets when he learns that her IQ is 22 points higher than his. To her it's no big deal; she has the grace not to consider herself superior. That's how a 70s TV wife subtly stooped to a level of equality with her insecure mate.
As combination wife, den mother and sounding board — the norm by which all the kooks on the show were measured and found wanting (though funny) — Pleshette made sardonic seem cozy. Essentially the straight woman, she could assert herself in a scene just by being there; she was the footnote you want to read before getting to the main text. Her voice could coax, critique and forgive in one sentence; she was champion of the verbal raised eyebrow, but never in contempt, always in amusement. Though Emily and Bob were more or less post-sexual, they often ended an episode in bed, rehashing the day's events, he still complaining, she offering the vocal equivalent of warm pats and cold compresses.
Newhart obviously thought Pleshette was a crucial anchor to his comic dinghy. In his subsequent sitcom Newhart, he had a different wife (Mary Frann) and a new set of kooks (including Poston). But in the last scene of the final episode he wakes, startled, to find Emily-Suzanne in their old bed, as if the eight years in New England had been a dream.
Other sitcoms, from Will & Grace to 8 Simple Rules, borrowed Pleshette's line-reading skills and Mensa warmth. She did voice work for Disney, lending her dusky chops to Zira in The Lion King II, Zeniba in the English-language version of Spirited Away. She also got a chance to play an old-Hollywood meanie: Leona Helmsley in a TV bio-pic, The Queen of Mean. And in a nice rounding off of her life, Pleshette married fellow Newhart alum Poston in 2001, 42 years after appearing with him on Broadway. He died last April.
"I don't sit around and wait for great parts," she once said. "I'm an actress, and I love being one, and I'll probably be doing it till I�m 72... " Not quite. She died 12 days before her 71st birthday. But on late shows and in reruns, Suzanne Pleshette will still be the soul of comic common sense, still sending out beams of a very reasonable radiance.
Suzanne Pleshette, the dark-haired, smoky-voiced actress who played Bob Newhart's confident and sexy wife, Emily Hartley, for six years on the popular 1970s sitcom "The Bob Newhart Show," has died. She was 70.
The widow of comic actor Tom Poston, Pleshette died of respiratory failure Saturday evening at her Los Angeles home, Robert Finkelstein, an entertainment lawyer and family friend, told the Associated Press. Pleshette underwent chemotherapy in 2006 for lung cancer.
A stage-trained New York actress who made her movie debut in the 1958 Jerry Lewis comedy "The Geisha Boy," Pleshette appeared in such films as "The Birds," "Nevada Smith," "Youngblood Hawke," "A Rage to Live" and "Fate Is the Hunter."
She also appeared with Troy Donahue, to whom she was married for eight months in 1964, in the 1962 romantic drama "Rome Adventure" and the 1964 western "A Distant Trumpet."
On Broadway in 1961, Pleshette replaced Anne Bancroft in the role of Annie Sullivan in "The Miracle Worker," opposite Patty Duke as Helen Keller.
And on television in 1991, she earned an Emmy Award nomination for the title role in the TV movie "Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean."
But she had a flair for comedy.
Among her screen credits are "40 Pounds of Trouble," "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium," "Support Your Local Gunfighter," "The Shaggy D.A.," "The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin," "The Ugly Dachshund" and "Blackbeard's Ghost."
Pleshette, however, is best remembered for playing what New York Times critic Frank Rich once described as "the sensible yet woolly wife" on "The Bob Newhart Show," which ran from 1972 to 1978. Her role as Emily earned her two Emmy nominations.
Pleshette retired from acting after marrying her second husband, wealthy businessman Tom Gallagher, in 1968. She told TV Guide in 1972 that after she'd been hanging around the house for six months, "my loving husband said, 'You're getting to be awfully boring. Go back to work.' "
After trying to figure out how she could return to work without having to get up at 5 a.m. or go out of town for weeks on movie locations, she recalled, "I said to myself, 'What can you do best?' 'Talk,' I said. 'So what better than the talk shows on TV?' I said. I picked up the phone and asked my agent to try to book me with Johnny Carson."
She made a couple of dozen appearances on the Carson show over the next few years, including one with fellow guest Newhart -- a show seen by writers David Davis and Lorenzo Music, the creatorsof the upcoming Newhart show.
"Suzanne started talking, and I looked at Lorenzo and Lorenzo looked at me," Davis told TV Guide. "There she was, just what we were looking for.
"She was revealing her own frailties, talking freely about being over 30. She was bubble-headed but smart, loving toward her husband but relentless about his imperfections. We were trying to get away from the standard TV wife, and we knew that whoever we picked would have to be offbeat enough and strong enough to carry the show along with Newhart. We didn't dream Suzanne would accept the part."
Pleshette told the magazine that "Bob is just like my husband, Tommy, letting me go bumbling and stumbling through life. And the way it's written, the part is me. There's the stream of non sequiturs by which I live. There are fights. I'm allowed to be demonstrative. But the core of the marriage is good."
Off-camera, Pleshette was known for being what an Orlando Sentinel reporter once described as "an earthy dame, an Auntie Mame who isn't afraid to tell a dirty story." Or, as TV Guide put it in 1972: "Her conversations -- mostly meandering monologues -- are sprinkled with aphorisms, anecdotes, salty opinions and X-rated expletives."
She enjoyed talking so much that during the making of "The Geisha Boy," Lewis took to calling her "Big Mouth."
Newhart, according to the TV Guide article, "was finding himself outtalked by Suzanne on the set about 12 to 1 but professed to be unperturbed by the phenomenon."
"I don't tangle," Newhart said, "with any lady who didn't give Johnny a chance to exercise his mouth -- even to sneer -- for 10 whole minutes."
Although Newhart got a new TV wife, played by Mary Frann, for his 1982-90 situation comedy "Newhart," Pleshette had the last laugh -- making a memorable surprise guest appearance as Newhart's previous TV wife, Emily, at the end of the series' final episode.
In it, Dick Loudon, the Vermont innkeeper Newhart played on "Newhart," is knocked out by a stray golf ball. Then the show cuts to a darkened bedroom as he wakes up and turns on the light to reveal Chicago psychologist Bob Hartley's bedroom from "The Bob Newhart Show." The Vermont-set "Newhart" and its colorful characters, it turns out, had only been a dream, and Pleshette's Emily tells Bob he should watch what he eats before going to bed.
In a 1990 interview with "CBS This Morning," Pleshette recalled that when the "Newhart" studio audience first saw the familiar bedroom set from the old series, she heard gasps.
"And then they heard this mumble under the covers, and nobody does my octave, you know," she recalled. "And I think they suspected it might be me, but when that dark hair came up from under the covers, they stood and screamed."
For her and Newhart "to be together again with the old rhythms, looking into each other's eyes, was just wonderful," she said. And, she said, it was "very touching and so dear" that the studio audience "remembered us with such affection."
Pleshette was born Jan. 31, 1937, in New York City. Her mother had been a dancer, and her father was the manager of the New York and Brooklyn Paramount theaters during their big-band days.
After attending the New York High School of the Performing Arts -- "I found myself there," Pleshette later said -- she spent a semester at Syracuse University and a semester at Finch College before moving on to the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and acting teacher Sanford Meisner.
Pleshette also starred in the short-lived sitcoms "Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs" (1984) and "The Boys Are Back" (1994-95) and the dramatic series "Bridges to Cross" (1986) and "Nightingales" (1989).
More recently, she played the lusty grandmother in the sitcom "Good Morning, Miami" (2002-03).
Pleshette was married to Gallagher from 1968 until his death in 2000.
She first met -- and dated -- Poston when they appeared together in the 1959 Broadway comedy "Golden Fleecing." They were both dealing with the deaths of their spouses in 2000 when they got back together. They were married the next year.
"They are a romantic duo," actor Tim Conway, a friend of Poston's, told People magazine in 2001. "It's almost embarrassing. You have to put cold water on them."
Poston died in April at age 85 after a brief illness.
Details on survivors were not immediately available.
Suzanne Pleshette, the husky-voiced actress who redefined the television sitcom wife in the 1970s, playing the smart, sardonic Emily Hartley on “The Bob Newhart Show,” died Saturday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 70.
Ms. Pleshette died of respiratory failure, her lawyer, Robert Finkelstein, told The Associated Press. Ms. Pleshette had undergone chemotherapy in 2006 for lung cancer.
A native New Yorker, Ms. Pleshette already had a full career on stage and screen in 1971 when producers saw her on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” and noticed a chemistry between her and another guest, Mr. Newhart. She was soon cast as the wife of Mr. Newhart’s character, a mild-mannered Chicago psychologist, and the series ran six seasons, from 1972 to 1978, as part of CBS’s ratings-winning Saturday night lineup.
Emily Hartley’s work life (as a schoolteacher) did not receive much attention, but the character was confident, sexy and anything but submissive to her husband.
Moviegoers knew Ms. Pleshette from a string of Hollywood features, and her low-key performances often transcended thankless roles in bad movies. She made her film debut in a 1958 Jerry Lewis comedy, “The Geisha Boy,” in a supporting role as a romantic WAC sergeant. She came to teenage audiences’ attention in her second movie, “Rome Adventure” (1962), a good-girl, bad-girl romance opposite Troy Donahue, the beautiful blond heartthrob of the moment. (Ms. Pleshette played the virgin.) After making another film together in 1964, she and Mr. Donahue married, but the marriage lasted only eight months.
Alfred Hitchcock fans knew Ms. Pleshette best as the pretty small-town teacher who not only loses the guy (Rod Taylor) to the blonde (Tippi Hedren), but is also pecked to death by an angry flock in “The Birds” (1963). Because she was a method actress, “Hitch didn’t know what to do with me,” Ms. Pleshette said in a 1999 Film Quarterly interview with other Hitchcock heroines. “He regretted the day that he hired me.” Many disagreed with that conclusion.
Suzanne Pleshette was born Jan. 31, 1937, in Brooklyn Heights, to Eugene Pleshette, who managed the Paramount and Brooklyn Paramount theaters, and Gloria Kaplan Pleshette, a former dancer.
An only child, Ms. Pleshette attended the New York High School of the Performing Arts, then Syracuse University and transferred to Finch College, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She also studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York and with its teaching star Sanford Meisner.
Her professional career began in 1957 with her television debut, a single episode in a short-lived adventure series, “Harbourmaster,” and her Broadway debut in “Compulsion,” a drama about the Leopold and Loeb murder case, in which she played Fourth Girl but soon moved up to a supporting role. In 1959, she appeared in “Golden Fleecing,” a comedy set in Venice, opposite Tom Poston, whom she would marry four decades later.
Her real Broadway triumph came in February 1961 when she replaced Anne Bancroft (who had just won a Tony Award) as Annie Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker,” opposite 14-year-old Patty Duke. Her reviews were admiring.
Ms. Pleshette returned to Broadway once more, some two decades later. “Special Occasions” (1982), a play about a divorced couple, was so ravaged by theater critics that it closed after a series of previews and one regular performance. Frank Rich, writing in The New York Times, excoriated the play but praised Ms. Pleshette’s performance: “The throaty voice, wide-open smiles and quick intelligence are as alluring as ever,” he wrote.
Ms. Pleshette had an active film career in the 1960s and the first half of the ’70s. She starred in several Disney movies, including “The Shaggy D.A.” (1976). Early on, she dealt with heavier subjects, playing a flight attendant who survives an airline crash in “Fate Is the Hunter” (1964), a sexually compulsive heiress in “A Rage to Live” (1965) and a book editor trying to save a successful young author from himself in “Youngblood Hawke” (1964). Eventually, though, she seemed to settle into comedies, like “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” (1969), about a busload of unhappy American tourists.
But it was in television that she received the greatest recognition. She was nominated for an Emmy Award four times, first in 1962 for a guest performance in “Dr. Kildare,” twice for “The Bob Newhart Show” (1977 and 1978) and in 1991 for playing the title role in the television movie “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean.”
She was never in a hit series again (although there were efforts), but she continued to appear in television movies and as a guest in popular series into the 21st century. Her last role was as Megan Mullally’s estranged mother in several episodes of NBC’s “Will & Grace” from 2002 to 2004.
After her divorce from Mr. Donahue, Ms. Pleshette married twice. In 1968, she wed Tom Gallagher, a businessman, a marriage that lasted until his death in 2000. In 2001 she wed Tom Poston, her long-ago Broadway co-star, who had also been a guest star on “The Bob Newhart Show” and a regular in Mr. Newhart’s second sitcom, “Newhart,” in the 1980s. He died last year.
Arguably Ms. Pleshette’s most memorable television moment was not in “The Bob Newhart Show” but in the final episode of “Newhart.” On May 21, 1990, Mr. Newhart’s character, Dick Loudon, was hit in the head by a golf ball and woke up to find himself in Dr. Robert Hartley’s bed, with his beautiful, unfailingly sane wife, Emily, at his side. The whole second sitcom had been a nightmare.
The episode was considered one of the most successful series finales in television history, partly because it managed to remain a secret until it was broadcast. As time passed, some found the scene a useful metaphor for hopes that a difficult situation might turn out to be just a bad dream. In 1999, a headline in the humor publication The Onion read, “Universe Ends as God Wakes Up Next to Suzanne Pleshette.”
LOS ANGELES - Suzanne Pleshette, the husky-voiced star best known for her role as Bob Newhart's sardonic wife on television's long-running "The Bob Newhart Show," has died at age 70.
Pleshette, whose career included roles in such films as Hitchcock's "The Birds" and in Broadway plays including "The Miracle Worker," died of respiratory failure Saturday evening at her Los Angeles home, said her attorney Robert Finkelstein, also a family friend.
Pleshette underwent chemotherapy for lung cancer in 2006.
"The Bob Newhart Show, a hit throughout its six-year run, starred comedian Newhart as a Chicago psychiatrist surrounded by eccentric patients. Pleshette provided the voice of reason.
Four years after the show ended in 1978, Newhart went on to the equally successful "Newhart" series in which he was the proprietor of a New England inn populated by more eccentrics. When that show ended in 1990, Pleshette reprised her role — from the first show — in one of the most clever final episodes in TV history.
It had Newhart waking up in the bedroom of his "The Bob Newhart Show" home with Pleshette at his side. He went on to tell her of the crazy dream he'd just had of running an inn filled with eccentrics.
"If I'm in Timbuktu, I'll fly home to do that," Pleshette said of her reaction when Newhart told her how he was thinking of ending the show.
Born Jan. 31, 1937, in New York City, Pleshette began her career as a stage actress after attending the city's High School of the Performing Arts and studying at its Neighborhood Playhouse. She was often picked for roles because of her beauty and her throaty voice.
"When I was 4," she told an interviewer in 1994, "I was answering the phone, and (the callers) thought I was my father. So I often got quirky roles because I was never the conventional ingenue."
She met her future husband, Tom Poston, when they appeared together in the 1959 Broadway comedy "The Golden Fleecing," but didn't marry him until more than 40 years later.
Although the two had a brief fling, they went on to marry others. By 2000 both were widowed and they got back together, marrying the following year.
"He was such a wonderful man. He had fun every day of his life," Pleshette said after Poston died in April 2007.
Among her other Broadway roles was replacing Anne Bancroft in "The Miracle Worker," the 1959 drama about Helen Keller, in New York and on the road.
Meanwhile, she had launched her film career with Jerry Lewis in 1958 in "The Geisha Boy." She went on to appear in numerous television shows, including "Have Gun, Will Travel," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Playhouse 90" and "Naked City."
By the early 1960s, Pleshette attracted a teenage following with her youthful roles in such films as "Rome Adventure," "Fate Is the Hunter," "Youngblood Hawke" and "A Distant Trumpet."
She married fellow teen favorite Troy Donahue, her co-star in "Rome Adventure," in 1964 but the union lasted less than a year. She was married to Texas oilman Tim Gallagher from 1968 until his death in 2000.
Pleshette matured in such films as Hitchcock's "The Birds" and the Disney comedies "The Ugly Dachshund," "Blackbeard's Ghost" and "The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin." Over the years, she also had a busy career in TV movies, including playing the title role in 1990's "Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean."
More recently, she appeared in several episodes of the TV sitcoms "Will & Grace" and "8 Simple Rules ... For Dating My Teenage Daughter."
In a 1999 interview, Pleshette observed that being an actress was more important than being a star.
"I'm an actress, and that's why I'm still here," she said. "Anybody who has the illusion that you can have a career as long as I have and be a star is kidding themselves."
January 18, 2008
Nettleton died today of complications from lung cancer at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, publicist Dale Olson said.
She made her Broadway debut in a 1949 production of "The Biggest Thief in Town," a comedy by Dalton Trumbo.
She appeared in more than a dozen other plays, on and off Broadway, over the next decade. As Blanche DuBois in a 1973 production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams, Nettleton avoided the typical portrayal of a faded beauty turned boozy manipulator.
"This is a Blanche . . . who has been to hell and back and yet retains her innocence," wrote critic Clive Barnes in a review for the New York Times. "Miss Nettleton plays Blanche as a woman of nearly unshatterable courage."
Nettleton said in interviews that theater was her first love, but she moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her ailing mother.
In Hollywood, starting in the 1950s, she was a guest actress on dozens of leading television series.
She had roles on "Kraft Television Theatre" and "Studio One" in the 1950s and appeared on "The Twilight Zone" in a 1961 episode titled "The Midnight Sun." She played a woman coping with the radically shifting climate after the Earth falls out of orbit.
Nettleton also had roles on "Bonanza" and "The Fugitive" in the 1960s and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in the '70s, among other series. For two years in the late 1980s, she was a regular on the police drama "In the Heat of the Night." She also appeared on "The Golden Girls," "Murder, She Wrote" and "Cagney & Lacey."
For three years in the 1990s, she had a role as Virginia Benson on the soap opera "General Hospital."
She won Emmy Awards for daytime television for her role as suffragette Susan B. Anthony in "The American Woman: Portraits in Courage" in 1976 and her performance in an episode of the religious program "Insight" in 1983.
She made her movie debut in 1962 in "Period of Adjustment," based on a play by Williams. She also had roles in "Mail Order Bride" in 1964, "The Man in the Glass Booth" in 1975 and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" in 1982.
"It takes courage to be . . . a gypsy actor like I am," Nettleton told The Times in 1985, adding that she liked playing a variety of roles. "I'm a character actress. I always wanted to be as different in everything as possible," she said.
Nettleton was born Aug. 16, 1927, in Oak Park, Ill. At 21, she was named Miss Chicago.
She studied acting at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and moved to New York City, where she joined the Actors Studio. She married Jean Shepherd, the writer, actor and radio personality, in 1960. Their marriage ended in divorce seven years later. She had no children and has no immediate survivors.
Instead of flowers, contributions in Nettleton's name can be made to The Actors Fund, for Everyone in Entertainment, 729 Seventh Ave., 10th floor, New York, NY 10019.
January 04, 2008
BALTIMORE - Olympic gold medalist Dorothy Hamill is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Hamill said in a statement Friday that she is being treated at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. The prognosis is favorable, but the 51-year-old Hamill said she will miss some of the "Broadway on Ice" tour while she is having treatment.
Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano, one of Hamill's good friends, will fill in for her, beginning Saturday night in Sarasota, Fla. Hamill said she hopes to rejoin the tour in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where it has shows Jan. 16-17.
Then 19, Hamill became America's sweetheart and a fashion icon when she won the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics. Her bright smile and bubbly personality made her a marketing dream — she was once listed as the "Most Trusted Sports Figure in America" by Ladies Home Journal — and her trademark wedge haircut sent girls across the country flocking to the hairdresser.
Hamill is one of seven U.S. women to win the Olympic gold medal. She also was a three-time U.S. champion and won the world title in 1976, and she has been inducted into both the U.S. and World Figure Skating halls of fame.
Hamill turned professional after winning the 1976 world championships. She joined the Ice Capades in 1977, and headlined that tour for eight years.
Hamill isn't the first Olympic champion to have cancer. Peggy Fleming, the 1968 Olympic gold medalist, also had breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 1998, but is now cancer free and is an advocate for research and awareness. Scott Hamilton, the 1984 men's champion, was treated for testicular cancer in 1997.
January 03, 2008
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bill Stewart didn't need an actual job interview. His performance in the 2 1/2 weeks since Rich Rodriguez resigned, punctuated by West Virginia's resounding victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, was enough.
Now he's the coach of the Mountaineers, a promotion for a man who calls himself a "West Virginian all my life."
"I had the longest job interview in America," Stewart joked Thursday, hours after the 48-28 victory over the Sooners and before the team boarded a flight home.
The 55-year-old coach agreed to a five-year contract worth $800,000 a year, plus incentives. The base salary totals $4 million, the same amount West Virginia is seeking in a buyout of the seven-year contract, worth almost $2 million a year, that Rodriguez signed in August.
Stewart was appointed interim coach when Rodriguez left Dec. 16 to coach Michigan. West Virginia formed a search committee that, according to athletic director Ed Pastilong, interviewed "a large number of candidates." Central Michigan coach Butch Jones, a West Virginia native, was considered a leading contender.
But the committee had its eyes on Stewart all along.
"In reality, he was being interviewed every day," said Pastilong, who has known Stewart for nearly four decades. "I heard somebody say that last night he had the ultimate interview. But he always was one of our most serious candidates."
Gov. Joe Manchin was among the enthusiastic group of boosters who attended the announcement at the Scottsdale resort where the Mountaineers had stayed.
"I couldn't be more happy," Manchin said. "I've watched this team come together and this gentleman right here, Billy Stewart, bring it together. He's the glue. There's not a mother or father watching today that wouldn't be proud to have their son play for this man."
Pastilong called Stewart to his room in the wee hours Thursday to offer him the job. Stewart has not signed a contract but agreed to terms with a handshake.
"I don't have a lot of experience in these negotiations and things. That's my agent right down there," he said, pointing to his wife, Karen.
Stewart had the backing of the team, including Pat White. The quarterback began stumping for Stewart on the field after running for 150 yards and throwing for 176 and two touchdowns in the victory over the No. 3 Sooners.
"He deserves it," White said. "A great man. A great coach. All the players respect him and all the players love him. You couldn't ask for a better man to lead us to victory today."
Stewart said he wanted the entire staff to return, although some are expected to join Rodriguez in Michigan. Tony Gibson, secondary coach and recruiting coordinator, was the only assistant who has resigned so far, Pastilong said.
WVU president Mike Garrison said Stewart, as a native West Virginian, fully appreciates the school.
"At this university, loyalty and trust are important," Garrison said. "We know we now have a coach who truly values the opportunity to work as the head football coach at West Virginia University."
Stewart earned $139,000 this year in his position that also included coaching tight ends and fullbacks and being the special teams coordinator. He came to West Virginia as quarterbacks coach in January 2000 after two seasons as offensive coordinator in the Canadian Football League.
Don Nehlen, the retired Mountaineers coach who hired Stewart, was glad his former assistant had landed the job.
"He's just such a good person and the kids love him," Nehlen said. "It's such a good fit with the program."
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin got his first coaching job when Stewart hired him as an assistant at VMI. Tomlin was elated to see Stewart get the West Virginia job.
"Bill Stewart!" Tomlin said at the Steelers' practice when told of the hiring. "That's the best news of the day!"
A message left for Rodriguez early Thursday was not immediately returned.
Stewart was head coach at VMI from 1994-96, compiling an 8-25 record. He also had stints as an assistant at Salem College, North Carolina, Marshall, William & Mary, Navy, Arizona State and Air Force.
Stewart acknowledged he had mellowed since his difficult years at VMI.
"I'm a little more settled in. I'm a little more laid back and I'm a little more wise," he said. "It's called maturity. I'll be as demanding, but I found out there's other ways to get the results."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Owen Schmitt rumbled down the field like a dump truck at full throttle -- bound for the end zone on the breakout play of West Virginia's 48-28 victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
It was a fitting end to the college career of a player interim coach Bill Stewart called "the heart and soul of our football team."
The 57-yard run for West Virginia's first touchdown Wednesday night was the longest of Schmitt's career. Two other long ones also came in bowl games -- 54 yards in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, 52 yards in the 2006 Gator Bowl.
"He's the best," Mountaineers running back Steve Slaton said. "He proved it on the field. He did the walk."
As usual, though, Schmitt's real work was done on behalf of others.
His lead block of Darien Williams cleared the way for Noel Devine's 17-yard touchdown run that put West Virginia ahead 27-15.
Then Schmitt lined up in the slot and threw a key block on Pat White's 42-yard run to set up the next West Virginia score.
"It's meant a lot," a choked-up Schmitt said on the field after the game, "the fact they gave me a chance to play on this team. I've taken full advantage. I thank everyone in the Mountaineer organization -- our fans, we're family. I can't say enough about them."
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound fullback with a smoothed-down mohawk haircut wrapped up his rise from walk-on to one of the toughest, hardest-hitting players in college football.
The team's postseason media guide lists him with 10 career broken face masks (his own). He is a workout wonder in the weight room, where he can squat 625 pounds and bench press 365.
Schmitt served as a bruising sidekick to the Mountaineers' sleek, speedy Devine, White and Slaton. They run past defenders, Schmitt runs over them or delivers a bone-crunching block.
The Mountaineers were plodding along with a 6-3 lead when Schmitt burst through the line into the open field en route to the team's first touchdown with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
"I was just glad I didn't get caught from behind," he said.
West Virginia gave back 7,500 tickets because it couldn't sell them, costing the school $1 million. But the loud, yellow-clad minority in University of Phoenix stadium rose to its feet to cheer arguably the most popular player of the Rich Rodriguez era.
"A lot of pride, baby," Schmitt said as the team celebrated on the field and the fans stood and cheered long after the game. "All these people coming this far to see us when they could have stayed in front of their television. I have tremendous respect for all these people who are here right now."
Of course, Rodriguez wasn't in the building. The coach who had decided to accept Schmitt as a walk-on transfer from NCAA Division III Wisconsin-River Falls three seasons ago resigned Dec. 16 to take the Michigan job. The school sued Rodriguez for $4 million.
Schmitt, an honor student, did not criticize his coach's departure.
"You've got to do what you've got to do sometimes," Schmitt said at the time. "He did all he could for us. As far as I know he did a lot of great things for this university."
Giving Schmitt a chance was one of them.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Pat White guided West Virginia to a stunningly easy romp over No. 3 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Then, the option quarterback made his biggest pitch of the night.
White ran for 150 yards and threw for 176 and two touchdowns in a 48-28 victory. After it was over, he endorsed Mountaineers interim coach Bill Stewart to become the permanent successor to Rich Rodriguez, who bolted for Michigan last month.
"He deserves it," White said. "A great man. A great coach. All the players respect him and all the players love him. You couldn't ask for a better man to lead us to victory today."
An emotional Stewart wouldn't lobby for the job. But he relished what he called "a colossal win for our program.
"I never had a Gatorade bath," said Stewart, a native West Virginian who has been an assistant for most of his career. "It was special."
The 11th-ranked Mountaineers didn't need Rodriguez. They had White, a relentless defense and a rushing attack that raced for 349 yards, most allowed by Oklahoma in a bowl game.
Since arriving in the desert last week, the Mountaineers (11-2) said they had bonded behind Stewart, who took over when Rodriguez left for Michigan in mid-December. And they vowed to rebound from a 13-9 loss to Pitt that knocked them out of the Bowl Championship Series title game.
The Mountaineers were right on both counts, turning in an emotional effort and overcoming the loss of star tailback Steve Slaton to a first-quarter leg injury. Noel Devine replaced Slaton and ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns -- a 17-yarder and a 65-yarder that clinched the game in the fourth quarter.
The Mountaineers became the first of six teams to win under an interim coach this bowl season. They improved to 2-0 in the Bowl Championship Series.
"It's a great night to be a Mountaineer," Stewart said as he accepted the Fiesta Bowl trophy while thousands of West Virginia fans celebrated in the grandstand.
Stewart said his players "never, ever quit believing."
Oklahoma (11-3) endured another disappointment on the same field where the Sooners lost a classic Fiesta Bowl to Boise State one year ago. The Sooners have dropped four straight BCS games.
"It's not very positive," said coach Bob Stoops, who led OU to the 2000 national title. "You get to this position, you're obviously doing a lot of things positive and good. But you need to finish out and play well in these games."
The Sooners had no answer for White, whose 79-yard touchdown pass to Tito Gonzales in the fourth quarter was the longest in Mountaineers bowl history.
Meanwhile, West Virginia's fourth-rated defense limited the potent Sooners to well below their scoring average of 43.4 points per game, third in the nation.
"That was very impressive," Stewart said. "Our guys fought hard."
The Mountaineers harassed Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, sacking the nation's top-rated passer three times and intercepting him in the end zone. Bradford completed 21 of 33 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns.
"I just wasn't myself," Bradford said. "I wasn't going through the reads. I was forcing things."
The Sooners rallied from an 18-point deficit against Boise State last January, taking a late lead before the Broncos forced overtime, where they won on a trick play.
This time, OU trailed 20-6 at halftime. But the Sooners cut it to 20-15 on Chris Brown's 1-yard run midway through the third quarter.
Then Stoops made two curious calls. First, he decided to go for two points. But Bradford's pass fell incomplete.
Then Stoops ordered an onside kick. The ball didn't go 10 yards, and West Virginia took over on OU's 39.
"We had the momentum, so if you get the onside kick, you have the chance to really give them a blow," Stoops said. "I thought we had the momentum. The opportunity was there. We just didn't execute."
The Mountaineers needed six plays to capitalize, scoring on Devine's 17-yard run.
West Virginia made it 34-15 on Darius Reynaud's 30-yard run with 20 seconds to go in the third quarter. The Mountaineers went 75 yards in three plays -- 42 on an electrifying run by White, who weaved through tacklers along the left sideline.
After the Sooners scored on a 19-yard pass from Bradford to Quentin Chaney, White found Gonzales down the middle for a 79-yard TD that made it 41-21.
"People doubt us all the time," White said. "But we work hard, and we did the job."
The rest of the game was garbage time, with numerous personal fouls. Oklahoma was flagged 13 times for 113 yards, and the Mountaineers eight times for 110.
At halftime Oklahoma had as many penalties (six) as first downs.
Asked about OU's penalties, Stoops replied, "Embarrassing. Absolutely no discipline whatsoever. That has to be a reflection on me. I'm obviously not doing a good enough job of getting our players to play smart."
The Mountaineers also had discipline problems. But on this night, nothing could stop them -- not the Sooners or the officials.
"Oklahoma's a great team," White said. "I think we were just a little bit hungrier than they were."