She delivered wit with style
EmptySuzanne Pleshette, the husky-voiced star the world knew for her role as Bob Newhart's sardonic wife on "The Bob Newhart Show," died Saturday of respiratory failure at her Los Angeles home. She was 70.
She had undergone chemotherapy for lung cancer in 2006.
As the beautiful schoolteacher and wife to Newhart's psychologist Bob Hartley, Pleshette's droll delivery and understated comic touch meshed perfectly with Newhart's deadpan humor.
"Bob Newhart Show," a hit throughout its six-year run on CBS from 1972-78, starred Newhart as a Chicago psychologist surrounded by eccentric patients. Pleshette, as Emily, provided the voice of reason. Episodes often ended with Newhart and Pleshette in bed, rehashing their day and bantering. Their comfy relationship and easy humor with each other was one of the series' endearing charms.
Pleshette returned to the marital bed on the last episode of Newhart's subsequent series, "Newhart," in 1990, when it was revealed that the entire series had just been Bob Hartley's dream.
After "Bob Newhart Show," Pleshette starred in two series she helped create. "Suzanne Pleshette is Maggie Briggs," aired on CBS in 1984. In 1986, she starred in "Bridges to Cross."
Since 2001, she was married to TV actor and personality Tom Poston, who co-starred on "Newhart." He died in 2007.
She earned four Emmy nominations, including two for her performance on "Bob Newhart Show."
Pleshette received an earlier Emmy nom for her portrayal of a drug addict in "Dr. Kildare" in 1961. She also displayed her dramatic chops in the title role of "Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean" in 1990, attracting another Emmy nom. Pleshette also got a Golden Globes nom as the domineering hotelier.
In 2003, after the death of John Ritter, Pleshette appeared in episodes of "8 Simple Rules," playing the mother of Katey Sagal's character. In 2004, she starred in an episode of "Will & Grace."
In 1963, she was nominated for a Golden Globe as Newcomer of the Year for her performance in "Rome Adventure." She won a Golden Laurel Award in that same category for the romantic drama.
Born in New York, 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.
"When I was 4," she told an interviewer, "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."
Among her stage roles was that of Annie Sullivan in "The Miracle Worker," replacing Anne Bancroft in the 1959 drama about Helen Keller.
Pleshette 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 '60s, 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."
Pleshette starred opposite James Garner in the film "Support Your Local Gunfighter" and with Steve McQueen in "Nevada Smith." Her easygoing comic delivery graced three Disney comedies, where she starred opposite Dean Jones: "The Ugly Dachshund," "Blackbeard's Ghost" and "The Shaggy D.A."