In the late 60’s, Disney would convert their movies over to a Super 8 or 16 mm and rent them out to elementary and high schools for them to raise money. It was a good plan and my little Alabama hometown elementary school did this about once a month. For many it was the only way they would ever see a movie. This was before we had VCRs and DVDs so film was the only way to see these movies.
One film I remember us showing was the 1966 Disney movie ” The Ugly Dachshund .” It is about a Great Dane who thinks he is a Dachshund. The film star Dean Jones who was in most Disney films during that time and a beautiful actress named Suzanne Pleshette.
I had not really discovered girls too much yet but she had an innocence that made her attractive to me.
I took further notice of her when later that year Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” came on TV and I saw that Pleshette was in that 1963 film.With sadness I must report that Suzanne Pleshette has taken her Final Taxi at 70 from lung cancer.
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 deep voice.
She met her future husband, Tom Poston, when they appeared together in the 1959 Broadway comedy “The Golden Fleecing,” and by 2000 both were widowed and they got back together, marrying the following year. (Poston took his Final Taxi in April 2007.)
Meanwhile, she had launched her film career with Jerry Lewis in 1958 in “The Geisha Boy.”
With her distinct, husky voice and dark good looks, directors and producers quickly took notice of the starlet and she racked up credits on the tube and silver screen. After appearing in a 1960 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the master of suspense hired her for a prime part in his hit 1963 horror film The Birds. Her performance as the frustrated school teacher in that film contains subtleties that are worth studying in acting class. She showed so much burning below the surface in her supporting role that the viewer can catch something new upon each new screening.
She also made her Broadway debut in 1961, taking over for Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan opposite Patty Duke as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.
During the next 10 years, she mostly plied her trade on the tube, appearing in episodes of Dr. Kildare, The Fugitive, The Invaders, Gunsmoke, Columbo and Bonanza. Her film credits included “Nevada Smith,” “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium,” “Fate is the Hunter,” “A Rage to Live,” “The Power,” “Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?,” “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” “The Shaggy DA” and “Oh God, Book 2.” Suzanne Pleshette appeared in nearly 130 films, TV shows and documentaries. She appeared on most of the notable TV shows from the 1950s to the present time. Her many TV credits range from “Have Gun, Will Travel” through “Will & Grace” & “8 Simple Rules.”
But it was her role as Emily Hartley, Newhart’s sarcastic, witty school teacher wife on CBS’ The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78), that brought Pleshette her greatest fame and earned her two Emmy nominations.
Pleshette reprised her role as Emily for the hilarious surprise ending of the funnyman’s followup sitcom, Newhart, in 1990. Newhart wakes up to find himself in his old sitcom prattling on about a dream he had running a cozy Vermont inn. Critics heralded the twist as one of the smartest finales of all time.
One of the last films she worked with was one of my favorite, both as a role for her and as one of my favorite films of all time. Voicing the animated character of Yubaba ( aka Granny) in Miyazaki’s Oscar winning “Spirited Away” won Suzanne Pleshette a special place in my heart.
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