Sometime in the mid 70s Lorenzo Music, one of the creators of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW (and voice of Carlton the Doorman and Garfield the cat) and his wife Henrietta starred in a pilot. I went to the taping. For the big finale Lorenzo & Henrietta were joined on stage by the MTM all-stars. All the cast members from THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, RHODA, PHYLLIS, maybe even PAUL SANDS’ FRIENDS AND LOVERS was that year. It was quite dazzling. Idols like Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore in her absolute prime. But the thing that struck me was how Suzanne Pleshette was so stunningly beautiful that it was almost like she was in color and everyone else was in black in white. She was simply radiant. Shimmering. Breathtaking. And all she did was just stand there.
If there is such a thing as star presence Suzanne Pleshette had it.
She passed away on Saturday. She was only 70. Don’t smoke.
I’m sure when you think of her you think of Emily Hartley, Bob Newhart’s wife on THE BOB NEWHART SHOW. Words you might use to describe her – in addition to gorgeous – are funny, sophisticated, smart, compassionate, definitely sexy. And these would all be accurate. But there’s one more.
Yes, dear sweet Emily Hartley could drop F-bombs with the best of ‘em. And every other word and expression you might hear on DEADWOOD. But God was she funny. Used to maximum effect, and in that deep husky voice, Suzanne could shock and pulverize you almost instantly. And somehow she always managed to be racy without being vulgar. How do you do that? I guess that’s why the Tramp is still a Lady.
Maybe the most thankless role in sitcoms is the star’s wife. Usually they’re relegated to the voice of reason, the wet blanket. Not Suzanne. She was Bob’s partner, his equal. Bob and Emily didn’t have to fight to be funny. They didn’t have to be opposites. They were grown-ups. Their comedy sprung from how real and relatable they were. You always bought them as a couple – even if the “Bob Newharts” of the world don’t usually get the “Suzanne Pleshettes”. You just knew they had a good sex life. And you knew they’d be together forever (even if Bob did have this bizarre dream where he was running an inn and married to someone else).
I will always think of Suzanne Pleshette as she was that night at the pilot. We lost a gifted comedienne, a first class beauty, and one helluva broad.