“I’m an actress, and that’s why I’m still here. Anybody
who has the illusion that you can have a career as long
as I have and be a star is kidding themselves. (From a
1999 interview)” — Suzanne Pleshette
If I had to pick a ride or die partner from the movies, it would HAVE to be today’s birthday girl SUZANNE PLESHETTE. Looking over her filmography, there ~ in black-and-white ~ shows what a successful film and television career Pleshette had.
Why “ride or die”…to use the vernacular of the shtreets? Well, she’s a Brooklynite
( albeit, from the tony section: Brooklyn Heights ); but I think she could stand up to Stanwyck, Streisand or Hayward. Her roles never seemed passive; she was often an active protagonist helping plots move forward, even if she was just supporting her handsome male lead. She was seeeeeerious. You took her seriously; don’t come for her unless you want to face consequences. Pleshette wasn’t soft fluff. Maybe because she was dark like a raven…and had that commanding husky alto voice: Pay attention!! That’s someone I want on my wimpy side.
“[on her ‘girl next door’ image] — When Warren Beatty called a girl up, it was usually to try to get her into the sack. But he called me to find out what kind of bologna I used. I just don’t have what it takes, I guess. Raquel Welch has what it takes. She’s so sexy and gorgeous, even I want to jump on her!”
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I mostly became aware of her from television, but I did literally see a Suzanne Pleshette film IN the movie theater when my mother took us with her to see: “Fate is the Hunter” (1964) around the corner at either the Loew’s Victoria or the RKO Alhambra. ( We saw all the Disney films but if we had to be dragged to the movies with my mother ‘cuz my father was at work and it was something SHE wanted to see, we saw grownup stuff I didn’t understand… and knew better than to ask questions about ). As a family, we saw “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”
I remember a lot of the kids in my sixth grade class buzzing about two movies that year of JFK’s assassination ~ “Jason & the Argonauts” and “The Birds.” So Pleshette was already on my pre-teen radar.
“I have a great range. They can come to me with a comedy, a drama, a period piece, a character piece and know I can do it. And I bring in the ratings. I have the ability to bring a script to its full potential.”
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I could not have said this better myself. She also did a lot of tv, whether it was tv programs or tv-movies ( I wonder if she knew Elizabeth Montgomery?? ) But seeing her on talk shows you get the full-throated flavor of her realness and humor. In 1981 talking with late night talk show host Johnny Carson about her upcoming tv-movie “The Star Maker”:
In 1982: “I am a serious actress. But I cannot live my life
for my craft. What makes it rich and makes it able to
give something back is having a life.”
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I have to say I loved seeing her on the Johnny Carson Show. You can click on both photos to see her appearances with Johnny. I think the two guests who had the most relaxed conversations with Johnny were Suzanne and Phyllis Newman. Here are some shots of Pleshette in various film portrayals:
Here, Pleshette tells the story of how she got the gig on “The Bob Newhart Show.”
She’s played a school teacher, flight attendant, publishing agent, travel guide, nymphomaniac…just to name a few— Pleshette was a very talented and watchable actress. There’s no artifice. Straight up honesty through her eyes. It’s no mean feat to be adept at both comedy and drama. She seemed so accomplished and authoritative. You might even say she was a role model for women to have authority, though I doubt she’d describe it that way. As a Brooklyn-girl, she would probably look you in the eye, say “cut the bullshit” punctuating it with her hearty, throaty laugh and flash that smile. Or maybe just knock you on your can.
I have to shout her out today. I don’t want her to be forgotten.
~ [ H O M E ] ~