Born in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York City January 31, 1937, her parents were Jewish and the children of immigrants from Russia and Austria-Hungary.
Her mother, Geraldine (née Kaplan), was a dancer and artist who performed under the stage name Geraldine Rivers.
Her father, Eugene Pleshette, was a stage manager, network executive and manager of the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn.
She graduated from Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts and then attended Syracuse University for one semester before transferring to Finch College.
In 1959 she was featured in the comedy Golden Fleecing starring Constance Ford and Tom Poston.
(Poston would eventually become her third husband.) That same year, she was one of two finalists for the role of Louise/Gypsy in the original production of Gypsy.
During the run of The Cold Wind and the Warm she spent mornings taking striptease lessons from Jerome Robbins for the role in Gypsy.
In his autobiography, the play’s author Arthur Laurents states, “It came down to between Suzanne Pleshette and Sandra Church.
Suzanne was the better actress, but Sandra was the better singer.
We went with Sandra.”
Pleshette was the co-star of the popular CBS sitcom The Bob Newhart Show (1972–1978) for all six seasons, and was nominated twice for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
She reprised her role of Emily Hartley in the memorable final episode of a subsequent comedy series, Newhart, in which viewers discovered that the entire series had been her husband Bob’s dream when he awakens next to Pleshette in the bedroom set from the earlier series.
Pleshette was also nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her role as Leona Helmsley in the TV-movie Leona Helmsley: Queen of Mean (1990).
She also appeared on the sitcoms Will & Grace and 8 Simple Rules.
Pleshette was married three times.
First up was actor Troy Donahue on January 4, 1964, her co-star in Rome Adventure (1962).
They divorced only eight months later. On March 16, 1968, she married businessman Thomas Joseph Gallagher III.
He died on January 21, 2000. Each had also starred on The Bob Newhart Show, but not at the same time; she had starred on the 1970s version, and he starred on the series in the 1980s.
However, Poston had appeared in a recurring role in the ’70s version as an old friend of Newhart’s character, Bob Hartley, and Pleshette had appeared in the ’80s version finale (now considered a classic), when, back in her role as Emily Hartley, she rolled over in bed, revealing to Newhart that the whole show (1982-1990) had been a dream.
Pleshette was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent chemotherapy in the summer of 2006; she rallied, but in late 2007, she barely survived a bout of pneumonia.
She died of respiratory failure on Saturday, January 19, 2008, a few days shy of her 71st birthday.
Suzanne Pleshette, the actress who achieved television immortality in her role as Bob Newhart’s wife in the 1970s classic situation-comedy.
The Bob Newhart Show (1972), will be remembered as a gregarious, down-to-earth person who loved to talk and often regaled her co-stars with a naughty story.