Suzanne Pleshette, the husky-voiced actress who redefined the television sitcom wife in the 1970s by playing the smart, sardonic Emily Hartley on “The Bob Newhart Show,” died on Saturday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 70.
Moviegoers knew Ms. Pleshette from a string of Hollywood features, and her low-key performances often transcended thankless roles in bad movies. She made her film debut in a 1958 Jerry Lewis comedy, “The Geisha Boy,” and came to the attention of teenage audiences in her second movie, “Rome Adventure” (1962), a good-girl, bad-girl romance opposite Troy Donahue, the beautiful blond heartthrob of the moment. (Ms. Pleshette played the virgin.) After making another film together in 1964, she and Mr. Donahue married, but lasted only eight months.
Alfred Hitchcock fans knew Ms. Pleshette best as the pretty small-town teacher who not only loses the guy (Rod Taylor) to the blonde (Tippi Hedren), but is also pecked to death by an angry flock in “The Birds” (1963). Because she was a Method actress, “Hitch didn’t know what to do with me,” Ms. Pleshette said in a 1999 Film Quarterly interview with other Hitchcock heroines. “He regretted the day that he hired me.” Many disagreed with that conclusion. NY Times 2008.