Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Suzanne Pleshette, 1937-2008

She had the makings of a 1940s star: jet-black hair framing kabuki-white skin; a sultry voice and that famously knowing laugh. But Pleshette got to Hollywood in the early '60s, when womanly sophistication was out. So in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds she was a sullen spinster murdered by the avian horde. That left TV, where she played a psychologist's wife on The Bob Newhart Show. As the one grownup, surrounded by kooks and the ineffectual star, Pleshette was champion of the verbal raised eyebrow — never in contempt, always in amusement. She stayed on the small screen and late in life married another Newhart alum, Tom Poston. Warm and witty, with perfect comic instincts, she made a lovely career out of what, a few decades earlier, could have been a great one.

Richard Corliss