21 January 2008 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Actress Suzanne Pleshette, who started out in films such as The Birds but became a television star playing Bob Newhart's wife on The Bob Newhart Show, died Saturday night of respiratory failure at her home in Los Angeles; she was 70. Pleshette had been battling lung cancer since 2006, when she underwent chemotherapy and had part of one lung removed. A fresh-faced beauty with a distinctive, husky voice, Pleshette worked mostly onstage in the 50s, with one of her most notable roles as Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, replacing original star Anne Bancroft. She made her film debut opposite Jerry Lewis in The Geisha Boy and worked steadily in television as she launched her film career. Her most notable screen role was in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, where she played a local schoolteacher who befriends out-of-town socialite Tippi Hedren and helps protect the children of the town during one of the film's terrifying bird attacks. In 1964, she married screen heartthrob Troy Donahue, her co-star in the romantic drama Rome Adventure, though the marriage lasted less than a year, and in 1968 married Texas oilman Tommy Gallagher.

Despite a prolific career in film and television, Pleshette gained her fame playing Emily Hartley, the down-to-earth wife of psychiatrist Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) on the 70's sitcom The Bob Newhart Show, which ran for six years and earned her two Emmy nominations. Pleshette was so well-known as the small-screen wife of Newhart that she reprised her role in an unexpected cameo in the series finale of Newhart's second major sitcom, Newhart. The episode, where Newhart awakens in the bedroom set of his old show with Pleshette by his side (as they often ended episodes of their old show, trading dry banter) is considered one of the most clever, and surprising, series finales in television history. Pleshette continued working in television through the rest of her career, earning another Emmy nomination for playing Leona Helmsley in Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean, and made appearances in sitcoms Good Morning Miami, 8 Simple Rules... and Will & Grace (where she played the mother of Megan Mullally's character, Karen Walker). Pleshette also provided the voices of Yubaba and Zeniba in the English language version of Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-winning animated film Spirited Away. In 2001, after the death of her second husband, Pleshette married actor Tom Poston, whom she had met 40 years ago and who had co-starred in Newhart; they remained married until his death last year. --Mark Englehart, IMDb staff

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