Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Memoriam

Suzanne Pleshette, one TV land's most beloved actresses, died this week.  Probably best known for her role as Emily Hartley on the Bob Newhart show, her pairing opposite Newhart was the stuff of TV legend.  She was the consumate "straight man" to Newhart's signature dry wit and her character, Emily, was a model for contemporary women of the 1970s:  smart, independant, professional and able to match her husband wit for wit.  She would reprise this role in the now famous final episode of Newhart when the entire series was revealed to be the dream of Bob Hartley, the character Newhart originated opposite Pleshette in the '70s.

She began her career on Broadway in the late 50s and made television appearances on some of the best series of the day including Playhouse 90 and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  She was later cast again by Hitchcock in his classic The Birds in which she played school teacher Annie Hayworth.  A television mainstay through the 80s and 90s, Pleshette's final role was as Karen Walker's mother on Will and Grace.  

Coincidentally, Scott and I have been DVRing The Bob Newhart Show reruns lately on American Life TV and rediscovering the brilliance of the series.  Suzanne Pleshette died of respiratory failure following a bout with lung cancer.  She was 70.
New York and Hollywood were shocked by the news that actor Heath Ledger was found dead today in a SoHo apartment.  Originally from Perth, Australia, Ledger came to Hollywood and was poised to become heart-throb material after appearing in such teen-flicks as "10 Things I Hate About You".  But rather than become a pretty-boy studio product, Ledger was particular about the roles he chose and went on to appear in such notable films as The Patriot and Monsters Ball among others.

It was his breakout role as Ennis Del Mar in 2005's Brokeback Mountain that garnered him an Oscar nomination and made him one of the promising young actors to watch.  This role also endeared him to the gay community because of his honest portrayal of a man emotionally paralyzed by his feelings until he meets and falls in love with Jack Twist, the man with whom he would have an ongoing affair for years.  Instead of fearing the career fallout often associated with playing gay roles, Ledger jumped at the chance.  In an interview at the time he described the role as "the most...complex and internal character I've been offered...it just hadn't been put to screen before....I'd be crazy to turn it down." 

Ledger's final role is as The Joker in the latest Batman installment, The Dark Knight, to be released later this year.  The facts surrounding his death are still under investigation although alleged drugs and a possible accidental overdose have been mentioned.  Heath Ledger was 28.



At 12:47 PM, Blogger judy said...

These are two voices I know I will miss from the world of screen and theater. Her's that wonderfully husky voice that flattened in the classic wise-gal delivery reminiscent of female stars of Hollywood past. His a beautifully deep and rich voice at once vulnerable but with the promise of Shakesperean timber. This is a sad day for the movie lovers among us.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Donnie said...

I already miss Suzanne Pleshette. One of my favorite movies of hers was "The Ugly Dachshund" (1966).

I was shocked when I heard about Heath Ledger...I honestly thought it was a bad joke.


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