Sunday, January 27, 2008

Suzanne Pleshette and Lois Nettleton

They died within a week of each other, but the death of Suzanne Pleshette received a lot more publicity than the passing of Lois Nettleton.

Which is understandable, given Pleshette's long career in movies and her long stint as the television spouse of Bob Newhart. And I'm afraid there's not much I can add to the posthumous tributes to her. She was beautiful, she could be naughtily witty, and her portrayal of Emily Hartley was one reason the relationship between her and Bob Hartley seemed at least somewhat more realistic than the marriages of many, if not most, sitcom couples. Emily was not a doormat, but neither was she a steamroller, and the couple's repartee always had an underpinning of respect.

I also remember thinking that they were the first couple who seemed as if they used their bed for more than just sleeping. This, of course, was well past the era of the Laura and Rob Petrie Twin Bed Set...

My first memory of Lois Nettleton is from 1960s TV: "Accidental Family," a short-lived series starring Jerry Van Dyke -- a redundancy if ever there was one. Jerry played a widowed comedian who moved with his very young son to a farm owned by Nettleton's character, a divorcee. I remember that it also featured John Byner, a comedian who in recent years has been too rarely seen. (I always remember a hilarious routine he did about a standup comedian who's bombing. And his impression of Brian Keith on "Family Affair." which basically consisted of Byner running his hand down the side of his face, in mock "Uncle Bill" frustration. I know he's still around, and I really wish he'd do a DVD of his best stuff.)

I don't remember much else about "Accidental Family," but I always remembered Lois Nettleton's performance, and I almost always watched everything she did after that. I suppose this was at least partly because I had a little crush on her, but she also had a way of making you care about her characters. (I would have liked to see her performance as Blanche in "A Streetcar Named Desire.") She also made many game show appearances -- mostly on "Pyramid," I think -- and I read somewhere that she spent so much time chatting with her "civilian" partners, showing an interest in their lives, that she could lose sight of the game.

Don't know what you think, but that sounds like a very nice person to me.


Bonnie Martin said...

Lois was just as good if not better of an actress than S. Pleshette! The Academy Award ceremony only acknowledged Pleshettes passing, not Lois's!!! Knowing Lois, as a cousin, I knew her inside out! She was truely a wonderful person and being at her funeral I really discovered what a devout Christian she was. The congregation of St. Ambrose Church will miss her dearly. She was never really shown the respect of what all her accomplishments were! What a shame.

Mark Murphy said...

Ms. Martin:

Thanks very much for your comment.

I missed the memorial part of the Oscar ceremony, so I didn't know Ms. Nettleton had been ignored. That's indeed shameful.

mark m.

valerie mattox said...

Ms. Martin:

The oversight at the Oscars was indeed heartbreaking. The many years of voting and performing should have at least earned a nod from the Academy. As, another cousin, I would truly love to hear from you! We we're never contacted and would love to know about the ceremomy.

valerie m