She was the Queen of Mean; I was the hotel maid she berated. I met Suzanne Pleshette on the set of QoM, where we talked mostly about acting. Striding into holding one day during the shooting of “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean”, Pleshette noticed a book lying on a table & asked (in that inimitable smoke & whiskey voice): “Who’s reading Meisner?”
“Me,” I responded & so our conversations began. Sanford Meisner (“On Acting”) had been her teacher and they’d appeared in at least one play together. She told me he was a great teacher but a lousy actor. (pictured below: Pleshette as Helmsley)
She also told me about a friend of hers, a gifted actress, who’d taken time away from show biz to have a couple of kids but was now trying to get back on the boards. Her comeback was proving difficult. This echoed my own situation (except perhaps for the “gifted” part) & Suzanne’s sharing seemed an omen. I stopped trying so hard to be a professional actor after that & became a writer instead (no less difficult but at least I was at home more).
I saw The Birds (’63) again recently and was delighted by the apparent ease with which Pleshette played her scenes. Playing second banana to the cool blonde lead (as almost all brunettes in Hitch’s oeuvre do), she shone as schoolteacher & jilted lover, Annie Hayworth. Sandy Meisner may have taught her a thing or two about acting but I’m sure it was all in aid of discovering & sharpening her natural inborn talent.
- Dr. R. J. Black D.V.S.
- Champagne & Imperfection