Suzanne Pleshette at Disneyland

She was one of those people who lit up the screen; one of those people you felt as if you knew; one of those people that could make a mediocre film worth watching simply because she was in it. She could be sexy and funny at the same time; her dramatic roles were effortlessly natural and believable.

Sad to say, I wasn’t shocked when I read that Suzanne Pleshette had died. Supermarket checkout lines put all those ratty scandal-and-sensation newspapers at eye-level, and sometimes it’s pretty hard to avoid noticing a headline. The one I happened to catch a few weeks ago was “Suzanne Pleshette Planning Her Funeral.” I hoped it wasn’t true, but I’ve seen those kinds of “soon to die” headlines before, and unfortunately, they’re often correct.

It’s no secret that Walt Disney himself had a major crush on Pleshette. Suzanne flirted with Disney when she was on the lot, something Disney seemed to enjoy. I guess the empire would have crumbled if Disney ended his less-than-fulfilling marriage, but it’s interesting to speculate about the ways in which history might have changed…

She made three pictures at Disney’s: The Ugly Dachshund, which one might reasonably expect to be a major Disney dud, but is delightful and funny; Blackbeard’s Ghost, which I’ve never seen; and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, which is far from a great movie, but a wonderful showcase for Pleshette.

Suzanne Pleshette appeared in two films released in 1963.

  • One, of course, was Hitchcock’s The Birds, where her Annie Hayworth had ten times the life and appeal of Tippi Hedrin’s Melanie Daniels.
  • The other ‘63 film, Wall of Noise, is a hoot. Suzanne gets to play the (very) bad girl in a horse racing saga. (‘Wall of noise,’ for those who may not know, is the expression for the roar of the crowd as the horses make the turn into the home stretch. The ‘wall of noise’ sometimes spooks even experienced horses).

Wall of Noise is not out on DVD; I’m not even sure if it was ever out on VHS.

It’s one of those mid-sixties Warner Brothers black and white programmers where they’d grab a few of their TV stars (in this case, Suzanne, Ty Hardin, and Dorothy Provine) and make a quick picture and a quick buck. If you see Wall Of Sound pop up on TCM, set the Tivo. I have an old 16mm print of the film, and it’s a huge hit with friends whenever I run it.

But Suzanne Pleshette’s major – and often overlooked – claim to Disney fame is that she appeared in the first feature film ever to be shot in Disneyland: 40 Pounds of Trouble. Who would have thought that Disney would allow Universal to use Disneyland as a background for a chase scene? But he did, and the footage of Disneyland seen in 40 Pounds is like a time capsule from the park circa 1961-2, featuring many scenes of many now-extinct attractions… as well as fabulous footage of nearly the entire park. It’s terrific.

Suzanne looks lovely, as always. Walt Disney wasn’t the only guy who had a crush on her. We miss you already, Suzanne.

Part 1

Part 2

A couple of questions about the clip:
  • Did they really think that they could get away with re-arranging Disneyland geography? Did they think no one would notice that they have the monorail drop Tony Curtis, Suzanne Pleshette, and Claire Wilcox off at the Main Street U.S.A. train station?
  • Did they ever sell masks of JFK, Castro and Krushchev at somewhere near Hook’s Pirate Ship in Fantasyland?
  • Share/Bookmark