FRED: Well, looks like you’re going to be a star, Suzanne. You never wanted to be anything else, did you?
SUZANNE: No, I didn’t. A lady first, and then an actress second.
FRED: I don’t know which comes first. What do you think?
SUZANNE: I’ve met a lot of actresses who are ladies, and a lot of ladies who are good actresses. But I don’t know. The first thing I worked on was being a human being, let’s put it that way.
FRED: What do you think of the men we have out here in Hollywood?
SUZANNE: Well, I think men anywhere are delightful, you know.
FRED: Are they different out here?
SUZANNE: In some respects, yes. I think geography does affect the point of view, to some extent. Out here—in a sense, women are a commodity. After all, you figure a man is a regular honest Joe—for instance, in a series. And a girl comes and goes every week, as a guest star. I think she begins to be a commodity, and I think it begins to affect their approach to women in their private life.
I think it’s unfortunate. I prefer the point of view that the men in New York have. Also, there’s an abundance of pretty women here. There are women who are anxious to be seen with people, you know, to further their own ends and I think that’s unfortunate, because it makes it very easy. So, when a woman comes along who wants to establish a relationship—you know, when it’s not hello-goodbye, gee, you’re pretty, let’s have dinner—it makes it difficult for us, I think.
FRED: You say you want to go all the way, Suzie dear?
SUZANNE: (Laughing) We’re talking about my career now, are we not?
Just a normal big star
FRED: Yes, we are . . . Do you think you can become a big star, and still remain a normal human being?
SUZANNE: I hope so. I don’t know. I’m not there. I can only speak from the position I’m in. But the fun is to get there. I don’t know what it’s like once I’m there, you know, fighting to stay up there. I doubt if it’s as much fun as the struggle up, where you can afford to take chances. But. I guess that’s the best place to go.
FRED: And now you‘ve become a Californian, you don’t want to go back to New York?
SUZANNE: No. I’d like to go back to visit. It’s still my home and my roots are there, my family are there. But I’m very happy in California.
You know, in New York, I live in an apartment, and no matter what floor you live on, when you wake up in the morning, you don’t see the sun. And here, I wake up in the morning and it’s sunny and the whole day is happy. I see bright morning.
And even when I have to get up at five o’clock in the morning, you know, that’s not very sunny then—but the ride to the studio in the morning is one of the most beautiful and truly exhilarating things—it’s brisk, you know, not warm, cool—and my little dog, she has her little chair next to me. We’ve got the radio on. And there are very few cars. And I enjoy the drive. I enjoy coming to work. It’s never a drag—I’m not supposed to say drag, I’m not a hippy.
And in New York I always get to the theater at seven, seven-thirty—although I don’t have to be there until eight. So, I have to finish my dinner by six-thirty. I can’t have dinner with friends. I had no social life, you know.
At least, out here—I don’t mind getting up early because I have my dinner hours to be with friends. I have a normal social life and I have the weekends free. It seems that every time I did a play we did Sunday matinees. I never had the weekends. I would have to see my friends at three o’clock in the afternoon. It was very difficult when you date somebody who is not in the theater. Because a man picks you up at the theater twelve o’clock at night, you go out and eat, and before you know it, he gets to bed at two or three in the morning. He’s got to get up and go to an office at eight or nine in the morning. It’s impossible. I don’t have that here.
I don’t go out on date-dates, you know, at night when I’m working the next day, since I have to get up at five. I’m in bed by ten. At least, I’m finished at six, and I can meet someone for a comfortable relaxed dinner, and that’s, let’s say, six-thirty, quarter of seven, and I can still get home in time to learn my lines and shower and get into bed at a reasonable hour.
New York is my home. But actors must be where the work is, and fortunately or unfortunately, the majority of the television is out here, and the features.
FRED: Don’t you find you miss the stimulation that New York offers?
SUZANNE: Well, there’s mental stimulation working no matter where it is. I would love it if there were one center of work, like there is in England, you know. where you have motion pictures and the theater in the same city, or relatively near—so that you can do a play and a movie at the same time. But since it’s geographically impossible, all of us have had to ad just; and I find that there’s a great deal of intellectual stimulation in Los Angeles, if you are willing to look for it.
Also, so many people from New York are out here now, that you have that rhythm; it still prevails, you know. The lethargy, the California lethargy, which the climate causes, need not necessarily be an intellectual lethargy, unless you want it to happen—at least, in my experience that’s how it is, you know.
FRED: How do you feel about what’s happening to you so fast?
SUZANNE: Well, it’s like anything—in the middle of it, it’s difficult to be objective. Some of it is very flattering, but it’s not really happening all t bat fast. There’s a lot of preparation that went into what is happening to me now. I studied for my craft, I learned in the theater, you know; I gradually grew in status—so that as each opportunity came, in most respects I was prepared for it.
So, nothing has happened that quickly. What has happened is that people are discovering me today, but I’ve been around, you know. In television I tried never to do the same kind of part twice. Invariably I had a character makeup. When I did Dr. Kildare, I wore my hair as I always have in private life, and I wore my own clothes and people stopped me in the Street—that’s the first time that’s ever happened. But it was my two hundredth television show. And once they became aware of me from that, and they would think back. they realized, oh. that was the same girl I saw in another thing.
FRED: Do you have any fear of stardom, when you look at the unhappiness that so many stars have?
SUZANNE: Well, I really cannot judge myself by what’s happened to anybody else; because. after all. I relate to things as me, Suzie Pleshette, and good, had or indifferent. But, I look forward to the responsibilities. I’ve been trained to assume more responsibility in the theater, than I have to assume, actually, in film.
Now, we’re talking on the set of a feature, and if you look around you. you look here at almost two hundred people who are responsible for my finished performance on the screen. I have a measure of responsibility, but they make as much of a contribution to my performance—more—than I do. you know. So, I’m very grateful to these people, and I just try to hold up my end; they’ll hold up theirs.
FRED: Unlike many Hollywood actresses. who are pretty girls first and actresses second—
SUZANNE: I’m very lucky, I have very rare parents. And my parents never told me that I was a pretty girl, because they had always felt that one should not rely on good looks and pleasant appearance to get by in life. And they always encouraged me to develop other facets of my personality—my intelligence or sense of humor—whatever it was; so that if life was not kind and something should happen. I still would have other things to go on. I’m very fortunate in that respect. I didn’t come to Hollywood as a pretty girl, because I didn’t think I was pretty. You know. And it’s not solely a female problem. It’s very sad to see young men come out with very little ability or training, and find that it’s just not enough to be a handsome man. They’re not equipped to deal with life. I think they’re only equipped to—in most cases—to get by on a certain attractiveness. You see, there’s no such thing, really, as an ugly man or ugly woman who is talented. Because artistry, talent. can transform some- one. Beauty—there’s a way of creating that kind of thing. We’ve seen that in the theater. That magic creative moment.
The same thing has happened with men. Some of our really fine actors are not beautiful men, but by nature, by what is happening inside, they become beautiful. And then they become the criterion for beauty, which is quite extraordinary. But they start out with something inside.
FRED: What do you expect out of marriage?
SUZANNE: Well, of course, I’m a product of a very happy marriage and a very special marriage. You know, I think everybody I grew up with has made one or two mistakes, because they jumped into something. But, I’ve got my folks as an example and I’m very happy to sit and wait for a similar situation.
My parents adore each other. They’re still on their honeymoon; they still amuse each other; they still spark each other intellectually. They care very deeply about me and what happens to me. I don’t know, how do you describe it? It’s that X quality. It’s like they’ve got angel feathers around them. I sure would like something like that.
FRED: Your mom says that she never asks you about anything she reads about you.
SUZANNE: They never have. They have never passed judgments on anyone I’ve gone with or questioned me. First of all, we’re very close. If there’s anything they should know, they’re going to know about it. I can assure you, my mother doesn’t have to ask me; she’s been told in advance.
FRED: How has it affected them. Sue? Your dad having been manager of the Brooklyn Paramount Theater; now an executive at ABC television.
SUZANNE: Well. I think like any parents—any set of parents who love their offspring—they’re extremely happy that I’m (a) happy in my work and (b) doing well in my work. Whatever it was that I selected to do, they would certainly want me to do well in it and be happy in it. It happens to be that I decided to act.
I think the nice thing is that they are so pleased with what’s happening, that they’re happy to know that other people who don’t even know them or know me, share their pride in their child.
FRED: Remember the time one of your first pictures came out and your dad, at the Brooklyn Paramount. had your name above everybody else’s?
SUZANNE: Right. Listen. I’m lucky he didn’t put “Gene Pleshette’s daughter, Suzanne,” you know that, Fred!
FRED: What do you think you’ve learned from them?
SUZANNE: Well, I think, coming from an atmosphere of love, I’m more secure than someone who would come from an atmosphere of less love. That’s one of the advantages I’ve got.
Another is that they’re both very bright people and they’ve encouraged me to think and form ideas and I’ve always been encouraged to be part of any family decision, so that I had a voice in the family life. And if I decided I want to do something. then that was my choice and I had to go by it; I had to rise or fail on it. And I think that’s rather unique. They were not overly-protective. They always allowed me free-rein, I think because they trusted me; they gave me the foundation and let me go from there. I think the greatest gift they ever gave me was a sense of humor. Because, you know, they’re wild, and they can laugh at themselves, and therefore they can laugh at life, and it’s much easier that way. And I think that’s the greatest lesson.
FRED: Mayhe that’s why you’re going to go so far . . . Where is romance going to find time in your life?
SUZANNE: I concentrate on my work while I’m here, I do my homework; but when I’m out with people, my only concern is the time I’m spending with them. I don’t find it necessary to talk about what a hard day I had at the office, you know.
And I can still manage on a day when I work to get home and cook dinner for six or eight or two people. I’ve done it, and I enjoy doing it. I clean my house. I get my laundry from the laundromat. I don’t see why the work has to be all- consuming . . . at least, so far I don’t see why. I’d much rather do for people. I’m not a big dater, I never have been, you know. I always see one or two people at a time. I prefer to spend my time—which is kind of valuable, because I don’t have that much time—with people I enjoy, people I care about.
FRED: Are you going to be able to fit marriage in then, when it comes along?
SUZANNE: I better. I’m a stinking bachelor girl, I really am. I think a lot depends on the man, you know. It takes a very special man to put up with some of the things.
After all, I cannot, as a working woman—I could be an actress or a secretary or a publicist—but as a woman with an occupation, I cannot devote my entire time to my home or my husband or my family. But I certainly hope that there will be enough time to make some man very happy.
FRED: Are you ready for marriage right now?
SUZANNE: Oh, my career has never had anything to do with it. When the right time comes, I’ll get married.
FRED: What about rumors in the papers? How much are the fans entitled to know?
SUZANNE: Well again, I come originally from the theater, where there’s a certain respect for distance maintained, and it’s difficult to adjust to a certain familiarity that exists once you enter into motion pictures. I don’t mean to say that it’s offensive; it’s just an adjustment to make.
But I have always reserved the right to keep my private life, private. I will do any number of interviews about my work, about what I am working on, about what I think impersonally about the people I work with. But how I feel about someone I’m dating, I think is my business. And I have said dozens of times—except nobody seems to believe it, because it seems to be rather unique, they tell me—that if and when I decide to marry anyone, the announcement will come from my parents, as it would with any family, I imagine, and not from the movie magazine and not from a column.
FRED: Well, what about Troy Donahue?
SUZANNE: Well, I don’t want to discuss it.
FRED: No comment?
FRED: How important is love in your life, Sue?
SUZANNE: Oh, it’s very important in my life. I think it’s important in everybody’s life. I don’t think there’s a human being who can exist without love. Not necessarily—not only man-woman love—but love of self, love of California, love of my dog. I think everyday has to be filled with a certain amount of love vibrations, back and forth. I love a great many people in many ways. I love my parents; I love friends, you know; I love my vet, when he’s kind to my dog, you know. So, I think that love is very important. I don’t think a day goes by when there’s not some kind of exchange.
FRED: Do you have any reservations about marrying an actor?
SUZANNE: I don’t know, Fred. I can only say that that would have to be determined by this specific man, when the time comes. Eve dated stockbrokers that were a problem, and actors that weren’t; and stockbrokers that weren’t and actors that were. There’s a very high fatality rate of actors. But I grew up with a lot of people who were not in the profession, and the fatality rate is just as high. I think it has to do with the individual.
FRED: Boy, that Hitchcock picture must have been a tremendous thrill—“The Birds.”
SUZANNE: Oh, well, it was a joy, you know. (Laughing) First of all, I adore Hitchcock; you have to. And secondly, I was very privileged and proud to be working for him, with him.
And the exciting thing is that he signed me for two more pictures, and he’s never signed a brunette, you know. I don’t think Alfred Hitchcock has any idea of what he really plans to do with me.
FRED: Is he really like that impish little fellow you see on the TV screen?
SUZANNE: Oh, he’s got a wild sense of humor. And he’s extraordinary in that he’s a true sophisticate, because he still has the ability to be enthusiastic about things.
Some people who are really ineffectual in that respect, they’re phony. Hitch is sophisticated, but he’s still young and vital about things, and interested in things and flexible. And he’s one of the few people I know who’s rich. And I’m so happy that he’s rich because he shares it with people. He had us to his home, and the paintings are there for you to see and enjoy and live with; and the food is marvelous, to be enjoyed; and the wine. I mean, you ask Hitch for a glass of water, and he wants to know what year!
How marvelous for a man to give of himself. And his wife is just the same; she’s a wonderful woman.
FRED: The money that you’ve earned since you’re here, Sue—has it made any difference in your way of living?
SUZANNE: Well. I come from a fairly affluent family, you know, so I’ve always had respect for money and I’ve known how to enjoy it. And I’ve never been terribly extravagant. I always worked. I’ve been self-supporting since I was eighteen years old, by choice. And I have a wonderful business manager who has kept my money under control. I get an allowance, which I’ve always had. Dad used to handle my money before.
So, it hasn’t really changed. You know, they pay the bills out of my income. but I pay for food and any gifts I may have to buy and gas and whatever my expenses may be out of the $50 I get. The rest goes to my business manager and is invested, or whatever he does with the money.
FRED: You like being the subject of so much publicity in all the magazines?
SUZANNE: I find it amusing really, because what I say with a tinge of humor, when it’s on black and white and the printed page, comes out so differently, you know. I’m in the beauty parlor, and I see the ladies reading. and they look over at me with the sly glances, like, you fresh broad. you know. And I want to say, “But I said it blah, blah, blah, blah; not blah, blah, blah.” But for the most part it’s been very flattering and I find it amusing more than anything. Some of it gets outlandish in its praise; I might find that a little embarrassing, but for the most part, it’s fun.
FRED: What do you do when you’re not working, dear?
SUZANNE: I don’t know. I haven’t tried that yet.
FRED: I mean, in your spare time, what do you like to do?
SUZANNE: Well, I’ve been furnishing my apartment, and I like to cook very much. You see, so much of my time has been filled with working—I have to get my stuff at the laundromat at a certain time and at the hairdresser at a certain time—that when I’m not working. I like to see friends, play “Charades,” which I don’t get to do as much as I like. I’m a nut; I’m a nut on “Charades” and I’m a nut on basketball. And it’s very embarrassing; I mean, if I’m going to work for Hitch, I’ve got to be more like Grace Kelly, you know; and I blow that image every time I go to a basketball game and I yell and scream and pound the people in front of me.
FRED: Sue, what’s your attitude toward your acting?
SUZANNE: Well, it’s very difficult to discuss technique, because you always bring something that you yourself are, to your work. I cannot discuss how I approach my work, because so much is intuitive and I can’t he that articulate about it, really, frankly. It’s sort of personal.
I enjoy my work; I come in prepared. And the way I work is something private. It’s nothing that’s a secret; it’s just that I really don’t know how to articulate it. As a matter of fact, I’d rather not; because maybe if I understand it, I’ll start editing what I’m doing, rather than . . .
FRED: I think you said what it is. It’s intuitive.
SUZANNE: I think to an extent, but, of course, there’s technique as well. If you were going solely on instinct, you couldn’t maintain a performance in the theater, for instance. Because you would get stale. You have to have the technique to keep things alive.
And I think that people would rather see the result than know how you went about doing it. I think people respond to truth. to honesty. I think they respond to it; I think they feel empathy for it. I think they identify with it. And I think that motion pictures are the greatest medium for that, because it’s so close.
It shows in your eyes; whereas on stage you might be able to get by one night with the shell of your performance because they are further away.
FRED: You’re a darn good actress.
SUZANNE: I hope so. It’s a lot of fun.
FRED: How far do you want to go?
SUZANNE: Well, as long as I’m going. I may as well go all the way, to the top. Whatever that is.
Suzanne is currently in “The Birds,” U-I, and next in “Wall of Noise,” for Warner’s.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1963