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Veteran comedic actor Tom Poston, he with the bugged-out eyes that commonly accentuated a vague look of bewilderment, was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1921 and, by age nine, was appearing with an acrobatic troupe. He was attending Bethany College in West Virginia when World War II broke out and he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He won medals for his courage under fire, and rose to the rank of captain. While Tom never returned to Bethany College, he would later receive an honorary doctorate from the institution.
Following military duty, Tom went to New York and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, training with acting guru Sanford Meisner, among others. Making his Broadway debut in 1947 in José Ferrer's production of "Cyrano de Bergerac", Tom had the makings of a serious dramatic actor, also appearing in such classic plays as "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" and "King Lear". Although he also appeared seriously in TV drama in the early stages, comedy would become his forte. Hosting the amusing daily TV show "Entertainment" led to his biggest break on Steve Allen's TV variety series The Steve Allen Plymouth Show (1956). He, Louis Nye, Don Knotts and other members of Allen's stock company became famous for their hilarious characters in Allen's famed sketch sequences. Tom himself would be best remembered as the "Man on the Street" interviewee who could never remember his own name. Winning an Emmy during those four seasons with the Allen show (1956-1960), Tom went on to host another program -- this time a game show -- entitled Split Personality (1959).
From this, he developed an affinity for parlor games and appeared as a panelist on other quiz shows as well, notably To Tell the Truth (1956). Given a chance to star in his own comedy films by the early 1960s, Tom went completely unnoticed in such blah vehicles as Zotz! (1962) and The Old Dark House (1963), which failed to capitalize on his delightfully bungling, eccentric humor, although he did turn in a very funny supporting perf as a perpetually soused playboy in the Dick Van Dyke comedy Cold Turkey (1971).
After his movie career fell through, TV again became the object of his affection, usually in service to other stars. Alongside such top comedians as Bob Newhart (Newhart (1982)) and Robin Williams (Mork & Mindy (1978)), Tom's absent-minded "second banana" foils found their engaging niche. He also continued with light comedy theater vehicles such as "Forty Carats", "Come Blow Your Horn", "Plaza Suite" and "Mary, Mary" and even managed a few musicals ("A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "Fiddler on the Roof"). Tom's first wife was film actress Jean Sullivan. Their daughter, Francesca Poston, also became an actress. He had two other children by second wife Kay, daughter Hudson and son Jason. They divorced in 1975 but remarried in 1980 and remained together until her death in 1998 from ALS. Kay and Tom appeared on many telethons to talk about the crippling disease.
Three years later, at age 80, Tom found happiness once again when he married lovely actress Suzanne Pleshette (they originally met while appearing in the 1959 Broadway comedy "Golden Fleecing", then worked again together on the old The Bob Newhart Show (1972)). He provided glum, baggy-eyed comedy relief on TV as an octogenarian up until the end. Sadly, while wife Suzanne was battling cancer, Tom passed away unexpectedly at his Los Angeles home on April 30, 2007, after a brief illness. Stalwart Tom Poston may not have nabbed top comic stardom in his heyday, but he certainly enjoyed a long, durable career doing what he does best -- acting goofy and giving audiences a reason to smile.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / firstname.lastname@example.org
60th Troop Carrier Group
Constituted as 60th Transport Group on 20 Nov 1940. Activated on 1 Dec 1940. Prepared for duty overseas with C-47's. Moved to England in Jun 1942. Redesignated 60th Troop Carrier Group in Jul 1942. Received additional training in England, then assigned to Twelfth AF for operations in the Mediterranean theater. Flew its first mission on 8 Nov 1942, transporting paratroops from England and dropping them at Oran during the early hours of the invasion of North Africa. Operated from bases in Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy until after V-E Day. Participated in the battle for Tunisia, dropping paratroops near the combat area on two occasions. Trained with gliders during Jun 1943, then towed gliders to Syracuse and dropped paratroops behind enemy lines at Catania when the Allies invaded Sicily in Jul. Dropped paratroops at Megava during the airborne invasion of Greece in Oct 1944. When not engaged in airborne operations, the group transported men and supplies and evacuated wounded personnel. Flew to northern Italy in Oct 1943 to drop supplies to men who had escaped from prisoner-of-war camps. Received a DUC for supporting the partisans in the Balkans, Mar-Sep 1944: flew at night, unarmed, over unfamiliar and mountainous enemy territory and landed on small, poorly-constructed airfields to provide guns, ammunition, clothing, food, medical supplies, gas, oil, jeeps, mail, and mules for underground forces in Yugoslavia, Albania, and Greece; evacuated wounded partisans and escaped prisoners; also dropped propaganda leaflets. Moved to Trinidad in Jun 1945 and assigned to Air Transport Command. Inactivated on 31 Jul s945.
Tom Poston, Virtuosic Comic Actor, Is Dead at 85
Published: May 2, 2007
New York Times
Tom Poston, an Emmy-winning comic actor whose television characters ranged from the slow-witted Everyman on "The Steve Allen Show" to a cantankerous closet-dwelling clown on the recent sitcom "Committed," died on Monday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 85.
CBS, via Associated Press (right)
Left, Tom Poston as a panelist on “To Tell the Truth,” around 1961, and as the incompetent handyman George Utley on “Newhart,” in 1985.
Mr. Poston died after a short illness, his wife, the actress Suzanne Pleshette, said.
A long-faced, buggy-eyed second banana, Mr. Poston was for a half-century a Paganini of the bewildered, the benighted and the befuddled. His best-known television roles include George Utley, the sublimely incompetent handyman on "Newhart"; Mr. Bickley, the troublesome neighbor on "Mork & Mindy"; and Cliff Murdock, Mr. Newhart's doltish college chum on the original "Bob Newhart Show."
Mr. Poston appeared on Broadway and in films, among them "Christmas With the Kranks" (2004); "The Princess Diaries 2" (2004); and "Cold Turkey" (1971). He was also, variously, a pilot, an amateur boxer, a tumbler with the Flying Zebleys, an aspiring chemist and a panelist on the game show "To Tell the Truth."
It seemed Mr. Poston would do anything for a part. For his first Broadway appearance -- a tiny role in a 1946 production of "Cyrano de Bergerac," the audition consisted of falling off a parapet onto his head, as the character did. Mr. Poston and his head withstood the test admirably.
Six decades later, Mr. Poston tried out for "Committed," broadcast on NBC in 2005. His character, a surly, dying clown known simply as Clown, lives out his days in the closet of one of the show's main characters. (Clown came with the apartment.)
The audition required aspirants to pull down their pants, as called for in the script. Most actors did so only in pantomime. Mr. Poston complied in full, with electrifying results.
"He dropped his trousers and had on these gold lamé boxer shorts," Eileen Heisler, an executive producer of the show, told The Associated Press in 2005.
Whether Mr. Poston had been tipped off about what the audition would entail is unrecorded.
Thomas Gordon Poston was born in Columbus, Ohio. As a boy, he wanted to be a prize fighter, and as a young man he boxed in several hundred amateur fights. He also learned tumbling, performing with the Zebleys as a child. In the late 1930s, he enrolled at Bethany College in West Virginia, where he studied chemistry.
His studies were interrupted by World War II, in which he served as a pilot with the Army Air Corps in Europe. After the war he moved to New York and trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Mr. Poston's Broadway appearances include "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter" (1955); "Mary, Mary" (1961); and the 1972 revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." In 1959, starring on Broadway in "Golden Fleecing," Mr. Poston met Ms. Pleshette. The two began a romance, though they later married others.
In early television Mr. Poston was the host of "Entertainment" (1955), a 2 1/2-hour, five-day-a-week live variety show on ABC.
"I once timed it and I ad-libbed 35, 36 minutes a day," he told The Associated Press in 2005. "You can imagine how clever that was. It was filled with, 'Wasn't that wonderful!' 'Yes, that was wonderful!' 'Isn't that wonderful!' "
But Mr. Poston's ability to think on his feet earned him a regular role on Mr. Allen's show. There, in the company of Don Knotts and Louis Nye, he played a roster of supporting characters, chief among them Everyman, who is rendered dazed and speechless whenever he is asked a question in the show's "Man on the Street" segments. (A typical question: "What's your name?")
For his work on the Allen show, Mr. Poston won an Emmy in 1959.
Mr. Poston was married four times, to three women. His first marriage, to Jean Sullivan, ended in divorce, as did his second, to Kay Hudson. He and Ms. Hudson later remarried; the marriage lasted until her death in 1998. He married Ms. Pleshette in 2001.
Besides Ms. Pleshette, Mr. Poston is survived by a daughter from his first marriage, Francesca Poston of Nashville; two children from his marriage to Ms. Hudson, a son, Jason Poston of Los Angeles, and a daughter, Hudson Poston of Portland, Ore.; and a sister, Rosalie Cassou, of Fredericksburg, Va.
Before she married Mr. Poston, Ms. Pleshette laid down one ironclad condition: she wanted "a big rock," she said in a telephone interview yesterday.
So Mr. Poston gave her exactly that. A piece of unpolished granite the size of a large marble, it was culled from the gravel in his driveway. He had it put in a platinum setting.
The rock worked like a charm, Ms. Pleshette said. She added: "Of course, he later was taught the pleasures of diamonds."