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Tom Poston

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Tom Poston
Poston in 1965
Thomas Gordon Poston

(1921-10-17)October 17, 1921
DiedApril 30, 2007(2007-04-30) (aged 85)
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active1950–2007
Doris Sward
(m. 1949, divorced)
(m. 1955; div. 1961)
Kay Hudson
(m. 1968; div. 1976)

(m. 1980; died 1998)
(m. 2001)
Tom Poston (left), Constance Ford, and Robert Elston in the Broadway production of Golden Fleecing (1959), written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.

Thomas Gordon Poston (October 17, 1921 – April 30, 2007) was an American actor, appearing in television roles from the 1950s through the early to mid-2000s, reportedly appearing in more sitcoms than any other actor.[1] In the 1980s, he played George Utley on the CBS sitcom Newhart, receiving three Emmy Award nominations for the role. In addition he had a number of film roles and appeared frequently on Broadway and television game shows.

Early life[edit]

Poston was born on October 17, 1921 in Columbus, Ohio, to George and Margaret Poston.[2] His father was a liquor salesman and dairy chemist.[3]

After completing high school, Poston attended Bethany College in West Virginia, but did not graduate. While there, he joined the Sigma Nu fraternity. He joined the United States Army Air Forces in 1941. Accepted to officer candidate school and then graduating from flight training, Poston served as a pilot in the European Theater in World War II; his aircraft dropped paratroopers for the Normandy invasion.[4]

Poston served in North Africa, Italy, France, and England. After his discharge, he began studying acting in New York City, graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[5]


In 1953, as Thomas Poston, he was cast as "Detective" in the film City That Never Sleeps. In 1957, Poston gained recognition as a comedic "Man in the Street" (along with his colleagues Louis Nye, Dayton Allen and Don Knotts) on The Steve Allen Show. For these performances, Poston won the 1959 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series. In the fall of 1959, when the Allen program moved west to Los Angeles, Poston remained in New York, appearing frequently on Broadway and television game shows.

His film career was limited, with appearances in films such as William Castle's Zotz! (1962), The Old Dark House (1963), Soldier in the Rain (1963), Cold Turkey (1971), The Happy Hooker (1975), Rabbit Test (1978), Up the Academy (1980) and Carbon Copy (1981). He was cast as Michael Carrington's uncle Tom Anderson in Grease 2 (1982), but his scenes were deleted.

His television career covered the better part of five decades. When Mel Brooks submitted his idea for Get Smart to the ABC network, ABC wanted Poston for the lead role of Maxwell Smart.[6] When ABC passed on the show, NBC picked it up and the lead went to Don Adams. Poston, however, made a guest appearance on the show as a KAOS villain. He appeared in Thriller during its second season in 1961. The episode, number six, was titled "Masquerade" and starred Elizabeth Montgomery.

In 1968, Poston played the role of the Scarecrow, at The Municipal Opera Association of St. Louis, production of The Wizard of Oz. Lana Cantrell played Dorothy Gale, and Betty Low played the Sorceress of the North, also known as Glinda.

The handprints of Tom Poston in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

Poston was a recurring guest star on The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s, playing "The Peeper", a buddy of Bob's since college, whereby he and Bob would try to one-up each other with practical jokes. Poston later played the role of Franklin Delano Bickley on Mork & Mindy.

A longtime friend of Bob Newhart, Poston also played George Utley, a simple country handyman of the Stratford Inn, on Newhart, and appeared with Newhart in Cold Turkey as the town drunk, Edgar Stopworth. He was nominated for an Emmy Award three times for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance on Newhart in 1984, 1986, and 1987. He had a third role with Newhart in the short-lived sitcom Bob.

Poston had roles on many other television series: Family Matters, Murphy Brown, Touched by an Angel, Cosby, Malcolm & Eddie, ER, Grace Under Fire, That '70s Show (as Kitty Forman's father, Burt Sigurdson), Will & Grace, and guest starred in an episode of The Simpsons as the Capital City Goofball. He played dentist/jeweler, Art Hibke, on ABC's Coach, for which he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1991. He guest-starred in three episodes of Home Improvement as a surly airport clerk in Alpena, Michigan when Tim and Al get stuck there during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve in the episode "Twas the Flight Before Christmas", again as that character's brother in the episode "The Tool Man Delivers", and again as the third brother in the episode "Thanksgiving".

In 2001, he appeared on The Lone Gunmen episode "The Cap'n Toby Show" and in King of the Hill episode "Now Who's The Dummy?" as Mr. Popper (voice). In 2005, he played the character "Clown" on the brief-lived NBC series Committed and guest-starred on the ABC series 8 Simple Rules as Rory's unlawful friend Jake in the episode "Good Moms Gone Wild". In 2006, Poston guest-starred on an episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, entitled "Ah! Wilderness" as Merle, which was his final role.

Personal life and death[edit]

Poston married Doris Sward in 1949.[7] They later divorced.[8]

He married Jean Sullivan in 1955. They had a daughter, Francesca (born 1956). Poston and Sullivan announced their separation in 1959 and divorced two years later.[9][10]

Poston began dating Kay Hudson in the spring of 1961, when she was 17 and he was 39.[11] The couple married in 1968. They had two children, son Jason (born 1969) and daughter Hudson (born 1972). They divorced in 1976 but remarried in 1980 and remained together until her death at age 54 in 1998 from ALS.[2]

In 2001, Poston married actress Suzanne Pleshette, who played the wife of Newhart's character Bob Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show. It was his fourth marriage and her third.[12] Pleshette and Poston had dated briefly in 1959 and got back together in 2000.[5]

Following a brief illness, Poston died of respiratory failure on April 30, 2007, in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 85.[5] He pre-deceased Pleshette by nine months. Although he was not Jewish, he is interred in the Jewish Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery alongside Pleshette, who was Jewish.[13]



Year Title Role Notes
1952 Skirts Ahoy! Walk-on Uncredited
1953 City That Never Sleeps Detective Credited as Thomas Poston
1962 Zotz! Professor Jonathan Jones
1963 The Old Dark House Tom Penderel
Soldier in the Rain Lieutenant Magee
1971 Cold Turkey Mr. Stopworth
1975 The Happy Hooker J. Arthur Conrad
1978 Rabbit Test Minister
1980 Up the Academy Sisson
1981 Carbon Copy Reverend Hayworth
1989 Murphy's Laws of Golf George Short Film
1998 Krippendorf's Tribe Gordon Hargrove
1999 The Story of Us Harry
2003 Beethoven's 5th John Giles / Selig
2004 The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement Lord Palimore
Christmas with the Kranks Father Zabriskie


Year Title Role Notes
1950 Tom Corbett, Space Cadet The Alkarian Episode: "The Mystery of Alkar"
1950–1951 Lights Out Sir John 2 episodes
1951 Studio One in Hollywood Sentry / Alec Gordon 2 episodes
1953 Hawkins Falls: A Television Novel Toby Winfield Unknown episodes
1955 Goodyear Playhouse Currently Unknown Episode: "Tangled Web"
1956 Playwrights '56 Fletcher Episode: "You Sometimes Get Rich"
Robert Montgomery Presents Currently Unknown Episode: "Who?"
1956–1957 The Phil Silvers Show Guard House Lieutenant / The Lieutenant 2 episodes
1956–1960 The Steve Allen Plymouth Show Comedian / Guest / Himself 44 episodes
1957 The United States Steel Hour Chester Episode: "The Change in Chester"
The Steve Allen Show Comedian Episode: "#3.11"
1958 The Christmas Tree Tom Television Film
1958–1966 What's My Line? Himself / Mystery Guest / Panelist 10 episodes
1959 The Ed Sullivan Show Lieutenant Ferguson Howard Episode: "#13.9"
1959–1960 Split Personality (Game Show) Himself / Host Studio: NBC Studio 8H, New York City, NY
1959–1967 To Tell the Truth Himself / Panelist 317 episodes
1960 The Tempest Trinculo Television Film
Play of the Week Supervisor Episode: "The Enchanted"
1961 Thriller Charlie Denham Episode: "Masquerade"
1963–1964 Match Game Himself / Team Captain 35 episodes
Missing Links Himself / Panelist 27 episodes
1964 The Defenders Sheldon Lowell 2 episodes
1965 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Janitor / Lieutenant Courtney Episode: "Double Jeopardy"
1968 Gentle Ben Joe Cardigan Episode: "Trophy Bear"
1969 The Good Guys Julian Brent Episode: "The World's Second Greatest Lover"
Get Smart Doctor Zharko Episode: "Shock It to Me"
1974 Bobby Parker and Company His Psychiatrist Television Film
1975 Harry and Maggie Arlo Wilson Television Short
1975–1976 On the Rocks Mister Sullivan 13 episodes
1975–1977 The Bob Newhart Show Cliff Murdock 5 episodes
1976 Alice Jerry Dittmeyer Episode: "Vera's Mortician"
1976–1977 Match Game Himself / Panelist 10 episodes
1977 All's Fair Harold Banks Episode: "Save the Yak"
The Magnificent Magical Magnet of Santa Mesa William Bensinger Television Film
1977–1978 We've Got Each Other Damon Jerome 13 episodes
1977–1987 The Love Boat Tom Poston / Daniel Baker / Mickey O'Day 3 episodes
1978 A Guide to the Married Woman Marty Gibson Television Film
Flying High Zarky Episode: "The Vanishing Point"
Fame Car Salesman Television Film
1979 $weepstake$ Leeds Episode: "Dewey and Harold and Sarah and Maggie"
CHiPs Bill Conner Episode: "Quarantine"
Beane's of Boston Mister Frank Beane Pilot Episode
1979–1980 The Hollywood Squares (Daytime) Center Square / Himself / Panelist 21 episodes
1979–1981 Mork & Mindy Franklin Bickley 54 episodes
1980 Good Time Harry Ben Younger Episode: "Ben Younger"
1981 The Girl, the Gold Watch & Dynamite Omar Krepps Television Film
1981–1982 Password Plus Celebrity Contestant / Himself 11 episodes
1982 King's Crossing Brian Gunshore Episode: "The Home Front"
I've Had It Up to Here Currently Unknown Television Film
1982–1990 Newhart George Utley 184 episodes
1983–1984 Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour Himself / Panelist 24 episodes
1984–1985 Body Language Himself 15 episodes
1984–1989 Super Password Celebrity Contestant / Himself 70 episodes
1985 Hotel Tommy Rooney Episode: "Pathways"
1986 Crazy Like a Fox Currently Unknown Episode: "A Fox at the Races"
Fresno Doctor Parseghian Miniseries 4 episodes
1987 D.C. Follies Tom Poston Episode: "Pilot"
1988 Save the Dog! Currently Unknown Television Film
St. Elsewhere Jim Morrison Episode: "The Abby Singer Show"
1990 A Quiet Little Neighborhood, a Perfect Little Murder Don Corman Television Film
The Simpsons Capital City Goofball (voice) Episode: "Dancin' Homer"
1990–1991 Good Grief Ringo Prowley 13 episodes
1990–1995 Coach Dr. Art Hibke / Art Hibke 4 episodes
1991 Harry and the Hendersons Currently Unknown Episode: "Harry and the Homeless Man"
1992–1993 Bob Jerry Fleisher 4 episodes
1993 Dream On Sidney 'Uncle Bouncy' Barish Episode: "Oral Sex, Lies and Videotape"
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Mysterious 'Dead Man' Episode: "Halloween"
1994 Big Daddy's Barbecue Virgil Television Film
1994–1995 Family Matters Mr. Looney 3 episodes
1994–1996 Murphy Brown Old Man Swenson 2 episodes
1995 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Ralph / Burly Man (voices) Episode: "Eau de Krumm/O'Lucky Monster"
1995–1997 Home Improvement Ted / Ned / The Clerk 3 episodes
1995–1998 Grace Under Fire Floyd Norton 32 episodes
1996 The Larry Sanders Show Tom Poston Episode: "My Name Is Asher Kingsley"
1997 George and Leo Traffic Cop Episode: "The Pilot Episode"
Sabrina the Teenage Witch Mortgage Banker Episode: "Witch Trash"
1998 Just Shoot Me! Herb Episode: "Jack's Old Partner"
Touched by an Angel Ed Yablonsky Episode: "Cry and You Cry Alone"
Suddenly Susan Mr. Vance Episode: "Sleeping with the Enemy"
Maggie Winters Lester Mulford Episode: "Mama's Got a Brand New Bag"
Rugrats Roy (voice) Episode: "Baking Dil/Hair!"
Contempt of Court Coroner Television Film
1999 Cosby Tim 2 episodes
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show Uncle Cosmo Episode: "Honey, It's the Ghostest with the Mostest"
Diagnosis: Murder Tom Porter Episode: "The Roast"
1999–2000 Malcolm & Eddie Garth Dubin 2 episodes
2000 Dharma & Greg Dr. Gillespie Episode: "The Spy Who Said He Loved Me"
Normal, Ohio Stanley Episode: "Just Another Normal Christmas"
2001 The Drew Carey Show Roscoe Harvey Episode: "Oswald's Dad Returns"
King of the Hill Mr. Popper (voice) Episode: "Now Who's the Dummy?"
ER Earl 2 episodes
The Lone Gunmen Captain Toby / Fred Tabalowski Episode: "The 'Cap'n Toby' Show"
The Ellen Show Joe Episode: "Joe"
2002 Apple Valley Knights Justice Knight Sr. Unknown episodes
Becker Joe Willakie Episode: "Talking Points"
Will & Grace Norman Episode: "Went to a Garden Potty"
Liberty's Kids: Est. 1776 Samuel Adams (voice) 5 episodes
2002–2003 That '70s Show Burt Sigurdson 3 episodes
2003 Good Morning, Miami Lenny 2 episodes
8 Simple Rules Jake Episode: "Good Moms Gone Wild"
2005 Committed Clown 13 episodes
2006 The Suite Life of Zack & Cody Merle Episode: "Ah! Wilderness!"


  1. ^ Moore, Dennis (August 5, 2013). "Which American Actor Appeared in the most TV Sitcoms?". USA Today. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston; Played the Comically Clueless". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  3. ^ "Tom Poston spreads holiday cheer". Chippewa Herald-Telegram. December 23, 1989. p. C2.
  4. ^ Astor, Gerald (1999). The Greatest War – Volume II: D-Day and the Assault on Europe. New York: Warner Books. p. 247. ISBN 0-446-61047-X.
  5. ^ a b c Fox, Margalit (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston, Virtuosic Comic Actor, Is Dead at 85". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 6, 2014. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  6. ^ Parish, James Robert (February 28, 2008). It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks. John Wiley & Sons. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-470-22526-4.
  7. ^ "Northampton County Marriage Licenses". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. September 20, 1949. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  8. ^ "Poston's Third". The Atlanta Constitution. June 8, 1968. p. 2.
  9. ^ Actor Tom Poston, Wife Are Separated The Miami News, August 28, 1959
  10. ^ "Ask TV Scout". Fort Lauderdale News. May 18, 1962.
  11. ^ "Tom Poston, Tough Kid: From $10 Fights To Broadway". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 25, 1980. p. 3E.
  12. ^ Donnelley, Paul (September 1, 2010). Fade to Black: A Book of Over 1500 Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84938-246-5.
  13. ^ Archerd, Army (May 2, 2007). "Tom Poston Farewell". Variety. Archived from the original on February 2, 2016. Retrieved November 15, 2019.

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