Susan Dey started her modeling career when her stepmom saw an ad seeking models in a magazine. She was cast in 'The Partridge Family' without any previous acting work.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 18, 2021. It has since been updated.
For four seasons, audiences watched Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones and her fictional family, played by Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce, Suzanne Crough, Brian Forster, and Jones’ stepson David Cassidy on-screen in the TV show The Partridge Family. Dey, who started out as a model, learned acting hands-on while working on the show. She also developed musical skills like playing the piano, singing, and harmonizing, according to TVOverMind.
Before retiring from her decades-long career, the model-turned-actress had to go through many challenges in the industry, and even prior to that. She was born in 1952 in Illinois. The first eight years of her life were like any other child's but she lost her mom, Ruth, a nurse, at the age of eight. Eventually, her father Robert Smith Dey, a newspaper editor, who worked at the Standard Star in New Rochelle, New York, remarried.
Her career in showbusiness started because of her stepmom, Gail, who saw an ad for models. Gail submitted photos of Susan and her stepsister Leslie, which helped the actress get some modeling gigs. Eventually, she was picked to star in ABC’s new television series The Partridge Family at the age of 17, which debuted in 1970.
Dey became a household name soon after and gained huge fame because of the show, which was about a musical family. Many of the cast members even went on to have a musical career. Gaining immense fame can be hard for child stars, and Dey too battled with the immense attention she was getting.
She struggled with an eating disorder and restricted her diet as much as possible, according to Worldation. At one point, the actress weighed only 92 pounds, and eventually, she realized that she was going to extreme lengths to stay slim. She turned her life around by getting healthier.
The star said that while working on the show, even though she was only a teen, she was balancing being a child while being treated as an adult. Her eating disorder might have been her attempt to control the things she could. Dey also faced scathing remarks from Jones, who said that only her stepson Cassidy had vocals good enough to sing.
Dey and Cassidy also dated but Jones had warned the young starlet against dating him as he was not sensitive enough. Later, Cassidy wrote in his memoir details of the couple’s relationship and it upset the L.A. Law actress so much that she never spoke to him again before his death in 2017. She has also refused to join any Partridge Family reunion specials over the decades, as per TVOverMind.
Eventually, the show was canceled and she made her big-screen debut in 1972 with Skyjacked. She married her agent, Lenny Hirshan, four years later, even though he was 25 years her senior. A year later she was cast to play the leading role in Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night, which won her a Golden Globe award.
Soon, she also became a mom but her marriage didn't last. Dey and Hirshan divorced less than five years after getting married. She also lost her agent in the process, as per Worldation. It was reported back then that their separation was because of her drinking problems, something she didn't address until the 1990s after a tabloid sent an undercover person to her AA meeting.
In 1986, the Little Women actress was offered the role of a lifetime when she met the co-creator of the show L.A. Law at a school picnic for their children. She starred in the legal drama in the role of Grace Van Owen. The show was a hit with the audiences and the critics. She was nominated for several different awards and won the Golden Globe in 1988 for the best performance by an actress in a television drama series.
The same year, she married again, and this time it was for forever. Dey and Bernard Sofronski tied the knot in February 1988 in a private ceremony. They have been married for more than three decades and are just as much in love now as when they had met.
Dey was last seen working in 2004 and now lives a quiet life upstate in New York with her husband.