Susan was the beautiful oldest Partridge daughter, a 17-year-old who had no
previous acting experience. Susan went from an unknown model to a fashion trendsetter among young girls when the show burst on the scene in 1970.
With her big green eyes and long brown hair parted in the middle, Laurie became an immediate hit with the male viewers.
“The Partridge Family” was loosely based on The Cowsills, a pop music family that was popular in the late 1960s. When the producers learned that The Cowsills couldn't and wouldn't act, they went out and recruited actors. David Cassidy (Keith Partridge) was the only Partridge who could sing and play music, and Shirley Jones (mother Shirley Partridge) had the only voice talented enough to sing backup. The rest of the “family” lip-synced and pretended to play instruments.
The series was a showcase for Cassidy, who instantly became a teen idol, and to appeal to boys, the producers searched for a beautiful girl. Susan, who'd appeared on the cover of “Teen” and “Seventeen” magazines, became that girl.
“Susan was so beautiful and was superb for the role,” Shirley Jones said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “She was so gorgeous to look at, and although she had no acting experience, amazing enough she became a wonderful actress during the show.”
Co-star Danny Bonaduce (Danny Partridge) recalled peeping-Tom on
Susan while she was changing clothes. “I wasn't subtle about it. I was on the roof of her dressing room, leaning over, looking down the curtains.”
Cassidy, who was two years older than Susan, claimed they had a discrete affair, which she never confirmed or denied. Jones wouldn't confirm either, but she said Susan had a “big crush on David.”
Susan was the only Partridge kid who didn't appear on a “Today Show” reunion in 2010.
Susan won over the critics with her role as Grace. She won a Golden Globe for “Actress in a Leading Role – Drama Series” in 1987 and was nominated for Emmys 1987-89.
“I've had women come up to me and say I was the reason they went to law school,” she said.
Susan also had an impact on the fashion world. Her soft, feminine business suit known as “the 'Law' blouse” started a trend among businesswomen in Southern California.
“LA Law” dealt with current topics such as the Los Angeles riots, racism, gay rights, and sexual harassment. Although it was never a Top 10 show in the ratings, “LA Law” won four Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series
Born as Susan Hallock Smith in Pekin, Ill., Susan took her late mother's maiden name as her professional name when she began acting. She has done little acting in the past 20 years. She hosted a “Saturday Night Live” in 1992 and for one season starred in the sitcom “Love & War” with Jay Thomas.
“I've had eight million people tell me....they all wanted to be one of those characters,” Cassidy said on the “Today Show.” “Wouldn't it be cool to travel around and play music and tour and be rock stars!”
“It was so well cast, it couldn't have been better,” Jones said.
Susan resurfaced on TV in the mid-1980s with “LA Law.” She starred as assistant district attorney (and later judge) Grace Van Owen in the legal drama from 1986-92.
Classic TV Beauties 1970s Countdown
SUSAN DEY as Laurie Partridge in "The Partridge Family"
On the "Today Show," Cassidy made a public plea on TV to reconnect with Susan.”I haven't seen her in years. She became a very close friend of mine, I felt like she was a sister. If you're out there, Susan, we still love ya.”
After Cassidy's appeal, Bonaduce joked, “The only way you can reach Susan is by teleprompter.”
Susan, who was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1973, later admitted that she suffered from anorexia during that period.
Jones recalled that she never ate lunch, that she only munched on carrots or celery sticks. She remembered seeing Susan's hands turned orange from eating so many carrots.
“The Partridge Family” featured Jones and her five children as a musical family who toured in a multi-colored school bus. The group had a No. 1 hit, “I Think I Love You” in 1970, and followed that up with several other hit songs. “The Partridge Family Album” reached No. 4 on the Billboard 20