For those of us of a certain age we remember Suzanne Crough as a fixture, albeit a mostly silent one, from our childhoods spent lazily in front of the “tube” frittering away otherwise perfectly good brain cells. It must be true Crough was a lovely woman who after her acting career lived a fairly normal life outside the realms of Hollywoodland. Now she is dead at 52 and that is way too young for anyone; especially someone who is cast in our collective American psyche as being forever between the ages of 7 through 11.
What made Crough standout on The Partridge Family, 1970-1974, was that she didn’t standout. Amongst larger personalities including film veteran Shirley Jones, heartthrob David Cassidy, smart-aleck Danny Bonaduce, character actor Dave Madden, and teen princess Susan Dey; Crough’s Tracy (along with the two actors cast as Christopher) could have been played by the kitchen stove or the living room sofa for they were set pieces more than characters that had substantial lines let alone any story focus. In a show about a family band where most of the actors couldn’t play an instrument Crough as Tracy played the tambourine, which, if like everything else Partridge, was probably dubbed during post production. The absurdity of such can make the heart break because though you may not be able to play the guitar, dribble on a drum set or God forbid sing, everyone can shake a tambourine, yet the hard truth is even if that is so your efforts will probably be redone by a musician with more competent tambourine shaking skills. Therefore Crough remains relatable because Tracy Partridge and her tambourine are a metaphor for life.
It is no secret that being a child star has always had its disadvantages, there are too many beat down former pint-sized thespians to prove the fact, but back in the 70s it seemed like child actors could be absolutely feral in their lives off the set as long as they came to work. Crough did not appear to be of that ilk. As Tracy it looked like she just hit her marks said a line or two per episode and then went home hopefully building a nice nest egg she used as her college fund. As a child actress Crough did not look bored or in pain, but she did not seem to have that extra sparkle some performers have which indicates they love what they are doing. As noted before Tracy Partridge was a glorified set piece; another ginger sibling that justified Bonaduce’s Danny’s clownish red hair while older brother Keith (whose hair was magnificently plumed) got all the hot girls.
Perhaps if Crough had more “It” factor she could have had a bigger career. After all the 70s was the height of the Pippi Longstocking era of children’s literature and heaven knows the Richards sisters were running around showbiz escaping Witch Mountain and getting parts. Yet for Crough her acting career petered out after The Partridge Family packed up their last drum kit. One gets the idea she wasn’t interested in acting. In 1976, her first part after Partridge, Crough had an uncredited role labeled “runaway” in the Eve Plumb exploitation classic, Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (a made-for-TV movie best known for casting Jan Brady as a prostitute). Crough’s last role of substance was in a short lived show called Mulligan’s Stew. By the eighties she was out of the acting game for good only to emerge back in the spotlight for the odd Partridge reunion.
Maybe it is because Suzanne Crough ended up living such a normal life it makes her death stand out. She was married for thirty years, had two daughters one of which is set to be married this summer, and was allegedly a Nevada based office manager at Office Max – a choice of employment that seems reflective of something Tracy Partridge would do. All that is known about her death is that it was sudden and happened on Monday which is all the public needs to know because by leaving Hollywood Crough made the particulars of her life none of our darn bees wax.
In the end Crough feels like that girl in high school you were friendly with but didn’t really know. Now a Facebook message informs the class she has died. Someone asks, “Was she the one who played the tambourine?” You respond with emotion you didn’t know you felt until you feel it, “Yes she did.”