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Susan Oliver

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Susan Oliver
Vina.jpg

Susan Oliver

Birth name: Charlotte Gercke
Gender: Female
Date of birth: 13 February 1932
Place of birth: New York City, New York, USA
Date of death: 10 May 1990
Place of death: Woodland Hills, California, USA
Roles: Guest Actress
Character(s): Vina
Phillips Orion makeup.jpg

...having her Orion slave girl makeup adjusted by Fred Phillips...

...having her Orion slave girl makeup adjusted by Fred Phillips...
Bill theiss.jpg

...and her wardrobe by William Ware Theiss...

...and her wardrobe by William Ware Theiss...
Susan Oliver as Vina on stage
...while "lamenting" the on-stage absence of Oscar Katz

Susan Oliver was the stage name of Charlotte Gercke (13 February 193210 May 1990; age 58), a New York native, who guest-starred in the Star Trek: The Original Series first pilot episode, "The Cage" as Vina.

She filmed her scenes for "The Cage" on Friday 4 December 1964, and between Tuesday 8 December 1964 and Friday 18 December 1964 at Desilu Culver Stage 15, Stage 16, and on location at the "Arab Village" section of the 40 Acres backlot.

Initially, Oliver was not of a mind to accept the role, as she, exhausted from a previous filming assignment, was looking forward to a well-earned holiday on Hawaii. However, Gene Roddenberry adamantly wanted her for the part of Vina, and to this end he asked Studio Executive Oscar Katz to put the pressure on her, "Although I'm usually not that charming with women, I talked her into taking the part. Part of the appeal was that it was going to be very easy," Katz said, snapping his fingers, "she could knock it off "just like that"." Yet, Oliver's part was anything but a snap of the fingers, due to the elaborate makeup sessions she had to undergo in order to show Vina's various manifestations. Realizing that she was not to go on holidays after all, she sought a serious heart-to-heart with Katz, who already suspected as much, "I knew that she would not be kindly disposed towards me." Katz subsequently stayed "religiously" away from the soundstage. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry) Oliver however, not to be outdone by Katz, had a sign made, reading "OSCAR Where are You?", consistently showing it on her dailies (shot footage shown unedited on a day-to-day basis to producers and executives) at the end of her shoots. It became a running gag for the production team and more than one staffer and performer had their picture taken with the sign.

Career Edit

Susan Oliver was the daughter of Hollywood astrologer Ruth Hale Oliver. When her parents divorced around 1935, she was raised by her mother, although she lived with her father in Japan for a short time. She studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City, and in 1957 moved to Los Angeles to star in her first screen role, a film entitled The Green Eyed Blonde. A later movie role was Ginger in the Morning (1974), with Monte Markham as her ex-husband.

Most of Oliver's career consisted of numerous television guest star roles (well over 100 between 1956 and 1988). These included the "Prisoner of Love" episode of The Andy Griffith Show, the Michael Shayne episode "The Heiress", in which Celia Lovsky also guest starred, and "The White Birch" episode of The Name of the Game, in which Louise Sorel also guest starred. In 1960, Oliver, Byron Morrow and Vic Perrin played Martians in the "People Are Alike All Over" episode of The Twilight Zone, which also featured Paul Comi. (It's worth noting that this episode was similar to 1964's "The Cage" insofar as the aliens put the space-faring Earthman in a zoo and read his mind to create a familiar environment for him.) That same year, Oliver appeared in an episode of Wagon Train (with Leonard Nimoy). She also guest starred in a 1974 episode of Petrocelli, "Edge of Evil" alongside Susan Howard, William Shatner and Glenn Corbett, and in "The Night Dr. Loveless Died", a 1967 episode of The Wild Wild West with Michael Dunn, Anthony Caruso and Robert Ellenstein. She appeared in "Double Jeopardy", the 1970 pilot of the series Dan August, directed by Ralph Senensky and also featuring Ned Romero, Jerry Ayres and Fritz Weaver. Though they shared no scenes, Oliver appeared with Meg Wyllie, her co-star from "The Cage", in a 1973 episode of Cannon, which was directed by Lawrence Dobkin. Keith Andes also appeared in that episode.

Oliver was also a passionate pilot, winner of the 1970 Powder Puff Derby air race and the fourth woman to fly a single-engined aircraft solo across the Atlantic. She attempted to become the first woman to fly a single-engine plane from the United States to Moscow; she made it as far as Denmark but was denied entry into Soviet airspace. Her aviation exploits are the focus of her 1983 autobiography, Odyssey: A Daring Transatlantic Journey (ISBN 0025929208).

Oliver received an Emmy Award nomination for her performance in the three-hour 1976 NBC television movie, Amelia Earhart. Her co-stars in this movie include Stephen Macht, Jane Wyatt and Garry Walberg.

Oliver died in Woodland Hills, California, of lung cancer in 1990.

Star Trek interview Edit

  • "First Trek", Frank Garcia, Starlog, issue 135, October 1988, pp. 78-80, 88

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