SUSAN OLIVER Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Susan Oliver                                                                         
Birth name: Charlotte Gercke                                                               
Born: 13 February 1932 New York City                                                       
Died: 10 May 1990 Woodland Hills, California, United States                               
Susan Oliver (February 13, 1932 - May 10, 1990), stage name of Charlotte Gercke,           
was an Emmy-nominated American actress, television director and a record-setting           
Susan Oliver was born Charlotte Gercke, the daughter of journalist George Gercke           
and astrology practitioner Ruth Hale Oliver, in New York City in 1932. Her                 
parents divorced when she was still a child.                                               
At the end of World War II, George Gercke joined the United States Information             
Agency and in 1946 was posted to Japan as a supervisor overseeing news                     
dissemination and instruction in democratic institutions during the U. S.                 
occupation. While living with her father, Charlotte studied at Tokyo                       
International College in 1948-49 and developed a lifelong interest in Japanese             
society and its absorption of American pop culture.                                       
Upon coming back from Japan in June 1949, she joined her mother in Southern               
California, where Ruth Hale Oliver was in the process of becoming a well-known             
Hollywood astrologer. Surrounded by the trappings of show business, she made a             
decision to embark upon a career as an actress and chose the stage name Susan             
By September 1949, using her new name, Oliver returned to the East Coast to               
begin drama studies at Swarthmore College, followed by professional training at           
the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. After working in summer stock,               
regional theater and in unbilled bits in daytime and primetime TV shows and               
commercials, she made her first major television appearance playing a supporting           
role in the July 31, 1955 episode of the live drama series Goodyear TV Playhouse,         
and quickly progressed to leading parts in other shows.                                   
1957 was a banner year for Oliver, including Broadway, numerous TV shows and a             
starring role in a movie. She began the year with an important ingenue part, as           
the daughter of an 18th century Manhattan family, in her first Broadway play,             
Small War on Murray Hill, a Robert E. Sherwood comedy.                                     
The play's short run was immediately followed by larger roles in live TV plays             
on Kaiser Aluminum Hour, The United States Steel Hour and Matinee Theater.                 
Oliver then went to Hollywood, where she appeared in the November 14, 1957                 
episode of Climax!, one of the few live drama series based on the West Coast, as           
well as in a number of filmed shows, including the October 30, 1957 Wagon Train           
and the title role of "Country Cousin", an installment of Father Knows Best,               
broadcast on March 5, 1958.                                                               
In July 1957 Oliver was chosen for the title role in her first motion picture             
The Green-Eyed Blonde, a low-budget independent melodrama released by Warner               
Brothers in December on the bottom half of a double bill. It is the only                   
motion picture on which Oliver received first billing.                                     
At the close of the year, Oliver returned to New York, appearing in Robert Alan           
Aurthur's "The Thundering Wave", the December 12, 1957 broadcast of the                   
prestigious live drama series Playhouse 90. Her performance in the John                   
Frankenheimer-directed teleplay was well-received and she was invited to                   
Playhouse 90 two more times, March 26, 1959 and January 21, 1960.                         
As the next year began, Oliver continued to be a part of the Golden Age of TV             
Drama, acting in the February 26, 1958 episode of Kraft Television Theatre and "The       
Woman Who Turned to Salt", the June 16, 1958 installment of Suspicion, an hour-long       
suspense anthology series produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Oliver's entry, directed           
by Robert Stevens, also starred Michael Rennie along with Hitchcock's daughter,           
In mid-1958, Oliver began rehearsals for a co-starring role in Patate, her                 
second Broadway play. Its 7-performance run was even shorter than that of                 
Small War on Murray Hill, but won Oliver a Theatre World Award for "outstanding           
breakout performance". It was Oliver's last Broadway appearance.                           
Oliver spent the remainder of her career in Hollywood, going on to play in more           
than one hundred television shows, five made-for-TV movies, as well as twelve             
additional theatrical features. She appeared in three more episodes of Wagon               
Train, four episodes of The Virginian, three episodes each of Adventures in               
Paradise, Route 66 and Dr. Kildare, as well as "Never Wave Goodbye", a                     
critically-praised October 8 October 15, 1963 two-part episode of The Fugitive.           
On April 12, 1961 she appeared in an episode of The Naked City, "A Memory of               
She was fourth-billed in her second theatrical feature, 1959's The Gene Krupa             
Story. The film gave her the meaty femme fatale role of Dorissa Dinell, a                 
beautiful big-band singer who seduces up-and-coming drum virtuoso Gene Krupa (1909-1973), 
played by Sal Mineo, from the faithful girl who truly loves him (Susan Kohner)             
into a high life of partying and marijuana smoking. The fictional Dinell was               
based on a number of women in Krupa's life, but reviewers primarily noted that             
Oliver had the film's juiciest dialogue.                                                   
Of the ten players listed in the opening credits of her next movie, the 1960               
Elizabeth Taylor vehicle BUtterfield 8, Oliver was ninth, the lowest billing of           
her career. As Norma, a self-assured young woman, to whom the secondary male               
lead Steve (Eddie Fisher) proposes after realizing the pointlessness of carrying           
a torch for Taylor's character, Oliver's plain-spoken, plain-dressed personality           
was a total opposite of her previous characterization as the hypnotically                 
enticing and alluring Dorissa Dinell. In this relatively minor supporting role,           
she shared only one brief scene with Elizabeth Taylor and her makeup and                   
hairstyle were apparently designed to seem rather non-competitively down-to-earth.         
The subsequent three-year period between 1960 and 1963 saw Oliver tackle a busy           
schedule of over thirty guest star appearances in primetime network series as             
well as a fourth feature film assignment, which cast her in the role of                   
psychiatric nurse Cathy Clark, one of the mental-health-care professionals                 
depicted in Warner Brothers 1963 multi-character hospital melodrama The                   
Caretakers. Robert Stack, Polly Bergen and Joan Crawford were top-billed, along           
with two stars of the studio's 1960-62 TV detective series Surfside 6, Diane               
McBain and Van Williams. In the film's tangential plotline, however, Williams'             
doctor character is drawn to Oliver, as evidenced by their only personal scene             
together, a brief dinner sequence. The Caretakers' opening credits list fourteen           
players, with Oliver's name appearing last, directly behind Robert Vaughn. The             
mitigating factor is that each of those last two names is alone on the screen,             
giving them special prominence. In contrast, the end credits show a cameo-shaped           
close-up of the face of each cast member, in ascending order of prominence. In             
this definitive list, Oliver's face and name are followed by those of eight               
other performers, thus effectively consigning her to another ninth billing.