Susan Oliver
Susan Oliver
Susan Oliver guest starred as Leta Malvet in the pilot episode of Bonanza titled "A Rose for Lotta"
Biographical information
Full Name: See above:
Birthname Charlotte Gercke
Occupation: Actress
Years active: 1955–1988
Gender: Female
Born: February 13, 1932
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died: May 10, 1990(1990-05-10) (aged 58)
Place of Death: Woodland Hills, California, U.S. (lung cancer)
Series: Bonanza (TV Series)
No. of appearances: 1 episode
First Appeared in: "The Outcast" (Season 1)
Last Episode Appearance: One time appearance
Character played: Leta Malvet

Susan Oliver (born Charlotte Gercke on February 13, 1932 –died May 10, 1990) was an American actress, television director and aviator. She guest starred as Leta Malvet in the Season 1 episode of Bonanza, "The Outcast" (episode #17).


Susan was the daughter of journalist George Gercke and Hollywood astrologer Ruth Hale Oliver. When her parents divorced around 1935, she was raised by her mother, whose maiden name she took, 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 appeared as her ex-husband.

Most of Susan's career consisted of numerous television guest star roles (well over 100 between 1956 and 1988), which included episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., She also played the recurring role of Ann Howard on the CBS-TV series Peyton Place. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance in the TV movie Amelia Earhart. She also appeared in the original pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series ("The Cage", with Jeffrey Hunter, parts of which was later used in the TS episode "The Menagerie") and directed episodes of M*A*S*H and Trapper John M.D. Her film appearances included The Green-Eyed Blonde, The Gene Krupa Story, Butterfield 8, Your Cheatin' Heart and the 1980 Jerry Lewis comedy film The Disorderly Orderly.

Directing and later yearsEdit

By the late 1970s with acting assignments becoming scarcer, Oliver turned to directing. She was one of the original 19 women admitted to the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women (AFI DWW) "who, upon her early death, left a good chunk of funding for the DWW."[1] In 1977, she wrote and directed Cowboysan, her AFI DWW short film which presents the fantasy scenario of a Japanese actor and actress playing leads in an American western. Oliver directed two TV episodes, the October 25, 1982, installment of M*A*S*H and the December 4, 1983, entry of one of its sequel series, Trapper John, M.D..[2]

In Oliver's last fully active years, she also appeared in the February 21, 1985, episode of Magnum, P.I., two episodes of Murder, She Wrote (March 31 and December 1), the February 12, 1987, episode of Simon & Simon, and the January 10, 1988, episode of the NBC domestic drama Our House. She made her last onscreen appearance in the November 6, 1988 episode of the syndicated horror anthology Freddy's Nightmares. During her career in Hollywood, Oliver appeared in more than one hundred television programs.[2]

Personal lifeEdit

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 was diagnosed with colorectal cancer that later metastasized to her lungs and she died on May 10, 1990 at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.[3][4]

Further readingEdit


  1. WOMEN DIRECTORS IN HOLLYWOOD, The Founding of the Directing Workshop for Women of the American Film Institute, a History, THE DREAM OF THE MARBLE BRIDGE,
  2. 2.0 2.1 IMDb Susan Oliver at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
  3. "Susan Oliver Is Dead; Television Actress", 1990-05-15. Retrieved on January 27, 2012. 

External linksEdit