The Green Girl
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A feature-length documentary about Susan Oliver, known primarily today as Star Trek's first iconic Green Orion Slave Girl in the original 1964 pilot, which was reused in the 1966 classic 2-part episode The Menagerie. One of the most recognizable women of the 1960’s, she was a highly- prolific actress who worked frequently from the 1950's until well into the 1980's. Susan was also a record-setting female aviator who won five world records for light planes and eventually became one of the first women qualified to fly the Lear Jet. The 1970’s saw her interests turn largely towards writing and directing. An original member of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women in 1974, she fought Hollywood’s entrenched “boy’s club” mentality to eventually become one of the only women directing major TV shows in the early 1980's, including M*A*S*H. Tragically taken by cancer in 1990 at just 58 years old, Susan Oliver has been inexplicably forgotten by many in the industry to which she gave so much of herself. This documentary chronicles and celebrates the remarkable achievements of her enigmatic and all-too-short life. Features over 3-dozen interviews, including Susan Oliver's contemporaries Lee Meriwether, David Hedison, Kathleen Nolan, Nancy Malone, Roy Thinnes, Gary Conway, Peter Mark Richman, Monte Markham, Rosey Grier, Celeste Yarnall, John Gilmore, Charles Siebert, Tom DeSimone, Chas. Floyd Johnson, Biff Manard and Clay Lacy.
Top customer reviews
Blessed with sharp intelligence and a stunning, feline beauty, Oliver had learned her craft on the stage, catching studio attention as the star of her first movie, a 1957 indie "B" called Green Eyed Blonde. But Susan bucked the system by abandoning a coveted, non-exclusive movie contract with Warner Bros. Although she co-starred in more than a dozen feature films after that (notably BUtterfield 8), she never regained her big-screen footing, and became respected primarily for her small-screen work. Susan enjoyed particular artistic success during the first half of the 1960s, with very strong guest appearances on Route 66, The Fugitive, The Defenders, and other top-flight adult dramas.
In lieu of a voice-over narrator, the documentary makes fine use of talking-head interviews with co-workers, family, and friends, to trace the ups and downs of Susan's life and career. The reminiscences of friends Biff Manard and Ron Wright-Scherr are particularly moving.
Long after she established herself as an actress, Susan grew interested in directing, and although she earned her DGA card and helmed two TV episodes (M*A*S*H and Trapper John, M.D.), she was unable to establish herself behind the camera.
She found true freedom in the skies, as a skilled and tenacious pilot, breaking records, winning competitions, and undertaking a daring trans-Atlantic flight in 1967. (This feat, and much more, is recounted in Susan's gripping 1983 book, Odyssey.) She later earned her Lear jet rating--on Bill Lear's personal jet.
Susan Oliver died in 1990, just 58 years old. Whether or not you're familiar with her body of work, you'll be intrigued by her story and moved by the documentary's final moments, which are beautiful and, frankly, shattering.
So, Susan had the occasional movie role and the occasional guest starring role on television. Once you saw her, she made an impression on you. And if you saw her name in the credits of the television shows she appeared in, you made it a point of watching that TV show. Same for any movie she was in. However, Susan not only passed on a movie, she also passed on doing a television series that could've made her more of a household name. Like a lot of young people of her time and afterwards, she demanded success on her own terms. Later on, when her acting career was on the downhill slide, she turned to directing shows. including an episode of "M*A*S*H."
But, all the while, Susan Oliver remained an enigma, even among her diehard fans (including yours truly). Susan, a chain smoker, died of lung cancer in 1990 at age 58. becoming more of an enigma because there were no biographies out there. She didn't deserve to be forgotten like that. The documentary "The Green Girl" is the first biography (in video form) exploring who Susan was, and it may be the only biography, though I can't imagine that. Some have complained about what this video doesn't have in trying to document Susan's life, though given the stage of her life most people are interested in is now going on 50 to 60 years ago, the number of people who could provide some detail to what her life isn't a large number and shrinks every year. One can find fault with everything. As a fan of Susan Oliver's, this documentary will do until something better comes along. And even then, the video disc is worth having because of the footage there is of the beautiful lady. And what a beautiful lady she was!
By the way, regarding Susan's age, up until her death, her year of birth was given in the yearly almanacs as 1937. That information was supplied by the studios, agents and managers. And while it's not surprising a manager or she shaved off five years of her life, at some point, most actors and actresses give on the charade and fess up to what their actual year of birth was and how old they really are. I never did see any mention of Susan being born in 1932 until after her death. And even then, some were claiming she was even older, claiming she was born in 1928. Apparently, some just can't conceive there might be two or more people with the same name. Susan was born Charlotte Gerckes, taking her mother's maiden name and changing her name to Susan to make her a more commercial actress. But, whether you do or don't buy this documentary (buy it!), if you see a rerun of an old TV show or movie from the 50s and 60s with Susan in it, watch it. You can't help but be impressed.