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Susan Oliver (Posthumously)
Lifetime Achievement Award (Film) - USA
  
Susan Oliver
Actress - Director - Writer - Aviator
 
Susan Oliver is honored with TheWIFTS Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award (posthumously) for her individuality and strength of purpose at a time when all that she accomplished as an Actress, Director, Writer and Aviator was not recognized. Susan Oliver is the beacon that shines on the ethos of TheWIFTS Foundation International Visionary Awards which celebrates 'women as individuals.'

The Green Girl, an outstanding documentary directed by George Pappy which curates this extraordinary woman's life, is also honored with The Documentary Award for Editing by Amy Glickman Brown.

Trailer: The Green Girl

Born on February 13, 1932 in New York City, Susan Oliver spent part of her childhood at the Hedgerow, known as America's First Repertory Theatre Company, founded by her grandmother. Susan performed onstage there as a child and teenager. She entered Swarthmore College in 1949, but finances forced her to drop out in 1950. Going to New York, she successfully auditioned for the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse and studied under Sanford Meisner. After working off- and on-Broadway and in New York live television, she landed the lead in Warner Brothers' 1957 feature The Green-Eyed Blonde. This led to a major Warner contract.

The studio making little use of her, she returned to New York and took the female lead in Look Back in Anger. When Warner called her back for a movie, Susan decided to break her contract to stay in the play. Historians speculate that, coupled with Jack Warner's legendary vindictiveness, this decision may have gotten her blacklisted from significant future film work. However, it did not prevent her from landing another Broadway lead and receiving a 1959 Theatre World Award.

Susan Oliver - The Green Girl

Lacking a studio contract, her talent and versatility still led to her becoming arguably the most prolific female TV guest star of her era. Preferring to retain her independence, Susan declined leads in several television series. Her presence on the small screen made her Gene Roddenberry's obvious choice in 1964 for his ambitious Star Trek pilot (where she played Trek's original Green Girl). But Susan had aspirations far beyond acting.

Overcoming a fear of flying, she became obsessed with piloting single-engine planes and set out to fly from New York to Moscow in 1967. Despite making the most dangerous legs of the journey (over the Atlantic via Greenland and Iceland), the Soviets stopped her in Copenhagen, deciding not to allow her into their airspace. Although the press dubbed this The Flight That Failed, trivializing a major achievement – Susan Oliver had set five world records. Her love of flying endured and in 1968 she accepted an invitation from Bill Lear to be the first woman to be trained for his new Lear Jet.

Susan Oliver inspecting her plane

In the mid-1970s, Susan unexpectedly gave up flying and virtually turned her back on acting (although she remained a popular guest star). Part of the original 1974 AFI Directing Workshop for Women, she expanded her student film into the ambitious independent short Cowboysan (1978). But it was not until 1982 that she became a DGA director, working on M*A*S*H (one of only five women directors in the show's eleven years).

Off that success, she landed a 1983 episode of Trapper John, M.D. The first of only two female directors in seven seasons, but there she encountered a hostile set described as "not being ready for a woman director." This would be Susan's last directing opportunity. Acting sporadically, she spent the rest of the decade trying to direct again for television and on a feature she co-wrote and hoped to star in. Diagnosed with cancer in 1989, at 58 years old Susan Oliver died with quiet dignity at The Motion Picture and Television Home in Woodland Hills on May 10, 1990.




 
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