Vera Fusek, actress who played the Earth President in Doctor Who – obituary
Has died aged 89, was an actress who became best known to aficionados of Doctor Who as the Earth President in the serial “Frontier in Space” (1973) opposite Jon Pertwee’s Doctor.
She began her career on stage when Sam Wanamaker cast her in the first English production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge (1956, Comedy Theatre, Haymarket) with Richard Harris. The same year she played Anne Frank’s mother Edith in the Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett play The Diary of Anne Frank (Theatre Royal, Brighton and Phoenix Theatre, London).
But it was her role in Doctor Who, as the female leader of the world in the 26th century, that earned her cult status. For one scene she wore a sequinned gown so tight that she had to be sewn into it.
She was born Vera Vuseck on May 20 1932 in Prague. Her father was a member of the last democratic parliament before the communist coup, and in 1948 the family fled the country disguised as tourists, eventually arriving in Britain as refugees. Vera had left Czechoslovakia two years before for a finishing school in Switzerland.
She went on to win a place at Rada and in 1955 set sail for New York, hoping to make her name on Broadway, but as she recalled in 2016: “It was the height of the Red Menace – anyone with an accent was feared to be a communist.”
Instead, she hit the road and toured with the ballet dancer-turned-actor Erie Hall in Shakespeare plays, including appearances as Ferdinand and Miranda in The Tempest. She also appeared in an off-Broadway play directed by Peter Ustinov, but by 1956 she was back in London.
© Reg Warhurst/ANL/Shutterstock Vera Fusek in 1958 - Reg Warhurst/ANL/Shutterstock
There she found success on television, first with Douglas Fairbanks Jr in The Man Who Wouldn’t Escape, co-starring Christopher Lee. She also appeared in BBC Sunday-Night Theatre productions including Fritz Hochwalder’s The Fugitive (1956), though a critic described her performance as “dreary”.
She fared better the same year as Marie Antoinette in The Magnificent Egotist, featuring Fenella Fielding as a prostitute, and opposite Merle Oberon in The Search.
Towards the end of that decade Vera Fusek’s name began to feature in the tabloids, one columnist describing her as a “party-loving actress with a penchant for the Harrods fur department”. Another described an encounter with a policeman in Eastbourne whom she had injured in an altercation behind the wheel of her 1932 Austin Morris.
She also claimed to have been propositioned in a lift by Salvador Dali: “He said I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen – I was one of hundreds he’d given that line to.”
On the big screen she played the female lead in Escape in the Sun (1956), a low-budget jungle adventure which had her riding a one-eyed rhinoceros escaping from an asthmatic lion. In 1959 she was in the crime drama Great Van Robbery, and in 1960 she had a minor role in Five Branded Women. The same year she played an American film star in an episode of the television series The Four Just Men.
In 1964 she married Frederick Maxwell, an American geologist, with whom she had two sons. Frederick, who suffered from depression, committed suicide when the boys were still young, and in 1967 Vera returned to London from Germany, where they had been living.
As well as her role on Doctor Who, she appeared in Mike Pritchard’s Treasures of the Snow (1980), but by the early 1980s she had retired.
In her sixties Vera Fusek found happiness with her companion Rudy. She moved to Alaska and earned two degrees from the Open University. She returned to England after being diagnosed with dementia.
One of her two sons predeceased her.
Vera Fusek, born May 20 1932, died August 8 2021
Reference: Telegraph: Telegraph Obituaries
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