Elaine Lee, the South African born actress best known to Australians as Vera Collins in Number 96, has died at the age of 75.
An established actress in South Africa, Lee came to Australia in 1970 with husband, actor Garth Meade. “I was going to do the housewife thing. I had no intention of acting at all,” she told TV Week in 1976. “But I got itchy feet and I had to do something. It was Garth who said I should get back into acting. He said I’d never be happy unless I was in showbusiness.”
One of her first TV appearances in Australia was in the drama series The Evil Touch.
In 1972 Lee was one of the original cast members in the groundbreaking series Number 96. She played the part of Vera Collins, a former prostitute turned fashion designer. While other characters at Number 96 were played for comedy, Vera was portrayed often as melodramatic and was frequently the hapless soap opera victim — a theme that also carried through Vera Collins’ main storyline in the Number 96 feature film in 1974,
She eventually left the series in 1976 with Vera finally finding love with Guy Sutton (Peter Whitford). Producers sought to reprise the character into a spin-off series, Fair Game, with a pilot worked into two episodes of Number 96, but it was not picked up.
Given Vera’s earlier professional background and constant ill-fated romances in Number 96, Lee’s farewell present from the producers upon leaving the series was an award statuette. “It was presented to the ‘Best Horizontal Actress’!,” she said.
Lee also appeared in the 1000th episode special Number 96: They Said It Wouldn’t Last in mid-1976 and returned for the show’s curtain call at the end of its final episode in 1977.
She went on to a guest role in the ABC comedy series Who Do You Think You Are and played school principal Margaret Gibson on the Seven Network‘s Glenview High.
Later TV credits included Super Sleuth, Anzacs, A Country Practice (pictured, right, with Brian Wenzel), Bullpitt!, Heartbreak High, Bondi Banquet, All Saints and Home And Away.
In recent years Lee appeared in the featured extras and audio commentary on DVD releases of Number 96 and made guest appearances on Andrew Mercado‘s The Playlist on Foxtel.