Merle Oberon

Merle Oberon (February 19, 1911 - November 23, 1979), born Estelle Merle O'Brien Thompson, was a film actress, known for her sultry looks.

Born in Bombay, India to an Anglo-Irish father and an Anglo-Sinhalese mother, Constance Selby, who gave birth to Merle at the age of 15 and allowed her to be raised as her sister, Merle came to England for the first time in 1928. Initially she worked as a club hostess under the name Queenie O'Brien and played in minor and unbilled rolls in various films. Her first major film role was as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). In 1934, she played the female lead in The Scarlet Pimpernel, opposite Leslie Howard.

Oberon's career went on to greater heights partly as a result of her relationship with and later marriage to director Alexander Korda, who had persuaded her to take the name under which she became famous. She received her only Academy Award for Best Actress nomination for The Dark Angel (1935). She was to star in Korda's film of I, Claudius (1937) as Messalina, but a serious car accident resulted in filming being abandoned. Merle Oberon was scarred for life, but skilled lighting technicians prevented her injuries being spotted by cinema audiences. She went on to appear as Cathy in Wuthering Heights (1939), as George Sand in A Song to Remember (1945), and as Empress Josephine in Désirée (1954). During her time as a film star, Oberon went to great lengths to disguise her mixed-race background and when her dark-skinned mother moved in with her in Hollywood, she masqueraded as Oberon's maid.

Merle Oberon divorced Sir Alexander Korda in 1945, to marry cinematographer Lucien Ballard. She married twice more, to Italian-born Mexican industrialist Bruno Pagliai (two adopted children) and Dutch actor Robert Wolders, before her retirement to Malibu, California, where she died after suffering a stroke. She was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6250 Hollywood Boulevard.

Throughout her life, Oberon maintained that she had been born in Tasmania, Australia. It was only after her death that this was revealed to have been a fabrication.


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It was only after her death that this was revealed to have been a fabrication. She was also nominated for a 2002 Emmy Award for best guest actress in a drama series. Throughout her life, Oberon maintained that she had been born in Tasmania, Australia. As of 2002 she continues to perform in films while pursing stage acting with The Steppenwolf Theater Company (most notably in Hedda Gabler). She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6250 Hollywood Boulevard. She was the lead in a short-run television show on HBO called The Defenders. She was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. In the 1990s she developed a reputation for being a very professional actress, taking many smaller roles in mainstream films like Beautiful Girls and in films like 200 Cigarettes and John Waters' Pecker.

She married twice more, to Italian-born Mexican industrialist Bruno Pagliai (two adopted children) and Dutch actor Robert Wolders, before her retirement to Malibu, California, where she died after suffering a stroke. In the film The Mosquito Coast she met boyfriend River Phoenix, whom she later left because of his drug use. Merle Oberon divorced Sir Alexander Korda in 1945, to marry cinematographer Lucien Ballard. After her part in the cult classic The Goonies she built up a reputation for being able to play rebellious tomboys, appearing in such films as Shy People, Silence Like Glass and Stars and Bars. During her time as a film star, Oberon went to great lengths to disguise her mixed-race background and when her dark-skinned mother moved in with her in Hollywood, she masqueraded as Oberon's maid. She began her career in the 1980s in the film The River Rat. She went on to appear as Cathy in Wuthering Heights (1939), as George Sand in A Song to Remember (1945), and as Empress Josephine in Désirée (1954). Martha Plimpton (born November 16, 1970) was born from Hollywood blood with parents Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton.

Merle Oberon was scarred for life, but skilled lighting technicians prevented her injuries being spotted by cinema audiences. She was to star in Korda's film of I, Claudius (1937) as Messalina, but a serious car accident resulted in filming being abandoned. She received her only Academy Award for Best Actress nomination for The Dark Angel (1935). Oberon's career went on to greater heights partly as a result of her relationship with and later marriage to director Alexander Korda, who had persuaded her to take the name under which she became famous.

In 1934, she played the female lead in The Scarlet Pimpernel, opposite Leslie Howard. Her first major film role was as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). Initially she worked as a club hostess under the name Queenie O'Brien and played in minor and unbilled rolls in various films. Born in Bombay, India to an Anglo-Irish father and an Anglo-Sinhalese mother, Constance Selby, who gave birth to Merle at the age of 15 and allowed her to be raised as her sister, Merle came to England for the first time in 1928.

Merle Oberon (February 19, 1911 - November 23, 1979), born Estelle Merle O'Brien Thompson, was a film actress, known for her sultry looks.

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