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 has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 1994, she was honored with her image on a United States postage stamp designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Throughout her life, Oberon maintained that she had been born in Tasmania, Australia. They had two children: a daughter, Ann Gallery, and a son, Don Gallery (ne Marvin Carville La Marr), whom they adopted after the death of his mother, actress Barbara La Marr. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6250 Hollywood Boulevard. Pitts was married to actor Tom Gallery from 1920 to 1932. She was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. She was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City.

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. ZaSu Pitts died of cancer in Hollywood, California at age 69. Merle Oberon divorced Sir Alexander Korda in 1945, to marry cinematographer Lucien Ballard. From the 1940s through the early 1960s ZaSu Pitts also made numerous television appearances, including her role in The Gale Storm Show, Oh! Susanna (1956-1960), with Gale Storm. 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. When Mae Questel was called on to create the screen voice of the character "Olive Oyl" for the Fleischer Studios animated cartoon version of the comic strip "Popeye", Questel created a caricature of Zazu Pitts' voice. 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). When Hollywood switched to talkies, Pitts, who had a distinctive nasal voice with a wavering vibrato, switched to comedy character actor roles.

Merle Oberon was scarred for life, but skilled lighting technicians prevented her injuries being spotted by cinema audiences. Von Stroheim also featured her in The Wedding March and Walking Down Broadway. She was to star in Korda's film of I, Claudius (1937) as Messalina, but a serious car accident resulted in filming being abandoned. Perhaps her most famous early role was in Erich von Stroheim's Greed (1925). She received her only Academy Award for Best Actress nomination for The Dark Angel (1935). Pitts debuted in silent film in 1917, including a number of leading roles. 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. Her unusual first name was coined from parts of the names "Eliza" and "Susan", female relatives who both wanted ZaSu's mother to name the child after them.

In 1934, she played the female lead in The Scarlet Pimpernel, opposite Leslie Howard. ZaSu Pitts was born in Parsons, Kansas and grew up in Santa Cruz, California. Her first major film role was as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). In many of her film credits and contemporary articles, her name is rendered as Zazu Pitts. Initially she worked as a club hostess under the name Queenie O'Brien and played in minor and unbilled rolls in various films. ZaSu Pitts (3 January 1894 - 7 June 1963) was a United States movie actress. 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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