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 married twice, with her second marriage lasting until her death in Honolulu, Hawaii from lung cancer. Throughout her life, Oberon maintained that she had been born in Tasmania, Australia. During the 1940s the quality of her roles steadily decreased and in 1947 she retired. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6250 Hollywood Boulevard. Her most widely seen performances were in Double Wedding (1937), in which she was billed third in the cast credits behind William Powell and Myrna Loy, and The Marx Brothers film At The Circus (1939). She was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Rice never became a major figure in films, but achieved popularity in a number of screen pairings with Robert Young.

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. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Rice became an actress during the early 1930s and after several Broadway roles, eventually made her way to Hollywood. Blonde, pretty and wholesome, Rice was cast as the reliable girlfriend in several MGM films, and during the 1930s, MGM gradually provided her with more substantial roles, occasionally in prestige productions. Merle Oberon divorced Sir Alexander Korda in 1945, to marry cinematographer Lucien Ballard. Florence Rice (February 14, 1911 - February 23, 1974) was a American film actress. 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 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).

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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