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. Susan Peters has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to Motion Pictures, at 1601 Vine St. Throughout her life, Oberon maintained that she had been born in Tasmania, Australia. Her health continued to deteriorate until her death, in Visalia, California, from kidney disease and pneumonia, complicated by anorexia nervosa. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6250 Hollywood Boulevard. Her career began to falter, and as her marriage ended, Peters began to suffer from depression. She was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. She toured in stage productions of The Glass Menagerie and The Barretts of Wimpole Street, and her performances were highly regarded, but her disability made her a difficult actress to cast.

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. An unsympathetic role in The Sign of the Ram (1948) failed to win an audience, and a starring role as a detective in the television series Miss Susan (1951) was also unsuccessful. Merle Oberon divorced Sir Alexander Korda in 1945, to marry cinematographer Lucien Ballard. The accident left her permanently paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheel chair, however she attempted to continue her acting career. 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. Married to the actor Richard Quine, she was with him on a hunting vacation in early 1945, when a rifle accidentally discharged, causing a bullet to be lodged in her spine. 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). A starring role in Song of Russia (1943) earned her critical acclaim but the film was not a commercial success.

Merle Oberon was scarred for life, but skilled lighting technicians prevented her injuries being spotted by cinema audiences. MGM began to groom her for starring roles, casting her in several lesser productions that allowed her to learn her craft. She was to star in Korda's film of I, Claudius (1937) as Messalina, but a serious car accident resulted in filming being abandoned. Her first substantial role, in Random Harvest (1942), earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination. She received her only Academy Award for Best Actress nomination for The Dark Angel (1935). For the first two years she used her given name and played small, often uncredited parts in films such as Meet John Doe (1941), before adopting her stage name. 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. Before long she had impressed studio executives with her own talent, and they began casting her in films.

In 1934, she played the female lead in The Scarlet Pimpernel, opposite Leslie Howard. Her first job was to read with potential actors in their screen tests. Her first major film role was as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). Born Suzanne Carnahan in Spokane, Washington, Peters began working for MGM Studios after completing high school. Initially she worked as a club hostess under the name Queenie O'Brien and played in minor and unbilled rolls in various films. Susan Peters (July 3, 1921 - October 23, 1952) was an American film 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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