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. In 2003, she took on the major role of playing Julie McNamara in the controversial television drama Nip/Tuck based on the lives of plastic surgeons. Throughout her life, Oberon maintained that she had been born in Tasmania, Australia. Richardson expressed sympathy with Marie-Antoinette's undeserved fate, something which she tried to convey in the film. However, it was a critical failure: "an endless illustrated Harlequin paperback of mawkish backstory and corset-popping purple prose", according to Jessica Winter in the Village Voice, though Richardson's performance was listed among the "incidental pleasures" of the film by Roger Ebert and described as a "sly, commanding performance that reflects a marvelous understanding of this notorious character" by Salon.com. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6250 Hollywood Boulevard. This was a lavish costume drama based on a scandal in the final days of the French monarchy, when Marie-Antoinette's reputation was trashed by a confidence trickster, who absconded with a lavish diamond necklace which she had purchased using the Queen's name but without her knowledge. She was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Thus, she secured the role of that queen in the 2001 film The Affair of the Necklace.

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. Later that year she was modelling on a necklace, when director Charles Shyer noticed her resemblance to doomed 18th-century royal Marie Antoinette. Merle Oberon divorced Sir Alexander Korda in 1945, to marry cinematographer Lucien Ballard. Two years later she played opposite Mel Gibson in the successful film, The Patriot loosely based on the American Revolution. 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. In 1998 in the popular television drama The Echo she played sultry Amanda Powell. 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). In 1996 she played the fashion designer Anita in the popular Disney film 101 Dalmatians opposite Glenn Close as Cruella deVil.

Merle Oberon was scarred for life, but skilled lighting technicians prevented her injuries being spotted by cinema audiences. She later appeared as a fictional Finnish princess, Anna, in the 1991 comedy King Ralph. Two years later, she appeared as Lady Chatterley in a televison drama of the same title. She was to star in Korda's film of I, Claudius (1937) as Messalina, but a serious car accident resulted in filming being abandoned. After an early leading role in Peter Greenaway's cult success Drowning by Numbers, her first major role in front of a mass audience was as Joanna Farley in a 1989 television episode of Poirot, the Agatha Christie-based detective series. She received her only Academy Award for Best Actress nomination for The Dark Angel (1935). She is the daughter of screen legend Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson, the granddaughter of Sir Michael Redgrave, sister of Natasha Richardson and niece of Lynn Redgrave. Joely Richardson appeared as an extra at the age of three in the 1968 version of The Charge of the Light Brigade directed by her father. 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. Joely Richardson (born 9 January 1965) is a British actress, who was born into a theatrical family.

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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