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. Gladys Kravitz was played from 1966 by Sandra Gould. Throughout her life, Oberon maintained that she had been born in Tasmania, Australia. Diagnosed with terminal cancer before the show began, Pearce kept her illness a secret, but died from ovarian cancer during the second season. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6250 Hollywood Boulevard. Pearce was posthumously awarded an Emmy Award for this role. She was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Her hysterical accusations against Samantha, played by Elizabeth Montgomery, and the disbelief of her husband Abner, played by George Tobias, provided a common thread through many of the series early episodes.

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. As the nagging and nosy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz, Pearce's scenes were almost entirely reactions to acts of witchcraft she had witnessed at the house across the street. Merle Oberon divorced Sir Alexander Korda in 1945, to marry cinematographer Lucien Ballard. In 1964 she joined the cast of the television series Bewitched. 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. More movie roles followed, and she made appearances on Broadway, where she met her husband director Paul Davis during a production of The Bells are Ringing. 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). Her comedic performance was well received by critics and public alike, and she was given her own television variety show.

Merle Oberon was scarred for life, but skilled lighting technicians prevented her injuries being spotted by cinema audiences. Gene Kelly was so impressed by her, that she became the only cast member to be included in the film version in 1949. 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 began working in nightclubs as a comedienne and was cast in the Broadway production of On The Town. She received her only Academy Award for Best Actress nomination for The Dark Angel (1935). Born Alicia Pearce in New York City, Pearce was educated in Europe and returned to the US as an adult. 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. Alice Pearce (October 16, 1913 - March 3, 1966) was an American actress.

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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