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 was only 12 years old. Throughout her life, Oberon maintained that she had been born in Tasmania, Australia. In February of 1988, a few weeks before the scheduled final filming, Heather died of complications after emergency surgery for an acute bowel obstruction. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6250 Hollywood Boulevard. O'Rourke began filming Poltergeist III in 1987, and the movie was set to be released in 1988. She was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Her success in these films led to television work, and she was briefly a regular on the sitcom Happy Days playing the daughter of Fonzie's girlfriend.

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. In 1986, Poltergeist II was released, and once again, O'Rourke coined another pop-culture phrase, when she said "They're ba-aaack!". Merle Oberon divorced Sir Alexander Korda in 1945, to marry cinematographer Lucien Ballard. Poltergeist was released in June 1982, and Heather's line: "They're he-eere!" entered American pop culture. 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. He originally thought that she was too young for the part (she was four at the time) but after an interview and a "scream test", cast her in the role. 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). Spielberg was looking for someone to play the part of 5 year old "Carol Anne" in his upcoming production of Poltergeist.

Merle Oberon was scarred for life, but skilled lighting technicians prevented her injuries being spotted by cinema audiences. Heather O'Rourke was discovered in 1980 by Steven Spielberg while she was eating lunch at the MGM studios commissary. She was to star in Korda's film of I, Claudius (1937) as Messalina, but a serious car accident resulted in filming being abandoned. Heather Michele O'Rourke (December 27, 1975 - February 1, 1988) was an American child actress who starred in the Poltergeist movie trilogy. 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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