Monday, May 17, 2010
Maureen Paula O’Sullivan
Maureen Paula O’Sullivan (17 May 1911 – 23 June 1998) was an Irish actress who was considered Ireland's first film star.
O'Sullivan was born in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland, the daughter of Mary Lovatt (née Fraser) and Charles Joseph O'Sullivan, an officer in The Connaught Rangers who served in The Great War. She attended a convent school in Dublin, then the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton in London (now Woldingham School). One of her classmates there was Vivien Leigh. After attending finishing school in France, O'Sullivan returned to Dublin and began working with the poor.
O'Sullivan's film career began when she met motion picture director Frank Borzage, who was doing location filming on Song o' My Heart for 20th Century Fox. He suggested she take a screen test. She did and won a part in the movie, which starred Irish tenor John McCormack. She then traveled to the United States to complete the movie in Hollywood.
O'Sullivan appeared in six movies at Fox, then made three more at other movie studios. In 1932, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After several roles there and at other movie studios, she was chosen by Irving Thalberg to appear as Jane Parker in Tarzan the Ape Man opposite co-star Johnny Weissmuller, with whom she had a brief affair during the early 1930s. Besides playing Jane, she was one of the more popular ingenues at MGM throughout the 1930s and appeared in a number of other productions with various stars.
In all, O'Sullivan played Jane in six features between (1932) and (1942). She did not mind doing the first two jungle movies, but feared being typecast and grew increasingly tired of the role.
She also starred with William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man (1934) and played Kitty in Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo and Basil Rathbone. She appeared as Molly Beaumont in A Yank at Oxford (1938), which was written partly by F. Scott Fitzgerald. At her request, he rewrote her part to give it substance and novelty. She played another Jane in Pride and Prejudice (1940) with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson, and supported Ann Sothern in Maisie Was a Lady (1941).
After appearing in Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942), O'Sullivan asked MGM to release her from her contract so she could care for her husband who had just left the Navy with typhoid. She then retired from show business, devoting her time to being a wife and mother.
O'Sullivan was first married to Australian-born writer, later award-winning director, and Catholic convert John Farrow (12 September 1936 - 28 January 1963, his death). She was a widow for twenty years, then married James Cushing (22 August 1983 - 23 June 1998, her death).
She and Farrow were the parents of seven children: Michael Damien (1939-1958), Patrick Joseph (1942-2009), Maria de Lourdes (Mia), John Charles (born 1946), Stephanie, Prudence, and Theresa Magdalena "Tisa" Farrow.
In (1948), she re-appeared on the screen in The Big Clock for Paramount Pictures, which was directed by her husband. She continued to appear occasionally in her husband's movies and on television. By 1960, she believed she had permanently retired, perhaps prompted by roles such as Mrs. Mimms in The Tall T in which her aging is the focus of the roles.
Then fellow Irish thespian Pat O'Brien encouraged her to take a part in summer stock. The play A Roomful of Roses opened in 1961. That led to another play, Never Too Late, in which she co-starred with Paul Ford in what was her Broadway debut. Shortly after it opened on Broadway, John Farrow died of a heart attack.
O'Sullivan was predeceased by her eldest son, Michael, who died in a plane crash in California. O'Sullivan stuck with acting after the death of her husband. She was the Today Girl for NBC for a while, then she made the movie version of Never Too Late (1965) for Warner Bros.. She was also an executive director of a bridal consulting service, Wediquette International.
When her daughter, Mia Farrow, became involved with Woody Allen both professionally and romantically, O'Sullivan appeared in Hannah and Her Sisters, playing Farrow's mother. She also had important roles in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), starring Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage, and the sci-fi oddity Stranded (1987).
In 1994, she appeared with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers in Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Hart Is, a feature-length made-for-TV movie with the wealthy husband-and-wife team from the popular weekly detective series, Hart to Hart.
Maureen O'Sullivan died in Scottsdale, Arizona of complications from heart surgery. She is buried in the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Niskayuna, New York, her widower's hometown.
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California facing the star of Johnny Weissmuller.