Margaret O'Brien in 1948
|Born||Angela Maxine O'Brien
January 15, 1937
San Diego, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Harold Allen, Jr. (1959–1968) (divorced)
Roy Thorsen (1974–present) 1 daughter
|Children||Mara Tolene Thorsen (b. 1977)|
Margaret O'Brien (born January 15, 1937) is an American film, television and stage actress. Beginning a prolific career as a child actress in feature films at the age of four, O'Brien became one of the most popular child stars in cinema history, and was honored with a Juvenile Academy Award as the outstanding child actress of 1944. In her later career, she appeared on television, on stage, and in supporting film roles.
Life and career
She was born Angela Maxine O'Brien; her name was later changed to Margaret following the success of the film Journey for Margaret, in which she played the title role. Her father Lawrence O'Brien, a circus performer, died before she was born. O'Brien's mother, Gladys Flores, was a well-known flamenco dancer who often performed with her sister Marissa, also a dancer. O'Brien is of half-Irish and half-Spanish ancestry.
She made her first film appearance in Babes on Broadway (1941) at the age of four, but it was the following year that her first major role brought her widespread attention. As a five-year-old in Journey for Margaret (1942), O'Brien won wide praise for her convincing acting style. By 1943, she was considered a big enough star to have a cameo appearance in the all-star military show finale of Thousands Cheer.
She played a young French girl, and spoke and sang all her dialogue with a French accent, in Jane Eyre (1944). Arguably her most memorable role was as "Tootie" in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), opposite Judy Garland. O'Brien had by this time added singing and dancing to her achievements and was rewarded with an Academy Juvenile Award the following year as the "outstanding child actress of 1944." Her other successes included The Canterville Ghost (1944), Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945), and the first sound version of The Secret Garden (1949), but she was unable to make the transition to adult roles.
O'Brien later shed her child star image in 1958 by appearing on the cover of Life Magazine with the caption "The Girl's Grown", and was a mystery guest on the TV panel show What's My Line?. O'Brien's acting roles as an adult have been few and far between, mostly in small independent films. However, she does do occasional interviews, mostly for the Turner Classic Movies cable network. She played the role of Betsy Stauffer, a small town nurse, in "The Incident of the Town in Terror" on television's Rawhide. She made a guest appearance on a 1963 episode of Perry Mason as Virginia Trent in "The Case of the Shoplifter's Shoe." Another rare television outing was as a guest star on the popular Marcus Welby, M.D. in the early 1970s, reuniting O'Brien with her Journey For Margaret and The Canterville Ghost co-star Robert Young.
Growing up, O'Brien's awards were always kept in a special room. One day in 1954, the family's maid asked to take O'Brien's Juvenile Oscar and two other awards home with her to polish, as she had done in the past. After three days, the maid failed to return to work, prompting O'Brien's mother to discharge her, requesting that the awards be returned. Not long after, O'Brien's mother, who had been sick with a heart condition, suffered a relapse and died. In mourning, 17 year-old O'Brien forgot about the maid and the Oscar until several months later when she tried to contact her, only to find that the maid had moved and had left no forwarding address.
Several years later, upon learning that the original had been stolen, the Academy promptly supplied O'Brien with a replacement Oscar, but O'Brien still held on to hope that she might one day recover her original Award. In the years that followed, O'Brien attended memorabilia shows and searched antique shops, hoping she might find the original statuette, until one day in 1995 when Bruce Davis, then executive director of the Academy, was alerted that a miniature statuette bearing O'Brien's name had surfaced in a catalogue for an upcoming memorabilia auction. Davis contacted a mutual friend of his and O'Brien's, who in turn phoned O'Brien to tell her the long-lost Oscar had been found.
Memorabilia collectors Steve Neimand and Mark Nash were attending a flea market in 1995 when Neimand spotted a small Oscar with Margaret O'Brien's name inscribed upon it. The two men decided to split the $500 asking price hoping to resell it at a profit and lent it to a photographer to shoot for an upcoming auction catalogue. This led to Bruce Davis' discovery that the statuette had resurfaced and, upon learning of the award's history, Nash and Neimand agreed to return the Oscar to O'Brien. On February 7, 1995, almost fifty years after she'd first received it, the Academy held a special ceremony in Beverly Hills to return the stolen award to O’Brien. Upon being reunited with her Juvenile Oscar, Margaret O'Brien told the attending journalists:
- “For all those people who have lost or misplaced something that was dear to them, as I have, never give up the dream of searching – never let go of the hope that you’ll find it because after all these many years, at last, my Oscar has been returned to me.”
In February 1960, O'Brien was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6606 Hollywood Boulevard, and for television at 1634 Vine St. In 1990, O'Brien was honored by the Young Artist Foundation with its Former Child Star "Lifetime Achievement" Award recognizing her outstanding achievements within the film industry as a child actress. In 2006, she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the SunDeis Film Festival at Brandeis University.
She has been married twice, to Harold Allen, Jr. from 1959 to 1968, and later to Roy Thorsen. The latter marriage produced her only child, Mara Tolene Thorsen, born in 1977.
|1941||Babes on Broadway||Maxine, Little Girl at Audition||uncredited|
|1942||Journey for Margaret||Margaret White|
|1943||You, John Jones!||Their daughter||short subject|
|Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case||Margaret|
|Thousands Cheer||Customer in Red Skelton Skit|
|Madame Curie||Irene Curie (at age 5)|
|1944||Jane Eyre||Adele Varens|
|The Canterville Ghost||Lady Jessica de Canterville|
|Meet Me in St. Louis||'Tootie' Smith||Academy Juvenile Award|
|Music for Millions||Mike|
|1945||Our Vines Have Tender Grapes||Selma Jacobson|
|Three Wise Fools||Sheila O'Monahan|
|1947||The Unfinished Dance||'Meg' Merlin|
|Tenth Avenue Angel||Flavia Mills|
|1949||Little Women||Beth March|
|The Secret Garden||Mary Lennox|
|1951||Her First Romance||Betty Foster|
|1952||Futari no hitomi||Katherine McDermott||Girls Hand in Hand US title|
|1960||Heller in Pink Tights||Della Southby|
|1965||Agente S 3 S operazione Uranio|
|1974||Diabolique Wedding||aka Diabolic Wedding|
|That's Entertainment!||Herself and archive footage|
|1981||Amy||Hazel Johnson||aka Amy on the Lips|
|1996||Sunset After Dark|
|1998||Creaturealm: From the Dead||Herself||segment Hollywood Mortuary|
|2000||Child Stars: Their Story||Herself||aka Child Stars|
|2002||Dead Season||Friendly Looking Lady|
|2004||The Mystery of Natalie Wood||Herself|
|2009||Dead in Love||Cris|
|2009–2011||Project Lodestar Sagas||Livia Wells|
|Academy Award||Juvenile Award for Outstanding Child Actress of 1944||Honored|||
|Hollywood Walk of Fame||Star of Motion Pictures – 6606 Hollywood Blvd.||Inducted|||
|Star of Television – 1634 Vine Street.||Inducted|
|Young Artist Award||Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award||Honored|||
Box Office Ranking
For a time O'Brien was voted by exhibitors as among the most popular stars in the country.
- TCM.com - "Biography for Margaret O'Brien", March 3, 2011.
- "17th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- Zamichow, Nora (March 7, 1995). "Fairy Tale End for Stolen Oscar". LATimes.com. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "An Interview with Margaret O'Brien". Hollywoodland. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "Actress Gets Stolen Oscar Back". SFGate.com. June 23, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "Margaret O'Brien's Stolen Oscar". Hollywoodland. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "Margaret O'Brien – Hollywood Walk of Fame". WalkofFame.com. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- "11th Youth in Film Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- CROSBY AGAIN LEADS IN FILM BOX OFFICES New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 Dec 1946: 13.
- Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown By Richard L. Coe. The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 03 Jan 1948: 12.
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