Margaret O'Brien

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Margaret O'Brien
MargO'Brien.jpg
Margaret O'Brien in 1948
Born Angela Maxine O'Brien
(1937-01-15) January 15, 1937 (age 77)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1941–present
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[edit]

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.[1] 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."[2] 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.

Academy Award[edit]

An image of Margaret O'Brien in Eiga no Tomo (November 1952)
O'Brien in Eiga no Tomo (November 1952)
A photo of Margaret O'Brien in 2013
O'Brien in 2013

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.[3] After three days, the maid failed to return to work, prompting O'Brien's mother to discharge her, requesting that the awards be returned.[4] Not long after, O'Brien's mother, who had been sick with a heart condition, suffered a relapse and died.[3] 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.[3][4]

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.[3][4] 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.[3] 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.[3][4]

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.[5] 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.[3] 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.[3] 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.[3][5] 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.”[6]

Additional Honors[edit]

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.[7] 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.[8] In 2006, she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the SunDeis Film Festival at Brandeis University.

Personal life[edit]

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.

Filmography[edit]

O'Brien with Judy Garland in the 1944 feature film, Meet Me in St. Louis
Year Film Role Other notes
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)
Lost Angel Alpha
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
1946 Bad Bascomb Emmy
Three Wise Fools Sheila O'Monahan
1947 The Unfinished Dance 'Meg' Merlin
1948 Big City Midge
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
1956 Glory Clarabel Tilbee
1960 Heller in Pink Tights Della Southby
1965 Agente S 3 S operazione Uranio
1968 Annabel Lee
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
2005 Boxes Herself short subject
2006 Store Herself
2009 Dead in Love Cris
2009–2011 Project Lodestar Sagas Livia Wells

Awards[edit]

Year Award Honor Result Ref.

1945

Academy Award Juvenile Award for Outstanding Child Actress of 1944 Honored [2]

1960

Hollywood Walk of Fame Star of Motion Pictures – 6606 Hollywood Blvd. Inducted [7]
Star of Television – 1634 Vine Street. Inducted

1990

Young Artist Award Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award Honored [8]

Box Office Ranking[edit]

For a time O'Brien was voted by exhibitors as among the most popular stars in the country.

  • 1945 - 9th
  • 1946 - 8th[9]
  • 1947 - 19th[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ TCM.com - "Biography for Margaret O'Brien", March 3, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "17th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Zamichow, Nora (March 7, 1995). "Fairy Tale End for Stolen Oscar". LATimes.com. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d "An Interview with Margaret O'Brien". Hollywoodland. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Actress Gets Stolen Oscar Back". SFGate.com. June 23, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Margaret O'Brien's Stolen Oscar". Hollywoodland. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Margaret O'Brien – Hollywood Walk of Fame". WalkofFame.com. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "11th Youth in Film Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  9. ^ CROSBY AGAIN LEADS IN FILM BOX OFFICES New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 Dec 1946: 13.
  10. ^ 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.

External links[edit]