Maureen O'Sullivan

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For other people named Maureen O'Sullivan, see Maureen O'Sullivan (disambiguation).
Maureen O'Sullivan
Maureen.jpg
Born Maureen Paula O'Sullivan
(1911-05-17)17 May 1911
Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland
Died 23 June 1998(1998-06-23) (aged 87)
Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1930–94
Spouse(s) John Farrow (m. 1936–1963; his death; 7 children)
James Cushing (m. 1983–1998; her death)

Maureen Paula O'Sullivan (17 May 1911 – 23 June 1998) was an Irish actress best known for playing Jane in the Tarzan series of films starring Johnny Weissmuller.

Early life[edit]

O'Sullivan was born in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland, in 1911, the daughter of Mary (née Frazer)[1] and Charles Joseph O'Sullivan, an officer in the Connaught Rangers who served in World War I.[2] She was of Irish, English and Scottish ancestry.[3] She attended a convent school in Dublin, then the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton (now Woldingham School), England. One of her classmates there was Vivian Mary Hartley, future Academy Award-winning actress Vivien Leigh. After attending finishing school in France, O'Sullivan returned to Dublin to work with the poor.[citation needed]

Film career[edit]

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 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. 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.[4]

In Pride and Prejudice, 1940

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 retreated from show business, devoting her time to her family. In 1948, she re-appeared on the screen in The Big Clock, directed by her husband for Paramount Pictures. She continued to appear occasionally in her husband's movies and on television. However, by 1960 she believed she had permanently retired. In 1958, Farrow's and O'Sullivan's eldest son, Michael, died in a plane crash in California.

Actor Pat O'Brien encouraged her to take a part in summer stock, and 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 stuck with acting after Farrow's death: she was the Today Girl for NBC for a while, then 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. In June and July 1972, O'Sullivan was in Denver, Colorado, to star in the Elitch Theatre production of Butterflies are Free with Karen Grassle and Brandon deWilde. The show ended on July 1, 1972. Five days later (on July 6, 1972), while still in Denver, deWilde was killed in a motor vehicle accident.[5][6]

When her daughter, actress Mia Farrow, became involved with Woody Allen both professionally and romantically, she appeared in Hannah and Her Sisters, playing Farrow's mother. She had roles in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) and the science fiction oddity Stranded (1987). Mia Farrow named one of her own sons Satchel Ronan O'Sullivan Farrow for her mother.[citation needed]

The handprints of Maureen O'Sullivan in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

In 1994, O'Sullivan 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.

Personal life[edit]

O'Sullivan's first husband was Australian-born writer, award-winning director and Catholic convert John Farrow, from 12 September 1936 until his death on 28 January 1963. She and Farrow were the parents of seven children: Michael Damien (1939–1958), Patrick Joseph (1942–2009), Maria de Lourdes Villiers (Mia Farrow, born 1945), John Charles (born 1946),[7] Prudence Farrow, Stephanie Farrow and Theresa Magdalena "Tisa" Farrow.

A widow for twenty years, O'Sullivan was married to her second husband, James Cushing, from 22 August 1983 until her death in 1998.

Death[edit]

Maureen O'Sullivan died in Scottsdale, Arizona of complications from heart surgery on 23 June 1998, at age 87. O'Sullivan is buried at Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Niskayuna, New York, her widower's hometown. She was survived by her six surviving children, 32 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Michael, her oldest son, was killed in a plane crash in 1958.[8]

Legacy[edit]

O'Sullivan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, facing the star of Johnny Weissmuller. A black plaque marks her home on Main Street in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland. Just around the corner from there, opposite King House, is a tree, ceremonially planted by O'Sullivan to mark her return to her birthplace.

In 1982, O'Sullivan was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.

Filmography[edit]

Feature films

Short subjects

  • Hollywood Extra: The First Step (1936)
  • Hollywood - The Second Step (1936)
  • Unusual Occupations: Film Tot Holiday (1947)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Shower of Stars (1955)
  • Mandy's Grandmother (1978)

Television work[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Maureen O'Sullivan genealogy, showing mother's true maiden name
  2. ^ Film Reference profile for Maureen O'Sullivan
  3. ^ Biodata, imdb.com; accessed 12 March 2014.
  4. ^ Child, Ben (28 December 2011). "Chimp claimed as Cheetah from the Tarzan films dies". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  5. ^ Remembering Brandon.net/A Word on the Elitch Theatre
  6. ^ McLean, Patrisha, All Fall Down, The Brandon deWilde Story c. 2012, Faces, Incorporated, pp. 170, 173; ISBN 978-1936447121
  7. ^ California Births 1905-1995
  8. ^ O'Sullivan was the matriarch of a large and growing family

External links[edit]