Maureen O'Sullivan

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Maureen O'Sullivan
Maureen O'Sullivan by Clarence Bull.png
O'Sullivan in Photoplay, 1932
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.
Resting place Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Niskayuna, New York
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1930–94
Spouse(s) John Farrow (m. 1936; d. 1963)
James Cushing (m. 1983)
Children 7, including Patrick, Mia, Prudence, and Tisa Farrow

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 Eva Lovatt (née Frazer)[1] and Charles Joseph O'Sullivan, an officer in the Connaught Rangers who served in World War I.[2][3] Maureen returned to Boyle in 1988 to be honoured by the town. 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. In October 1929, she sailed to New York with her mother on the British steamer R.M.S. Baltic, on the way to Hollywood to work for the Fox Film Corporation.

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 was featured with William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man (1934) and played Kitty in Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo, Fredric March, and Basil Rathbone. After co-starring with the Marx Bros in A Day At The Races (1937), 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.[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 Ronan O'Sullivan Farrow for her mother. 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.

Personal life[edit]

Wedding of Maureen O'Sullivan and John Farrow (1936)

O'Sullivan's first husband was the Australian-American writer, award-winning director and Catholic convert John Villiers 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 (Patrick Villiers Farrow, 1942–2009), Maria de Lourdes Villiers (Mia Farrow, b. 1945), John Charles (b. 1946),[7] Prudence Farrow (b. 1948), Stephanie Farrow (b. 1949) and Theresa Magdalena "Tisa" Farrow (b. 1951). O'Sullivan married James Cushing, a wealthy businessman, on 22 August 1983; they remained wed until her death in 1998. Maureen O'Sullivan became a US citizen on October 22, 1947 (Petition for Naturalization #133033), Los Angeles, California.[8]

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, Mr. Cushing's hometown. Michael, her oldest son, was killed at age 19 in a 1958 plane crash.[9] Her son Patrick Villiers Farrow, a sculptor, peace, and environmental activist, committed suicide in 2009.[10] Her grandson, Ronan Farrow, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Legacy[edit]

O'Sullivan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, 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) as Herself
  • Hollywood - The Second Step (1936)
  • Unusual Occupations: Film Tot Holiday (1947)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Shower of Stars (1955)
  • Mandy's Grandmother (1978) as Grandmother

Television work[edit]

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

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1941 Philip Morris Playhouse Night Must Fall[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Maureen O'Sullivan genealogy, showing mother's true maiden name". 
  2. ^ Profile, filmreference.com; accessed 22 September 2015.
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  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". Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. 
  6. ^ McLean, Patrisha, All Fall Down, The Brandon deWilde Story c. 2012, Faces, Incorporated, pp. 170, 173; ISBN 978-1936447121
  7. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History - MyHeritage". www.familytreelegends.com. 
  8. ^ O'Sullivan Petition for Naturalization #133033, ancestry.com; accessed 22 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Maureen O'Sullivan, Movie Tarzan's 'Jane,' Dies at 87". www.nytimes.com. 
  10. ^ Curtis, Brent (June 17, 2009). "Farrow's death ruled suicide; family releases statement". The Rutland Herald. Archived from the original on June 4, 2016. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  11. ^ ""Playhouse" Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 18, 1941. p. 27. Retrieved July 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read

External links[edit]