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Maureen O'Sullivan Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (27) | Personal Quotes (9)

Overview (4)

Born in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland
Died in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameMaureen Paula O'Sullivan
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Maureen Paula O'Sullivan was born on May 17, 1911 in County Roscommon, Ireland, to Evangeline "Mary Eva" Lovatt (Frazer) and Charles Joseph O'Sullivan, an officer in the Connaught Rangers. She was of Irish, English, and Scottish descent. The future mother of Mia Farrow was educated in private Catholic girls schools in London, Dublin, and Paris. Maureen was a classmate of Vivien Leigh, another actress destined for screen immortality. Even as a schoolgirl, Maureen desired an acting career; she studied hard and read widely. When the opportunity to be an actress came along, it almost dropped in her lap. The director Frank Borzage was in Dublin filming Song o' My Heart (1930) when Maureen, then 18, met him. Borzage suggested a screen test, which she took. The results were more than favorable, as she won the part of Eileen O'Brien. The part was a substantial one, so much so that Maureen went on to Hollywood to complete the filming.

Once in sunny California, Maureen wasted no time landing roles in other films such as Just Imagine (1930), The Princess and the Plumber (1930), and So This Is London (1930). She was perhaps MGM's most popular ingenue throughout the 1930s in a number of non-Tarzan vehicles. Maureen was on a roll that her contemporaries could only have wished for when they were coming up through the ranks. In 1932, Maureen was teamed up with Olympic medal winner Johnny Weissmuller for the first time in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932). Five other Tarzan films followed, the last being Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942). The Tarzan epics rank as one of the most memorable series ever made. Most people agree that those movies would not have been successful had it not been for the fine acting talents, not to mention beauty, of Maureen O'Sullivan. But she was more than Jane Parker in the Tarzan films; she had great roles and played beautifully in films such as The Flame Within (1935), David Copperfield (1935), and Anna Karenina (1935). She turned in yet another fine performance in Pride and Prejudice (1940). After the 1940s, Maureen made far fewer films, not because she lost popularity but by choice.

It isn't always easy to walk away from a lucrative career, but she did because she wanted to devote more time to her husband, John Farrow, an Australian writer, and their seven children: Michael, Patrick, Maria (Mia Farrow), John, Prudence, Theresa (Tisa Farrow), and Stephanie Farrow. The couple were married from 1936 until his death in 1963. After her last Tarzan she asked for release from her contract to care for her husband, who had just left the Navy with typhoid.

She did not, however, retire completely; Maureen still found time to make occasional movies, television and stage appearances, and operate a bridal consulting service (Wediquette International).. Later movie patrons remember her as Elizabeth Alvorg in the hit film Peggy Sue Got Married (1986). Her final silver screen appearance was in The River Pirates (1988). Some TV movies followed, but only until 1996. She maintained homes in New Hampshire and Arizona, and it was in Scottsdale that Maureen died on June 23, 1998, of a heart attack. She was 87 years old.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan and Denny Jackson

Spouse (2)

James Cushing (22 August 1983 - 23 June 1998) (her death)
John Farrow (12 September 1936 - 28 January 1963) (his death) (7 children)

Trivia (27)

Her oldest son, Michael, was killed in a plane crash while taking flying lessons, in 1958.
Ex-mother-in-law of Frank Sinatra and André Previn. Daughter Mia Farrow also had a long-term relationship with Woody Allen.
Mother of Michael Farrow, Patrick Farrow, John Charles Farrow, Mia Farrow, Tisa Farrow, Prudence Farrow and Stephanie Farrow, from her marriage to John Farrow.
Despised working with the chimpanzee Cheetah during the filming of the Tarzan movies at MGM and, according to daughter Mia Farrow, privately referred to the primate as "that ape son of a bitch".
Is often dubbed 'Ireland's first film star'.
Was a favorite of Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer at MGM and they had big plans for her as a big star. Thalberg's sudden death at age 37 of pneumonia in 1936 put a big damper on the momentum in her pursuit of stardom and was soon relegated to romantic interest roles.
Interviewed in Tom Weaver's book "I Was a Monster Movie Maker" (McFarland & Co., 2001).
Paramount insisted she do a screen test for her husband John Farrow's picture, The Big Clock (1948).
The first time she met Clark Gable he was in old-man make-up for Strange Interlude (1932). He invited her to go horseback riding, but she turned him down. Later when she met him a second time to record voice-overs, she realized his true age and regretted her decision. He never asked her out a second time.
She used to make Irish soda bread for Greta Garbo.
She was a very active member of both the Hollywood Democratic Committee and The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and donated her time and money to many liberal causes (such as the creation of the United Nations and the Civil Rights Movement) and political candidates (including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Henry Wallace, Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton) during her lifetime.
Was a supporter of: UNICEF, The United Nations, The Democratic National Committee, and the Habitat for Humanity.
She was of Irish, with some English and Scottish, ancestry.
Was a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Was claustrophobic.
Of her later films, she liked The Tall T (1957) the best.
She met future husband John Farrow, who was a writer on the Fox lot, when she was there to make Just Imagine (1930).
She was the last surviving cast member of Just Imagine (1930).
Was discovered in Dublin by director Frank Borzage, who was in Ireland shooting exteriors for Song o' My Heart (1930).
Irish-born O'Sullivan was sent by her father, a British army major, to Roehampton, a convent school just outside of London, because her brogue had become so thick. She was two years older than Vivien Leigh, her best friend at the school. While Leigh was determined to be an actress, O'Sullivan's ambition was to be an aviatrix.
Appeared in stage revivals of "Pygmalion" and "The Glass Menagerie".
Became a stage actress at Pat O'Brien's urging for a 1961 Chicago production of "A Roomful of Roses".
She played the mother of her real life daughter Mia Farrow in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).
Is represented with an Audio Animatronic figure in The Great Movie Ride in the Tarzan scene, at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.
Grandmother of Ronan Farrow.

Personal Quotes (9)

[in 1992, about Myrna Loy] What was her magic? I don't know. She was just magic!
Hollywood was a fantasy world in more ways than one. But it must be said that the industry did a lot for the war effort by producing some marvelous propaganda movies.
[on Johnny Weissmuller] An amiable piece of beefcake; a likeable, overgrown child.
Will Rogers wasn't helpful to me at all. He was just concerned with his way of doing things. He didn't like me much because I used to wear slacks to the studio, and that was not done much in those days, so I guess he thought I was rather fast.
I found Mervyn LeRoy an awfully nice director to work for on Tugboat Annie (1933). He was so nice he was not nice, if you know what I mean. Because he would promise people--in all good heart--a part, fully meaning to give it to them, but then they never got the parts so people turned against them.
Wallace Beery was a tiresome actor. He always stopped work at four o'clock (for which I didn't blame him.) He'd say, "That's it, that's it!"
I don't think I ever got parts that interested me. Well, I did occasionally, but more often than not, they did not interest me. I wasn't the standard beauty type--it was all marvelous-looking people like Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford--and I didn't have the glamor or whatever it is that was the style of those days, so consequently I got landed with parts that were not terribly interesting to me, and it was rather hard to be ambitious under those conditions. I probably would have fared better nowadays when looks count less.
There was a period when I got so sick of all they would ask me about Tarzan, as though I had done nothing else. I changed my mind when my oldest son said to me he was very proud that I was Tarzan's mate.
[on meeting Edgar Rice Burroughs] [He] was a nice guy . . . He asked me if I had read any Tarzan books, and I had to say no. I had barely heard of Tarzan. He sent me a copy of every one of his books . . . He thought [Johnny Weissmuller] and I were the perfect Tarzan and Jane, which is lovely.

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