Maureen O'Sullivan Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (4)  | Trivia (34)  | 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)

Of Irish, English, and Scottish descent, Maureen Paula O'Sullivan was born on May 17, 1911 in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland. Her father was Charles Joseph O'Sullivan, an officer in the Connaught Rangers, and his wife, the former Mary Fraser (or Frazer). She was educated at Catholic schools in Dublin, Paris, and London (Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton, where a fellow student was fellow future actress Vivien Leigh). Even as a schoolgirl, Maureen desired an acting career, despite her father's initial opposition. She studied hard and read widely. When the opportunity to be an actress came along, it almost dropped in her lap. American film director Frank Borzage was in Dublin in 1929, filming Song o' My Heart (1930), when the 18 year old met him. He suggested a screen test, which she took. The results were more than favorable and she won the substantial role of Eileen O'Brien, then went to Hollywood to complete 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. In 1932, she teamed up with Olympic medal winner Johnny Weissmuller for the first time in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), as Jane Parker. 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 as successful as they were had it not been for the talent, grace, and radiant beauty of O'Sullivan. But she was more than Jane Parker. She went on to roles in such films as The Flame Within (1935), David Copperfield (1935), and Anna Karenina (1935). She turned in another fine performance in Pride and Prejudice (1940). After the 1940s, however, she made fewer films, primarily for personal reasons, i.e. caring for her large family.

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-American writer, and their seven children: Michael, Patrick, Maria (a.k.a. Mia Farrow), John, Prudence, Theresa (a.k.a. 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 U.S. Navy with typhoid. She did not retire completely and still found time to make occasional movies and television programs, as well as operate a bridal consulting service (Wediquette International).

She made her Broadway debut opposite Paul Ford in "Never Too Late" (November 27, 1962-April 24, 1965), a great success. She would appear on Broadway in various vehicles through 1981, and later co-produced two Broadway productions. Later movie patrons remember her as Elizabeth Alvorg in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) (playing opposite fellow silver screen film veteran Leon Ames). Her final celluloid role was in The River Pirates (1988). Some made-for-television movies followed and she retired completely in 1996, two years before her death in Scottsdale, Arizona on June 23, 1998 during heart surgery. She was 87 years old.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan and Denny Jackson (updated by R.M. Sieger)

Family (4)

Spouse James Cushing (22 August 1983 - 23 June 1998)  (her death)
John Farrow (12 September 1936 - 27 January 1963)  (his death)  (7 children)
Children Patrick Farrow
John Charles Farrow
Tisa Farrow
Prudence Farrow
Stephanie Farrow
Michael Farrow
Mia Farrow
Parents Charles Joseph O'Sullivan
Mary Lovatt O'Sullivan
Relatives Fletcher Previn (grandchild)
Ronan Farrow (grandchild)

Trivia (34)

Her oldest son, Michael Farrow, was killed in a plane crash while taking flying lessons (1958).
Ex-mother-in-law of Frank Sinatra, André Previn and Ava Roosevelt.
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 Pictures 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.
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.
She appeared in stage revivals of "Pygmalion" and "The Glass Menagerie".
Became a stage actress at Pat O'Brien's urging for a Chicago production of "A Roomful of Roses" (1961).
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. After the ride's closure in 2017, the figure was dressed in different clothes and moved-into the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Along with Joyzelle Joyner, she was one of only two credited cast members of Just Imagine (1930) who were still alive in 1980, the year in which the film takes place.
In May 1934, she received police protection after reports surfaced that she was in danger of being kidnapped.
She appeared in three films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Tarzan and His Mate (1934), The Thin Man (1934) and The Tall T (1957).
O'Sullivan and Robert Young were paired in five films at MGM: Strange Interlude (1932), Tugboat Annie (1933), West Point of the Air (1935), The Emperor's Candlesticks (1937) and Sporting Blood (1940).
She appeared alongside Lew Ayres in three films at MGM: Okay America! (1932), Spring Madness (1938) and Maisie Was a Lady (1941).
She and John Farrow were married at St. Monica's Church in Santa Monica, California. Among the groomsmen were Alan Mowbray and Ainsworth Morgan.
She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 27, 1991.
She appeared in films with both Will Rogers and Will Rogers Jr..
Following her death, she was interred at Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Niskayuna, Schenectady County, New York.
Honored by a day of her films being shown during TCM's "Summer Under the Stars" event on 8 August 2022.

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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