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A half-caste beauty emigrates from India to Great Britain, pursues fame and fortune at the cost of personal happiness, and becomes a Hollywood movie star while suppressing the truth of her heritage.




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Series cast summary:
Joss Ackland ...  Sir Burton Rumsey 2 episodes, 1987
Martin Balsam ...  Marty 2 episodes, 1987
Claire Bloom ...  Vicky Kelley 2 episodes, 1987
Gary Cady Gary Cady ...  Lucien Chambrun 2 episodes, 1987
John Carlin John Carlin ...  James 2 episodes, 1987
Ernest Clark ...  Sir Philip 2 episodes, 1987
Rosalie Crutchley ...  Grandmother 2 episodes, 1987
Kate Emma Davies Kate Emma Davies ...  Young Queenie 2 episodes, 1987
Kirk Douglas ...  David Konig 2 episodes, 1987
Serena Gordon Serena Gordon ...  Prunella Rumsey 2 episodes, 1987
Joel Grey ...  Aaron Diamond 2 episodes, 1987
John Grillo ...  Johan Krauss 2 episodes, 1987
Leigh Lawson ...  Uncle Morgan 2 episodes, 1987
Sarah Miles ...  Lady Sybil 2 episodes, 1987
Albert Moses ...  Inspector Gopal 2 episodes, 1987
Abigail Painter Abigail Painter ...  Bully Leader 2 episodes, 1987
Geoffrey Rose ...  Mr. Pugh 2 episodes, 1987
Mia Sara ...  Dawn Avalon / ... 2 episodes, 1987
Rob Spendlove Rob Spendlove ...  Dickie 2 episodes, 1987
Godfrey Talbot Godfrey Talbot ...  Joss 2 episodes, 1987
Topol ...  Dimitri Goldner 2 episodes, 1987


In the early 20th century colonial India, young beautiful Anglo-Indian girl Queenie, who easily passes for white, lives with her caring Indian mother and stepfather. However, the local British aristocracy considers her tainted and often makes her life miserable. Her stepfather works as a sax player in the local elite British club which pays so well that his family can afford to enjoy the typical western upper middle class lifestyle. Unfortunately, Queenie's life is anything but easy and it's only getting harder. She's constantly bullied at the local British school for girls she attends by her racist female peers. The old creepy pastor who teaches the girls religion as well as English offers her some private lessons. Racially charged riots break out and her family's home is attacked. Corrupt racist British official and dirty old man Sir Burton Rumsey blackmails her for sex after he catches her stepfather with his socialite wife. Eventually, Queenie and her stepfather are forced to ...

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Drama | Romance


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Release Date:

1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El color del éxito See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Many cast attendee's of the most densely packed (UK non-Award), celebrity event 'Save the Rose Theatre' campaigns, public PR day, May 1989. [See each artist entry] See more »


Version of The Trouble with Merle (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

Really loosely based is the right term for this one.
8 April 2017 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Merle Oberon was a glamorous film star, one of the first, I believe, to go on record about the wonders of plastic surgery. Unfortunately, she was born at the wrong time to take advantage of her beauty as an older woman or to be truthful about her real background.

"Queenie" is based on the roman a clef by her nephew, Michael Korda, and it's pure fiction except for a few items.

It's the story of an Anglo-Indian young girl, Queenie Kelly, living in India when it was under British rule. She suffered from bullying by students at the school she attended because of her mixed ethnicity. At the same time, her exotic beauty attracted male attention. At one point, when her musician brother is fired from his country club job, she goes to Sir Burton Ramsey, who owns the club, to beg for his job back. He rapes her. Running from him, he trips and falls over a balcony to his death.

Terrified no one would believe her, Queenie steals Ramsey's wallet and, with her uncle, leaves the country for England. There she works as a stripper and eventually becomes a film star. Calling herself Dawn Avalon, she can never tell anyone her true ethnicity or identity, which would ruin her career and possibly result in a murder charge.

That's the story of Queenie, but with the exception of hiding her true identity, it's not the story of Merle Oberon. Much of Oberon's early life is in question. Her mother could actually have been her grandmother, and her sister Constance her mother; her nephew claimed to have discovered he was her half-brother after researching his heritage.

In order to empathize with Oberon, the racism during these years must be addressed. With people like Freddie Washington and Anna Mae Wong denied careers, Oberon could never, ever, have admitted to being part Indian. Instead, like the character in Queenie, she claimed to have been born in Tasmania.

This miniseries is very entertaining, with Mia Sara absolutely perfect for Queenie - you could never find a double for Oberon, but Sara has Oberon's delicate, exotic looks and beautiful speaking voice. Someone said Oberon was an established star before marrying Alexander Korda, but that's not true. Korda, whom she married, not only gave her career a huge boost, but he brought her to Hollywood to work for Sam Goldwyn.

In the miniseries, Korda is "David Konig" and played by Kirk Douglas. Queenie is in love with a photographer turned cinematographer, Lucien (Gary Cady), but Konig gets him a cinematographer's job in Egypt while Queenie is filming in India. He then seduces and marries her.

The real Oberon married Korda, and after their divorce, she married cinematographer Lucien Ballard. According to a letter I have, Ballard physically abused her, as did a boyfriend later on. Ballard invented a special light for Oberon after she was in a car accident, and that light, the "obie" is still used today.

The film Queenie makes, her big debut, in the miniseries is said to cost $25 million, more than Gone with the Wind. Not likely that the movie was made during wartime in India. Also not likely that it cost 25 million since GWTW cost $3.85 million.

Claire Bloom does a beautiful job as Queenie's mother. I'm not sure if the story of her mother pretending to be her maid comes from this fictional account or actually happened. If her mother was indeed with her, it makes sense that the two would have agreed to that masquerade. In any case, Oberon adored her mother.

Though only in her fifties, like many female movie stars of her time, Oberon was relegated to low-budget films, self-produced films, and television. She did have a good role in 1967's Hotel and, at 56, was absolutely stunning. Her last film was in 1973, six years before her death. A stressful life, but a successful career that could have continued in today's world.

Queenie was filmed in Jaipur, India, with magnificent production values and a cast that includes not only Douglas and Bloom, but Topol, Joss Ackland, Martin Balsam, and Joel Grey. Recommended - it's the kind of super-expensive miniseries we saw a lot of in the '80s, and they're gone for good.

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