Lá Breithe Sona Duit, Maureen


(Today’s post was written by the most beautiful guest blogger in the world – my wife Kimi.)

Held in the highest regard by Hollywood and regularly compared to Susan Hayward, Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake, and Vivien Leigh, Irish-born actress Maureen O’Sullivan was born on this date in 1911, exactly 100 years ago today.

As a young girl, O’Sullivan attended a convent school in London, where she and Vivien Leigh were classmates.

O’Sullivan was only 18 when she was spotted by 20th Century Fox director Frank Borzage, who was on location directing Song o’ My Heart. Borzage suggested she take a screen test, which quickly won her a part in the movie. 

It was this film that brought O’Sullivan to the United States, where she ended up doing six movies for Fox and was signed for three more at other movie studios.  In 1932, she signed with MGM where producer Irving Thalberg cast her in the role of Jane Parker in Tarzan the Ape Man opposite Johnny Weissmuller, with whom she had a brief affair in the early 1930’s.

The film made her a star and added the phrase “Me Tarzan, You Jane” to the world’s lexicon, even though it appears nowhere in the film. (Legend has it that the line was jokingly uttered by Weissmuller to O’Sullivan in the studio parking lot when he rushed to help her lift a heavy suitcase into the trunk of her car.)

O’Sullivan didn’t mind doing the first two “jungle movies” but feared being typecast and grew tired of the roles.

She needn’t have worried.

O’Sullivan went on to enjoy a very successful film career, appearing with such luminaries as William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man (1934), the Marx Brothers in A Day at the Races (1937), and Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice (1940).

She was married to Australian-born writer and director John Farrow. They had seven children, the most famous of which was Maria de Lourdes (known to Hollywood as Mia Farrow). After Mia became romantically and professionally involved with director Woody Allen, O’Sullivan appeared in Hannah and Her Sisters, playing Farrow’s mother.

In 1942, O’Sullivan briefly retired from show business to care for her husband, who had left the Navy after contracting typhoid. During this period, she devoted her life to being a wife and mother before returning to Hollywood a few years later. She continued to star in her husband’s movies until his death in 1963.

O’Sullivan continued acting until 1994, appearing in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) and sci-fi flick Stranded (1987) starring Nicolas Cage along the way.  One of her final appearances was with Stephanie Powers and Robert Wagner in Hart to Hart: Home is Where the Hart Is, a made-for-TV movie based on the popular Hart to Hart television series.

Maureen O’Sullivan died in 1998 after suffering a heart attack in Scottsdale, Arizona. A star was placed for her on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It faces the star of Johnny Weissmuller.

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About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

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