Margaret O'Brien


Actor
Margaret O'Brien

About

Also Known As
Maxine O'Brien, Angela Maxine O'Brien
Birth Place
Los Angeles, California, USA
Born
January 15, 1937

Biography

This child star of the 1940s was best known for her natural, emotional style and her startling facility for tears. As Maxine O'Brien (her birth name), she first appeared in a civil defense film starring James Cagney, then in a bit in "Babes on Broadway" (both 1941). Sensing her potential, MGM signed her, changed her first name to Margaret and starred her in the tour de force "Journey for...

Photos & Videos

Little Women (1949) - Publicity Stills
Tenth Avenue Angel - Lobby Card
Little Women (1949) - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Harold Allen Jr
Husband
Artist. Married in August 1959; divorced in 1968.
Ray Thorsen
Husband
Married in June 1974; divorced.

Notes

O'Brien's miniature Oscar was stolen from her in 1954. Twenty-one years later it was returned to her when it was located in a swap meet.

On her life as a child star: "I had a wonderful time. I really enjoyed it. I took it like a job, took it seriously. I had a mother who was really watching out for me. I think it's what you make of it. It could be something horrible if that's the way you want to look at it, but it was not. . . My mother saw that I had friends to play with; kids who were not in the movies." --Margaret O'Brien quoted in Classic Images, August 1993.

Biography

This child star of the 1940s was best known for her natural, emotional style and her startling facility for tears. As Maxine O'Brien (her birth name), she first appeared in a civil defense film starring James Cagney, then in a bit in "Babes on Broadway" (both 1941). Sensing her potential, MGM signed her, changed her first name to Margaret and starred her in the tour de force "Journey for Margaret" (1942), as a terrified London war orphan who "adopts" reporter Robert Young. It was an adult, intelligent and slightly scary performance which made her an overnight star. She was loaned out to Fox for "Jane Eyre" (1944). O'Brien's next big showcase came with "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944). As Tootie Smith, the feisty but fragile little sister of Judy Garland, she was a bright point in a very good film, especially in her musical numbers with Garland and during a Halloween sequence in which she confronts a grouchy neighbor. For her performance, she was awarded a special juvenile Oscar. Her next two features, "Music for Millions" (1944) and the drama "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes" (1945) were also impressive. Two good roles came her way in 1949, as the tragic Beth in a remake of "Little Women" and as Mary Lennox in "The Secret Garden."

Life Events

1941

Feature film debut, "Babes on Broadway"

1941

Under contract to MGM

1941

Made debut in civil defense film

1942

First starring role, "Journey for Margaret"

1944

Had memorable role as Tootie in "Meet Me in St. Louis"; received honorary Oscar

1949

Played Beth in a remake of "Little Women"

1951

First non-MGM film, "Her First Romance"

1954

Miniature Oscar stolen from her

1958

Played Beth in TV musical version of "Little Women"

1960

Filmed busted pilot "Maggie"

1960

Last film for 11 years, "Heller in Pink Tights"

1977

TV miniseries debut "Testimony of Two Men"

1977

Trust fund from childhood acting career turned over to her

1981

Returned to features with one shot appearance in "Amy" (released in 1984)

1994

Had supporting role in direct-to-video release "Sunset After Dark"

1995

Made headlines when stolen Oscar was returned to her after more that twenty years

Photo Collections

Little Women (1949) - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Little Women (1949). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Tenth Avenue Angel - Lobby Card
Here is a lobby card from MGM's Tenth Avenue Angel (1948), starring Margaret O'Brien. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Little Women (1949) - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Little Women (1949). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Secret Garden - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from MGM's The Secret Garden (1949), starring Margaret O'Brien and Dean Stockwell.
Three Wise Fools - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from MGM's Three Wise Fools (1946), starring Margaret O'Brien. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Heller in Pink Tights - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Paramount's Heller in Pink Tights (1960), starring Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Unfinished Dance - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from MGM's The Unfinished Dance (1947), starring Margaret O'Brien. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Lost Angel - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from MGM's Lost Angel (1944), starring Margaret O'Brien. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Canterville Ghost - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for MGM's The Canterville Ghost (1944), starring Charles Laughton and Margaret O'Brien. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Tenth Avenue Angel - Publicity Still
Here is a publicity still from MGM's Tenth Avenue Angel (1948), starring Margaret O'Brien, Angela Lansbury, and George Murphy. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Secret Garden - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from MGM's The Secret Garden (1949), starring Margaret O'Brien. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Bad Bascomb (1946) - When We Get To Utah Bandit Wallace Beery (title character), hiding out in a Mormon wagon train, has just learned that male converts are required to work, and he’s been drafted by Marjorie Main as Abbey, whose granddaughter Emmy (Margaret O’Brien) he’s already met, his pal Yancey (J. Carrol Naish) making out better, in MGM’s Bad Bascomb,1946.
Bad Bascomb (1946) - Thou Shalt Not Steal Fugitive illiterate title character Wallace Beery has bluffed his way into a Mormon wagon train in Wyoming, unhappy with the provisions, helping himself when Margaret O’Brien, with whom he shares top billing, appears as orphaned Emmy, in MGM’s Bad Bascomb, 1946, also starring Marjorie Main.
Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) - Real Christmas Spirit Frolicking with snowmen, Christmas 1903, brother Lon (Henry H. Daniels Jr.) put out with Esther, Tootie and Rose (Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Lucille Bremer) over social challenges until family maid Katie (Marjorie Main) finds a solution, in Vincente Minnelli's Meet Me In St. Louis, 1944.
Tenth Avenue Angel (1948) - Not So Nice Cameron Mitchell narrates, recalling Depression era New York, and his meeting with Flavia (Margaret O'Brien, title character) who soon joins neighborhood sage and news vendor Mac (Rhys Williams), opening Tenth Avenue Angel, 1948, also starring George Murphy and Angela Lansbury.
Tenth Avenue Angel (1948) - How Does He Look? Gleeful Flavia (Margaret O'Brien), with pal Mac (Rhys Williams) at the news stand, awaiting Steve (George Murphy), returning from prison, though she believes he's been traveling the world, early in Roy Rowland's Tenth Avenue Angel, 1948.
Tenth Avenue Angel (1948) - What Are Phoenicians? Steve (George Murphy), washing cabs because he's not allowed to drive while on probation, fooling around with pal Flavia (Margaret O'Brien, title character), who thinks he's been away traveling, when her aunt, his sweetheart, arrives with an idea, in Tenth Avenue Angel, 1948.
Music For Millions (1944) - I Don't Talk To Strangers Playing the heartstrings from the start, director Henry Koster and producer Joe Pasternak in their first picture at MGM, introduce Margaret O’Brien as young “Mike,” not met at the train by her sister (June Allyson), Eddie Dunn the cop, Connie Gilchrist for Traveler’s Aid, in Music For Millions, 1944.
Music For Millions (1944) - Toscanini, Iturbi And Me Horsing around in rehearsal, the mostly-female wartime orchestra, Margaret O’Brien watches big sister June Allyson on bass, Marsha Hunt on harp, then manager Jimmy Durante with a modified version (Iturbi instead of Stokowski) of one of his standards, the conductor himself arriving, in Music For Millions, 1944.
Music For Millions (1944) - The Audience Giggles Big sister and orchestra string-bass player Babs (June Allyson) with kid sister “Mike” (Margaret O’Brien), who interrupted the performance, finding her after arriving unexpectedly on the train, with Jose Iturbi the annoyed conductor and Jimmy Durante his harried manager, in MGM’s Music For Millions, 1944.
Secret Garden, The (1949) - Who's Going To Take Care Of Me? Mopping up after a cholera epidemic in India, a British officer (Lowell Gilmore) finds himself informing young Mary (Margaret O'Brien) that she's an orphan, early in The Secret Garden, 1949.
Secret Garden, The (1949) - I'd Hoped You Might Be Beautiful Orphan Mary (Margaret O'Brien), caught while seeking the source of the night time screaming, is summoned to see her mysterious uncle (Herbert Marshall) who's adopted her, in The Secret Garden, 1949, directed by Fred M. Wilcox.
Secret Garden, The (1949) - I'm Not At All A Ghost Trying again to find out who’s been screaming in the dark English manor of the uncle who’s adopted her, orphan Mary discovers Colin (Dean Stockwell), her heretofore unknown cousin, who has strange attitudes, in The Secret Garden, 1949, from the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel.

Trailer

Three Wise Fools - (Original Trailer) An orphan girl (Margaret O'Brien) melts the hearts of three crusty old men (Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, Edward Arnold).
Glory (1956) - (Original Trailer) Margaret O'Brien stars in her first film as an adult, Glory (1956), playing a young woman devoted to a racing horse.
Babes On Broadway - (Original Trailer) Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney "put on a show" in Busby Berkeley's Babes On Broadway (1941).
Little Women (1949) - (Original Trailer) June Allyson is Jo and Elizabeth Taylor, Amy, seen here in the original theatrical trailer for the first color version of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, 1949, delivered by co-stars Peter Lawford and Janet Leigh.
Heller In Pink Tights - (Original Trailer) Touring actors in the wild West brave Indians and outlaws in Heller In Pink Tights (1960) starring Sophia Loren, directed by George Cukor.
Journey for Margaret - (Original Trailer) An American correspondent (Robert Young) tries to adopt two children orphaned during the London blitz in Journey for Margaret (1942).
Lost Angel - (Original Trailer) A girl (Margaret O'Brien) raised to be a genius gets lost and discovers the simple pleasure of life in Lost Angel (1943).
Music for Millions - (Original Trailer) A pregnant musician awaits her husband's return from World War II in Music for Millions (1944) starring June Allyson, Margaret O'Brien and Jimmy Durante.
Thousands Cheer - (Original Trailer) An egotistical acrobat (Gene Kelly) joins the Army and falls in love with his commander's daughter in the all-star spectacular Thousands Cheer (1943).
Bad Bascomb - (Original Trailer) A western bandit (Wallace Beery) is reformed by his love for a little girl (Margaret O'Brien) in Bad Bascomb (1946).
Jane Eyre (1944) - (Original Trailer) A governess (Joan Fontaine) at a remote estate falls in love with her brooding employer (Orson Welles) in Jane Eyre (1944).
Canterville Ghost, The - (Original Trailer) A ghost (Charles Laughton) who died a coward tries to inspire U.S. GIs to become heroes in The Canterville Ghost (1944), directed by Jules Dassin.

Family

Lawrence O'Brien
Father
Circus performer. Died before O'Brien was born.
Gladys O'Brien
Mother
Mara Thorsen
Daughter
Born c. 1977.

Companions

Harold Allen Jr
Husband
Artist. Married in August 1959; divorced in 1968.
Ray Thorsen
Husband
Married in June 1974; divorced.

Bibliography

Notes

O'Brien's miniature Oscar was stolen from her in 1954. Twenty-one years later it was returned to her when it was located in a swap meet.

On her life as a child star: "I had a wonderful time. I really enjoyed it. I took it like a job, took it seriously. I had a mother who was really watching out for me. I think it's what you make of it. It could be something horrible if that's the way you want to look at it, but it was not. . . My mother saw that I had friends to play with; kids who were not in the movies." --Margaret O'Brien quoted in Classic Images, August 1993.

"How they really got me to cry is kind of interesting. June Allyson also did a lot of dramatic films, we were known as The Town Criers of MGM. We were always in competition: I wanted to cry better than June, and June wanted to cry better than me. The way my mother got me to cry was if I was having trouble with a scene, she'd say, 'why don't we have the make-up man come over and give you false tears?' Then I'd think to myself, 'they'll say I'm not as good as June,' and I'd start to cry." --Margaret O'Brien quoted in Classic Images, August 1993.