Maureen O'Sullivan


Actor
Maureen O'Sullivan

About

Birth Place
Ireland
Born
May 17, 1911
Died
June 22, 1998
Cause of Death
Heart Failure

Biography

This petite, brunette Irish colleen was discovered by ace Hollywood filmmaker Frank Borzage at the International Horse Show in Dublin in 1930 and subsequently enjoyed a lengthy career in film, TV and onstage. After being convent-educated near London and sent to a finishing school in Paris, O'Sullivan accepted Borzage's offer, signed with Fox Studios and soon found herself in Hollywood ca...

Photos & Videos

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932) - Movie Posters
Pride and Prejudice - Scene Stills
The Devil Doll - Scene Stills

Family & Companions

John Villiers Farrow
Husband
Director, writer. Married from September 12, 1936 until his death on January 27, 1963; received papal dispensation to marry as Farrow was divorced; he had served as the screenwriter for one of the "Tarzan" films she starred in, "Tarzan Escapes" (1936); later directed O'Sullivan in "The Big Clock" (1948) and "Where Danger Lives" (1950).
James E Cushing
Husband
Businessman. Married on August 22, 1983; survived her.

Bibliography

"Maureen O'Sullivan: A Bio-Bibliography"
Connie J Billips, Greenwood Press (1990)

Notes

O'Sullivan received the Lateran Cross from the Vatican in 1958.

Biography

This petite, brunette Irish colleen was discovered by ace Hollywood filmmaker Frank Borzage at the International Horse Show in Dublin in 1930 and subsequently enjoyed a lengthy career in film, TV and onstage. After being convent-educated near London and sent to a finishing school in Paris, O'Sullivan accepted Borzage's offer, signed with Fox Studios and soon found herself in Hollywood cast opposite legendary Irish tenor John McCormack in the early sound musical, "Song o' My Heart" (1930). The film was poor and McCormack didn't catch on with filmgoers, but the lovely ingenue soon found herself in the bizarre science-fiction musical "Just Imagine" (1930) and supporting Will Rogers in a fun version of "A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court" (1931).

O'Sullivan was signed by MGM in 1932, where she would remain for the next decade. She soon played--for the first of six times--the most famous role of her career, the demure but scantily clad Jane, saved by and later wed to the king of the jungle in "Tarzan the Ape Man" (1932). The other five films O'Sullivan made with former Olympic swimmer Johnny Weismuller ranged from the superior "Tarzan and His Mate" (1934) to the odd "Tarzan's New York Adventure" (1942) before O'Sullivan retired for six years to raise her family by director John Farrow, whom she had married in 1936.

Remarkably prolific in the 30s, O'Sullivan wasn't quite a top star, typically playing leads in "B" films and programmers, and ingenue second leads in bigger productions. Examples of the former include the punchy gangster saga "Okay America" (1932), the spicy pre-Production Code dramas "Skyscraper Souls" (1932) and "Stage Mother" (1933), the superior horror film "The Devil Doll" (1936), the amusing comedy "The Bishop Misbehaves" and the fine suspenser "Woman Wanted" (both 1935). Always in gentle, sympathetic roles, O'Sullivan handsomely supported major stars like Norma Shearer in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1934, very touching as the helpless Henrietta), Marie Dressler in "Tugboat Annie" (1933), Ann Harding in "The Flame Within" (1935), Greta Garbo in "Anna Karenina" (1935), and William Powell and Myrna Loy in "The Thin Man" (1934, as a damsel in distress). She provided the requisite romance in the Marx Brothers farce "A Day at the Races" (1937), dallied with Robert Taylor in "A Yank at Oxford" (1938), and was particularly fine as the spirited Greer Garson's sweet, more conventional sister in "Pride and Prejudice" (1940).

Returning to acting after six years, O'Sullivan played prominent but somewhat incidental romantic leads in two good noirs directed by Farrow, "The Big Clock" (1948) and "Where Danger Lives" (1950). Too old for ingenue roles and working in a Hollywood whose dominant Irish female was the more fiery Maureen O'Hara, O'Sullivan alternated standardized leading lady roles with supporting turns in good second-tier films like Douglas Sirk's "All I Desire" (1953) and Budd Boetticher's "The Tall T" (1957). Occasional clinkers like "Bonzo Goes to College" (1952) paled beside good TV work on the dramatic anthologies "Fireside Theater," "Matinee Theater" and "Star Stage." She also hosted a syndicated TV anthology for the young, "The Children's Hour" (1951).

After Farrow died in 1963 and her seven children (including actors Mia and Tisa Farrow) grew into adulthood, O'Sullivan increasing busied herself with stage work, which, over the next several decades included revivals of "The Front Page" and "Morning's at Seven." The Broadway hit "Never Too Late" had O'Sullivan sweetly amusing as a middle-aged expectant mother, a role she recreated for the 1965 film version. TV work picked up in the 70s and beyond with a season on the daytime soap "All My Children" and dignified roles in the TV-movies "The Crooked Hearts" (ABC, 1972), "Mandy's Grandmother" (syndicated, 1980) and "With Murder in Mind" (CBS, 1992). A handful of feature roles cropped up too: O'Sullivan proved anew that a sensitive actor existed alongside the persona of the likable, demure lassie with her striking work as the heroine's (Mia Farrow) drunken mother in Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986).

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Hart Is (1994)
With Murder in Mind (1992)
MGM: When the Lion Roars (1992)
Horton Foote's The Habitation of Dragons (1992)
Stranded (1987)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Too Scared to Scream (1982)
Traveller (1982)
The Great Houdinis (1976)
Lady Doyle
The Crooked Hearts (1972)
The Phynx (1970)
Never Too Late (1965)
Edith Lambert
Wild Heritage (1958)
Emma Breslin
The Tall T (1957)
Doretta Mims
The Steel Cage (1954)
Mrs. Duffy
Duffy of San Quentin (1954)
Gladys Duffy
All I Desire (1953)
Sara Harper
Mission over Korea (1953)
Nancy Slocum
Bonzo Goes to College (1952)
Marion Drew
Where Danger Lives (1950)
Julie [Dorn]
The Big Clock (1948)
Georgette Stroud
Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)
Jane
Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941)
Jane
Maisie Was a Lady (1941)
Abby Rawlston
Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Jane Bennet
Sporting Blood (1940)
Linda Lockwood
Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939)
Jane
Let Us Live (1939)
Mary Roberts
Hold That Kiss (1938)
Jane Evans
Spring Madness (1938)
Alexandra Benson
Port of Seven Seas (1938)
Madelon
A Yank at Oxford (1938)
Molly Beaumont
The Crowd Roars (1938)
Sheila Carson
A Day at the Races (1937)
Judy [Standish]
Between Two Women (1937)
Claire Donahue
My Dear Miss Aldrich (1937)
Martha Aldrich
The Emperor's Candlesticks (1937)
Maria [Orlech]
The Voice of Bugle Ann (1936)
Camden Terry
Tarzan Escapes (1936)
Jane [Parker]
The Devil-Doll (1936)
Lorraine [Lavond]
The Bishop Misbehaves (1935)
Hester [Grantham]
Cardinal Richelieu (1935)
Lenore
Woman Wanted (1935)
Ann [Gray]
The Flame Within (1935)
Lillian Belton
David Copperfield (1935)
Dora
West Point of the Air (1935)
His daughter "Skip"
Anna Karénina (1935)
Kitty
Hide-Out (1934)
Pauline [Miller]
Tarzan and His Mate (1934)
Jane Parker
The Thin Man (1934)
Dorothy [Wynant]
The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)
Henrietta Barrett
Stage Mother (1933)
Shirley Lorraine
Robbers' Roost (1933)
Helen Herrick
The Cohens and Kellys in Trouble (1933)
Molly Kelly
Tugboat Annie (1933)
Pat [Severn]
Strange Interlude (1932)
Madeleine
Okay America (1932)
Sheila Barton
Skyscraper Souls (1932)
Lynn [Harding]
Payment Deferred (1932)
Winnie Marble
The Silver Lining (1932)
Joyce Moore [also known as Mary Kane]
Fast Companions (1932)
Sally
Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932)
Jane Parker
The Big Shot (1931)
Doris [Thompson]
A Connecticut Yankee (1931)
Alisande/Girl in mansion
Skyline (1931)
Kathleen Kearny
Just Imagine (1930)
LN--18
The Princess and the Plumber (1930)
Princess Louise
Song o' My Heart (1930)
Eileen O'Brien
So This Is London (1930)
Elinor Worthing

Cast (Special)

Tarzan: The Legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs (1996)
Interviewee
Jean Harlow: Platinum Bombshell (1996)
Happy Birthday, Hollywood! (1987)
Mandy's Grandmother (1980)
Grandmother

Cast (Short)

Screen Actors (1950)
Herself
Hollywood - The Second Step (1936)
Herself

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Good Old Boy (1988)

Life Events

1930

Was under contract to Fox Film Corp.

1930

Feature acting debut, "Song O' My Heart"

1930

Discovered by Hollywood director Frank Borzage at Dublin's International Horse Show

1932

Made first Tarzan film opposite Johnny Weismuller, "Tarzan the Ape Man"

1936

Made first of six films at MGM with journeyman contract director Richard Thorpe, "The Voice of Bugle Ann"

1938

Journeyed to England to make an MGM film opposite Robert Taylor, "A Yank at Oxford"

1942

Made last of six screen appearances as Jane in the "Tarzan" series, "Tarzan's New York Adventure"; was also last film for six years; retired from the screen to raise family

1948

Returned to features as the female romantic lead in "The Big Clock", starring Ray Milland and Charles Laughton; film was directed by her husband John Farrow

1951

Hosted the syndicated children's anthology series, "The Children's Hour", which presented hour-long films aimed at young audiences

1958

Again left films after "The Wild Heritage"

1965

Returned to films to play a prominent role in the adaptation of the stage comedy, "Never Too Late", reprising the role she had played on Broadway

1970

Appeared as Olive Whalen on the ABC TV daytime soap opera, "All My Children"

1970

Made a cameo appearance as herself, along with many other well-known personalities of the 1930s and 40s, in the film, "The Phynx"

1972

First TV-movie, "The Crooked Hearts"; acted in support of Rosalind Russell and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

1981

Began appearing occasionally in features again after a decade absence: made only non-US feature credit other than "A Yank at Oxford" (1938), "Traveller", a film co-produced by Ireland and the UK

1986

Played mother of Mia Farrow in Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters"

1987

Final film role, "Stranded"

1994

Final screen acting role in the NBC TV-movie "Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Heart Is"

1995

Was played by actress Heidi von Palleske in the biographical TV miniseries portrait of O'Sullivan's daughter, "Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story"

1996

Was an interview subject for the A&E series "Biography" in episodes on Jean Harlow and Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs

Photo Collections

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932) - Movie Posters
Here are a variety of original-release American movie posters for MGM's Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932), starring Johnny Weissmuller.
Pride and Prejudice - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from MGM's Pride and Prejudice (1940), starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier.
The Devil Doll - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from MGM's The Devil Doll (1936), starring Lionel Barrymore and directed by Tod Browning.
Hide-Out - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Hide-Out (1934), starring Robert Montgomery and Maureen O'Sullivan. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Thin Man - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are few behind-the-scenes photos taken during the shooting of The Thin Man (1934), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
A Yank at Oxford - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from MGM's A Yank at Oxford (1938), starring Robert Taylor, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Vivien Leigh.
A Yank at Oxford - Publicity Stills
Here are a few stills taken to help publicize MGM's A Yank at Oxford (1938), starring Robert Taylor and Maureen O'Sullivan. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Yank At Oxford, A (1938) - Perfectly Beautiful Enemy American jock Lee Sheridan (Robert Taylor) on the train to Oxford, introduces himself to fellow students Beaumont, Wavertree and Ramsey (Griffith Jones, Robert Coote, Peter Croft) when Beaumont's sister Molly (Maureen O'Sullivan) arrives, and a gag is pulled, in A Yank At Oxford, 1938.
Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932) - Let Me Go! Shortly after her abduction, Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) trying to assess the intentions of the strange man in the jungle (Johnny Weissmuller), who's just killed a leopard in her defense, in MGM's original Tarzan, The Ape Man, 1932.
Thin Man, The (1934) - No Dogs Allowed! First appearance in the first feature for both Myrna Loy as Nora Charles and Asta the Wire Fox Terrier (real name “Skippy”), joining just-introduced William Powell as Nick Charles, with friend Dorothy (Maureen O’Sullivan) at a New York hotel bar, in the MGM hit from the Dashiel Hammet novel, W.S. Van Dyke directing, in The Thin Man, 1934.
All I Desire (1953) - How Do I Love Thee? Barbara Stanwyck as low-rent actress Naomi, maintaining the fiction she’s a big star for the family she’s just rejoined ten years after she ran away, is persuaded by daughter Lily (Lori Nelson), on the night of her own stage debut, to read Elizabeth Barrett Browning, nice moment for director Douglas Sirk, in All I Desire, 1953.
Day At The Races, A (1937) - I Proposed To Your Mother Horse doctor Hackenbush (Groucho Marx) enters as his rich patient Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont) is hoping to intervene on behalf of sanitarium owner Judy (Maureen O’Sullivan), who’s being railroaded by her business manager Whitmore (Leonard Ceeley), early in A Day At The Races, 1937.
Day At The Races, A (1937) - Make It Lilies For Me Desperate to prevent business manager Whitmore (Leonard Ceeley) from finding out he’s a veterinarian, newly-installed sanitarium boss Hackenbush (Groucho Marx) stages an elaborate phone call, in the MGM Marx Brothers comedy A Day At The Races, 1937.
Tugboat Annie (1933) - The Boy's Own Mother Harbor town stalwart Marie Dressler (title character) joins ceremonies where her son (Robert Young, with fianceè Maureen O’Sullivan) is being celebrated as the local-boy turned ocean liner captain, the mayor (Robert MacWade) officiating, her tipsy husband (Wallace Beery) arriving late, in MGM’s Tugboat Annie, 1933.
Big Clock, The (1948) - Open, 36 Hours Ago Opening title sequence and Ray Milland's nervous narration, from John Farrow's 1948 corporate thriller The Big Clock, 1948, also starring Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Sullivan and Elsa Lanchester.
Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932) - I Wish You'd Knock! Having rejoined the title character (Johnny Weissmuller) of her own volition, and nursed him after a nasty scrape with predators, English Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) bathes, leading toward increasingly intimate moments, in MGM's original hit Tarzan, The Ape Man, 1932.
Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932) - He's Taken Her! The first appearance of Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller in his famous role, swinging through the trees, alarming naturalist Parker (C. Aubrey Smith) and snatching his daughter Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan), a wacky but normal scene from the original Tarzan, The Ape Man, 1932.
Barretts Of Wimpole Street, The (1934) -- Your Brave And Lovely Verses London, 1845, Anabel and Henrietta (Katharine Alexander, Maureen O’Sullivan) persuade their invalid poet sister Elizabeth Barrett (Norma Shearer) to receive admiring fellow poet Robert Browning (Fredric March), calling for the first time, in MGM’s The Barretts Of Wimpole Street, 1934.
Payment Deferred (1932) -- Is It True He's A Banker? Framing device from the original play, Billy Bevan a neighbor and Halliwell Hobbes a prospective tenant, as we meet the Marble family of London, Dorothy Peterson, Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Sullivan as Annie, Willie and Winnie, in MGM’s grim Payment Deferred, 1932.

Trailer

Tarzan And His Mate - (Original Trailer) Jane gives up friends, home...and most of her clothes in the sexy jungle adventure Tarzan and His Mate, 1934, with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan.
Stage Mother - (Original Trailer) Maureen O'Sullivan's mother will sacrifice anything, even her daughter if it will make her a star in Stage Mother (1933).
Woman Wanted - (Original Trailer) An innocent woman (Maureen O'Sullivan) is chased by both gangsters and the police.
Hold That Kiss - (Original Trailer) Romance blossoms when a man and woman each think the other is rich in Hold That Kiss (1938) starring Maureen O'Sullivan.
Bishop Misbehaves, The - (Original Trailer) A bishop (Edmund Gwenn) with a taste for mysteries gets involved in a real one in The Bishop Misbehaves (1935).
Big Clock, The - (Original Trailer) Ray Milland gets the job of finding the man last seen with his boss' murdered mistress, knowing the evidence will point to him in The Big Clock (1948).
West Point Of The Air - (Original Trailer) An army sergeant (Wallace Beery) inspires his son to become an ace flyer and join the West Point of the Air (1935).
Anna Karenina (1935) - (Original Trailer) Greta Garbo stars in Anna Karenina (1935), a film adaptation of Tolstoy's classic tale of a woman who deserts her family for an illicit love.
Tall T, The - (Original Trailer) Randolph Scott rides into a hostage situation headed by amiable but dangerous outlaw Richard Boone in Budd Boetticher's The Tall T (1957).
Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932) - (Original Trailer) A British lord raised by apes kidnaps a beautiful noblewoman exploring Africa with her father in Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932) starring Johnny Weissmuller.
Spring Madness - (Original Trailer) A Harvard man (Lew Ayres) romances a coed (Maureen O'Sullivan) from a nearby college and comes down with Spring Madness (1938).
Flame Within, The - (Original Trailer) Ann Harding is a psychiatrist who thinks she is remote from her patients' problems until she falls in love with one of them.

Family

Mary Lovatt O'Sullivan
Mother
Charles Joseph O'Sullivan
Father
Michael Damien Farrow
Son
Died in a plane crash in 1958.
Patrick Joseph Farrow
Son
Survived her.
John Charles Farrow
Son
Actor. Appeared in "John Paul Jones", directed by his father; survived her.
Mia Farrow
Daughter
Actor. Survived her.
Prudence Farrow
Daughter
Producer. Survived her.
Stephanie Margarita Farrow
Daughter
Survived her.
Theresa Farrow
Daughter
Actor. Has acted in features including "Homer" (1970) and "Winter Kills" (1979); survived her.

Companions

John Villiers Farrow
Husband
Director, writer. Married from September 12, 1936 until his death on January 27, 1963; received papal dispensation to marry as Farrow was divorced; he had served as the screenwriter for one of the "Tarzan" films she starred in, "Tarzan Escapes" (1936); later directed O'Sullivan in "The Big Clock" (1948) and "Where Danger Lives" (1950).
James E Cushing
Husband
Businessman. Married on August 22, 1983; survived her.

Bibliography

"Maureen O'Sullivan: A Bio-Bibliography"
Connie J Billips, Greenwood Press (1990)

Notes

O'Sullivan received the Lateran Cross from the Vatican in 1958.