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Merle Oberon

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Estelle Merle O'Brien Thompson was born in India on February 19, 1911. She was educated in that country until the age of 17, when she left for London. Merle began her career in British films with mostly forgettable roles or bit parts. She appeared in an uncredited role in Alf's Button (1930), a pattern that would unfortunately repeat itself regularly over the next three years. However, movie moguls eventually saw an an untapped talent in their midst and began grooming Merle for something bigger. Finally she landed a part with substance: the role of Ysobel d'Aunay in Men of Tomorrow (1932). That was quickly followed by The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933). After her portrayal of Lady Marguerite Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), Hollywood beckoned and she left to try her hand in US films. American movie executives already had some idea of her talent because her film Vagabond Violinist (1934) (US title: Vagabond Violinst) was a success in that country. With her nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress as Kitty Vane in The Dark Angel (1935), Merle became a star in both Britain and the US. Her work in that film resulted in offers for more quality pictures, and she appeared in several well received films, such as These Three (1936), Over the Moon (1939) and The Divorce of Lady X (1938). Her most critically acclaimed performance--hailed by some critics as "masterful"--was as Cathy Linton in Wuthering Heights (1939). The 1940s proved to be a very busy decade for her, as she appeared in no less than 15 films. After her role in Berlin Express (1948) she would not be seen on the screen again until four years later, as Elizabeth Rockwell in The Lady from Boston (1951). She was off the screen again for more than a year, returning in Désirée (1954). Unfortunately, she began appearing in fewer and fewer films over the ensuing years. There were no films for her in 1955, only one in 1956 and then none until Of Love and Desire (1963). In between she did appear on television as host of the TV series Assignment Foreign Legion (1956). Her final film was Interval (1973). After her career finally ended she lived in quiet retirement until her death of a massive stroke on November 23, 1979, in Malibu, California. She was 68 and had kept her beauty to the end.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

Merle Oberon was born in Bombay, of mixed Welsh-Indian parentage, as Estelle "Queenie" Thompson. According to Michael Korda, she "became a feature of Bombay nightlife while still in her early teens and eventually made her way to England as the girlfriend of a wealthy young Englishman." In early-30s London, Oberon became a star at the famous Cafe de Paris and also the girlfriend of the popular (and somewhat notorious) Grenada-born jazz musician, Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson.

The three Korda brothers, Alexander, Zoltan and Vincent, were Hungarian Jews who made careers in the movie business, first in London and later in Hollywood. Alexander Korda discovered Queenie in the tea line at the movie studio. He changed her name and cast her as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933), the first British picture to be nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture. Merle Oberon and Alexander Korda married in 1939 and she became the first Lady Korda when he was knighted.

In 1979 Vincent's son Michael Korda, now editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, published 'Charmed Lives', a history of the three flamboyant brothers and their actress wives. Twenty years later, in 1999, Michael wrote 'Another Life: A Memoir of Other People'. In the "Memoir" he says that he had been "more than usually circumspect on the subject of Merle" when he wrote 'Charmed Lives', but Merle's lawyer had reviewed the bound galley proofs and called. Korda, faced with a "time-consuming and expensive lawsuit," took Oberon "virtually out of the book altogether."

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